Amy Winehouse had a voice much bigger than her five-foot-something stature. When Back to Black went double platinum nearly a year after its release, this tiny kid from the U.K. had the world wondering, “What is this girl about?” My story with Winehouse started before she became a household name. As July 23 marks five years since her untimely death, I can’t help but reflect on what she meant to me.
The first album I ever bought for myself was Winehouse’s Back to Black while in the sixth grade. In typical 2000s fashion, I first heard her music as I was shopping on Abercrombie’s website. Her jazzy, soulful voice captivated me so much, I left the website so I could Google who this Amy Winehouse person was. I was surprised when I came across her Myspace and was greeted by a young, Jewish girl— the exact opposite of the mature black lady I pictured in my head. Nevertheless, I was instantly hooked when “Rehab” started automatically playing it on the page.
When I was finally able to take a trip to the mall, I went to HMV to find her album. My mom was intrigued about her as well, wondering why I was spending my hard-earned allowance on physical music. All her inquires were squashed when I played that CD on the way back home.
Since then, Winehouse became a regular part of my adolescence, sort of like an older sister who would always give me advice. I would bring the album to school and listen to it with my friends. During car rides, my mom and I would sing her music together. As I grew older, my appreciation for her music grew as well once I started understanding the context behind her lyrics. As an adult, many of the songs I loved as a pre-teen still mean a lot to me and helped me get through many different situations.
When going through a break up, “Love Is A Losing Game” is one of the first songs I play. As a pre-teen, I played it on repeat in my room when I found out my crush didn’t like me back. As an adult, I react the same way.
After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I would switch to “Tears Dry On Their Own.” It represented my teenage angst and my newfound adult empowerment.
As a teenager, I remember listening to “Stronger Than Me” off Frank on my iPod Nano after an ex kept trying to re-spark a relationship. I listened to this song and reflected on his fragile ego. Growing older didn’t change much about my feelings toward this track, only the fact that I now know I’m stronger than any weak-minded man that approaches me.
“Just Friends” got me through the most heartbreaking moments of my teenage and adult years. When I came to a crossroads that I knew was going to end in a break-up—and that I had to be the one to do it—no other song captured that emotion so perfectly. Even after all these years, this is still one of my favourite songs off Back to Black, because even Amy admits she can’t answer the question, “When will we get the time to be just friends?”
Today, Amy Winehouse is known as the one of the greatest solo female acts. If it wasn’t for her leading the way, there may not have been Adele, Duffy or Ellie Goulding. She was the shining light that paved the way for many different and experimental female artists. For that, we’ll always thank her.