Amy Winehouse’s concert in Belgrade, Serbia, in July 2011 turned out to be her last. Fans witnessed a woman they once knew as a strong and soulful talent, incoherently wandering the stage without the strength or breath to finish a song. On July 23, at age 27, Winehouse was found dead in her apartment. No matter how many times we listen to her albums or watch footage of her concerts, we can’t change the fact that we lost a legendary music icon. Her 2006 album Back to Black made her a five-time Grammy Award-winning pop star, but her inner demons put her music on the back burner.
Perhaps the only silver lining in a legendary musician’s passing is the posthumous album usually released a few months later. For Winehouse, that’s Lioness: Hidden Treasures. The album is composed of 12 re-recorded classics and previously unreleased tracks, and it serves as a reminder that there was much more to Winehouse than her erratic behavior.
Winehouse’s third studio album could have been great, had she survived the personal tumult that lead to her death. This album could have been bigger and better than Back to Black, showing her scars and struggles. Instead, the album reminisces upon what was and gives fans one last look at what could have been, before closing the door forever.
The album opens with her rendition of “Our Day Will Come,” a Ruby and the Romantics classic. Originally recorded in 2002, the song was a starting point for her career and a glimpse at Winehouse pre-rehab, optimistic and happy with the love of her life, Blake Fielder-Civil: “Our day will come/And we’ll have everything/We’ll share the joy/Falling in love can bring.”
Her cover of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” is accompanied by a distracting drumbeat that seems to have been included only to set it apart from the acoustic version Winehouse recorded in 2007. Yes, we’ll still love her tomorrow, but this song should have remained untouched. Other hits from Back to Black, “Wake up Alone” and “Tears Dry,” have also been re-recorded and paired with a jazzier beat, but both seem to lack the simplicity of the originals.
Winehouse was a retro soul in a modern world, and this album reflects her love of 1950s and ’60s hits, as well as ballads. “Between the Cheats,” an original song she recorded in 2008, sounds like a sing-along show tune from Grease. (“Beauty School Drop Out,” anyone?). The song is catchy and fun with a bit of ’60s flair, reminiscing the times of poofy skirts and big hair.
The two duets on the album are exceptional, especially because they vary so widely from each other. “Like Smoke” features Winehouse’s favorite rapper, Nas, and gives the album a little hip-hop flavor. Winehouse’s jazzy pipes and Nas’ rugged voice prove to be a wonderful combination of sugar and spice. Winehouse’s final recording, “Body and Soul,” features the talented Tony Bennett. This combination of talent could have been epic, and although the song is one of the better ones on the album, her diction is off and her words slur together. The song was released to celebrate her 28th birthday.
Winehouse’s rendition of Donna Hathaway’s “A Song for You” closes the album off, but it’s not a strong ending. This is not the same Winehouse that opened up the album. Her voice has noticeably lost its fullness as she groans and skips through the vocals. The lyrics are a bittersweet ending to the album: “And when my life is over/Remember when we were together/We were alone and I was singing this song for you.” Her commentary at the end of the track is unexpected, but it shows Winehouse’s true vulnerability: “Donny Hathaway, he couldn’t contain himself. He had something in him, you know?”
If you want to remember her greatest moments, listen to Frank or Back to Black. Although Lioness: Hidden Treasures does not convey the talent she had at her prime, it does serve a purpose—it reminds fans of how much they loved hearing Winehouse sing.
Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures tracklist:
- “Our Day Will Come”
- “Between the Cheats”
- “Tears Dry” (original recording)
- “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” (2011 version)
- “Like Smoke” (featuring Nas)
- “Valerie” (1968 version)
- “The Girl from Ipanema”
- “Wake Up Alone” (original recording)
- “Best Friends, Right?”
- “Body and Soul” (featuring Tony Bennett)
- “A Song for You”