Release Date: Oct 30, 2015
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Soundtracks, Stage & Screen
In death, Amy Winehouse’s music has generally been treated with a respect and restraint that, as director Asif Kapadia’s brilliant, gut-wrenching documentary about the singer made plain, was too often missing from her own life. Granted, there was 2011’s posthumously-released ‘Lioness: Hidden Treasures’, but that hastily-assembled collection of covers, outtakes and polished-up demos looks like being her last studio release of any real substance – if her record label are to be believed, what few recordings had been made for Winehouse’s third album were ultimately destroyed to safeguard her legacy against future cash-ins. The remarkable success of Kapadia’s film might justify the release of this soundtrack album, but despite the access granted to the director and his team, it’s light on new or little-heard music – there’s a ‘downtempo’ version of ‘Some Unholy War’, previously released as a bonus track, and an acoustic demo of ‘Like Smoke’ the Nas duet which first appeared on ‘Lioness’.
Asif Kapadia’s documentary on the demise of Amy Winehouse was a hit in cinemas this summer. Four months later, presumably with one eye on the Christmas market, the soundtrack follows. This is not a Best Of collection; the chosen music follows the trajectory of the film. Kapadia’s theory is that there was a massive change in Winehouse’s life and performances after the success of Back to Black, and indeed there is a striking difference between a 2006 live recording of We’re Still Friends, with her vocals silken and mellifluous, and her 2007 duet with Tony Bennett, on which her voice is tapered and slurred.
There are several ways one might construct a soundtrack for AMY, the compassionate and horrifying Amy Winehouse documentary chronicling her brief, doomed arc through superstardom. The obvious choice would be to make the soundtrack 100% Amy, whether through covers (the tactic of the soundtrack for the Nina Simone documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?) or through Winehouse's own voice. But in the AMY: The Original Soundtrack, Amy Winehouse is actually outnumbered: her 11 B-sides are broken up evenly by 11 snippets of film score, with the balance tipped by one exceedingly unnecessary trip-hop track, originally released in 1995.