Amy Winehouse was the perfect blend of old and new. Her deep voice sounded like it was from another era, from the time of jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, yet her modern take on the 60s beehive and liquid liner were the perfect modern version of retro-style.
Her music was made up of the same mix of old and new. The classic jazz styling was contrasted with lyrics that resonated with today’s audience. In ‘Me and Mr. Jones’ she croons: “nowadays you don’t mean dick to me/I might let you make it up to me/who’s playing Saturday?” It’s just one example of her ability to seamlessly marry Frank Sinatra-like sounds with words that reach into the soul of the young listener.
A lot of her songs have dark themes influenced by real-life issues. Winehouse suffered from addiction and an eating disorder and was in a tumultuous relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil whom she started dating in 2007. This side of her life is what Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, Amy, focuses on.
Since its release critics have condemned the film for focusing on the tragedies of her personal life, as opposed to concentrating on her unparalleled talent. The film claims to be the “story of Amy Winehouse in her own words,” but listen to her music, and you’ll note most of her ‘own words’ are about love, relationships, and heartache, not addiction.
Tom Barnes at Mic.com writes: “…beside the occasional shot of a lyric sheet or snippet of concert footage, Amy Winehouse the artist is largely absent. The film prefers to explore Amy Winehouse the tragic spectacle – the tabloid figure the media pursued throughout the last few years of her life.”
As a result, people are comparing her post-mortem treatment to other greats like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Whitney Houston. What Amy points out, albeit by accident, is the vast difference between how men and women are treated in the media, even after death.
Drug abuse is used to create an identity for women like Winehouse and Houston, but is treated as an added fact when discussing men of their calibre.
Why do we demonize and ridicule women who are addicts? Then again, why do we demonize women for being single or outspoken?
Winehouse isn’t the only one to face unfair criticism in the media. Look at Jennifer Aniston – for years she’s been labelled as ‘desperate’ and ‘unable to keep a man’ and when she got married this week headlines read: “It’s official! Jen is…FINALLY MARRIED.” But when long-time bachelor George Clooney (who is eight years older) got married headlines read: “How George met his match,” and “Sorry ladies and gents, George Clooney got married.”
What gives? Why does the media always find a way to belittle women? It seems strong, confident, or talented women make a lot of people uncomfortable. Taylor Swift is ridiculed for writing about her exes, but Sam Smith won a Grammy for doing just that. The examples are endless!
Yet people question if feminism is needed in our modern world. When society has to make up a narrative in order to discuss a female celebrity, there is a problem. That problem is the patriarchal lens through which many see the world. Amy Winehouse, the alcoholic pop-star who needed saving, is an easier notion to accept than Amy Winehouse, the woman who singlehandedly brought jazz to a whole new generation of listeners.
For many there is still a deep-seeded notion that women are lesser. Men are idolized and women are demonized because it’s easier to fit people into categories than it is to understand them.
Amy was a funny woman from Southgate with Jewish, Russian, and Polish ancestry. She discovered her love for the guitar through her brother and started writing her own music at 14. She won five Grammys and spent a lot of her free time helping charities. One time she gave a man $6,400 so that he could have a life-saving operation.
Addiction was something she dealt with, but it certainly did not define her. Why is that so hard to swallow?
Leia Smoudianis is a west coaster freezing her bum off in Toronto. The former (yet still very bitter) server is now selling vacuums on The Shopping Channel and hoping to get adopted by the Kardashians.
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