Amy Winehouse resurrects an old blues-pop sound with Back to Black (a reference to AC/DC’s disco-defying disc?), and she does it with plenty of attitude and back-alley bombast, prompting her American label to plaster her record with a parental-laziness sticker. Despite the fun showmanship and modernization of a great retro sound, Back to Black falls largely flat, not because it is a poor imitation of an old style, but because an imitation is all it is. With the notable exception of the title track (which is truly fantastic), Miss Winehouse’s record is mostly forget-able. Once the fun of “Rehab” has worn off, Back to Black fades away, and nothing sticks. Musically it is a refurbishment of the classic Motown hit-machine: Pleasant party music, but only the one track stands out as something that will be worth having once the novelty has faded. That said, the concept is appealing to me, and I am cautiously anticipating her next record. Given the nature of her music, I would definitely check out Miss Winehouse’s live show, despite the weakness of her record.
Lilly Allen, on the other hand, has dropped a powerful album with Alright, Still. It is pop in the best sense of the word. Despite also earning a “parental-advisory” sticker (for being British), Allen’s major label debut is spectacularly catchy and fun. Unlike most dance-pop, Alright, Still holds your attention and maintains momentum even after multiple listens. It is by turns effervescent, angry, manic, introspective, and silly, and only slides into Euro-pop cliche once (“Take What You Take”). Check out her myspace and give her a listen. After all, that is how the majors found her.