The thing with Amy Winehouse, god bless her soul, is that you can’t help but suspect the whole thing was a setup. Her rise from rags to, well, messier rags. The appropriate wino-connoting surname. Songs about rehab and regret delivered like ironic jokes and always tainted in funereal shades of black. The age of her death being the same as a host of tragic rock icons before her. And that famous-for-being-famous car-crash of a celebrity she’d ultimately become even though we all knew greater talent lay within.
Of course it’s also suspicious that a major record label would idly sit by and not instantly cash in on said talent in the peak moments of an artist’s controversial publicity highs. After all, if it’s good enough for Britney… And worth wondering why genuine intervention wasn’t facilitated to get the young progeny back on track. These considerations might lead one to a climax of conspiratorial thinking: that perhaps Amy was being encouraged to stay ‘off track’ since – as music history has often shown – some artists deliver their best work in states of greater substance abuse (think the Beatles in their acid period; Bowie at his coked-out peak; Kurt Cobain at his metaphoric highest). It’s difficult not to imagine a drugged-out Winehouse cooped up in a recording studio, laying down her woes for future posterity; perhaps delivering enough of them to fill an entire posthumous discography that would please a major record label to no end. To give it a cruel analogy: the best foie gras is bound to come from the duck who’s been force-fed the fastest.
But we can’t simply see Amy as a sitting duck, for whoever may have been responsible for introducing her to the tempting but troubling elements of the pop life, ultimately she, like any sensible human being, ought to have exercised a certain level of self-control.
Anyway, if there is basis to the aforementioned theories, at least we’ll eventually understand what went on in the mind of one of the past decade’s most talented but troubled artists – even if it took several more sips from the bottle, hits from the bong, or shots of the hypodermic needle for her to express herself. No one should be surprised, following an unofficial ‘mourning’ period, when a slew of Winehouse records are uploaded onto iTunes, and, with the mythical stature that comes with an icon cut down in her prime, perhaps even some heavy unit-shifting in good old-fashioned CD and vinyl format (she’ll always be viewed as a modern classic, and that brand of legend is allowed special packaging).
Conspiracy theories aside, and sending trashy tabloid images into the paper shredder where they deserve to end up, let’s hope Amy Winehouse is remembered for at least one great thing: the ability to have taken that bit of angst every one of us has sensed on occasion and turning it into something so epic, its echo reminds us we’re not alone in feeling it. Rest in peace, babe.