I want to cast neither stone nor aspersion. At the same time as I am at opposite pole, a fan, and believing Amy amongst the great (not just good) soul singers.
Her voice is unique. Contralto, but with a continuity of melodic line like Billie Holiday's. And, to add to that blender, an Aramaic sense of suspended drama in voicing the story of a song. It's been called a "hip-hop warble": that tremolo she can load at will onto her voicing. That any Arab woman singer would instantly recognize. No accident, I believe, that she has a fierce fan following in Spain. And, as the point: that she melds more vocal traditions than any of us can know.
Past this, her voice rings harmonics clean as a bell. Contralto with surprising range, best appreciated live. As at her concert for Les Eurockeennes de Belfort 2007 found on YouTube via ShootUpTheStation.
Past the phenomenon of her voice are the songs she writes. The best of which, such economical, masterful encapsulations of situation and sentiment as I believe merit inclusion amongst the great soul songs.
I've written an appreciation of three of her songs on my WordPress blog--being a fan, and not the only one. Though I would point not to the total number sold of her record, but that it continues to sell. The one record keeping her label afloat in a sea of declining sales, and demonstrating that however one recognize her, she is not a fad: the engagement to her voice and her songs, by fans, is genuine and lasting.
Meantime, self-destructiveness in artists is as old as that Chinese poet who drowned embracing a full moon reflected on water. And as old, the inevitable backlash: "dead drunk, more like," the cynical retort, since the poet was as notoriously a drunkard. While R&B and soul post a list as long as the proverbial arm. Something, it seems, to the depth of feeling and pure art that this music needs, which practically requires equivalent depth of experience.
Not that what she is passing through is to be taken lightly. A Saturn transit, is what the astrologers claim. When necessity has a hard face, and all excesses are punished. Not to be wished on anyone as one was kind enough to note. And I must remind, when she's only 25.
I have little hope of changing a mind set at opposite pole to mine, but as last point: past your listing all that Amy is appropriating from R&B and soul, there is what she gives back.
Peter Jan Morales
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Oct 27 2008 - 6:51pm