Last night producer Salaam Remi hosted a listening event for Amy Winehouse’s upcoming posthumous collection Lioness: Hidden Treasures (out December 5) at New York’s Studio Q. The vibe was one-part PR event, one-part memorial service. In his introduction and personal anecdotes interspersed between songs, it seemed Winehouse’s passing was still very fresh to the Remi — who, as we know, was also a very close friend to the late UK soul singer.
Though I’m sure I’m one of the many who was unsurprised by Winehouse’s death five months ago, hearing these unreleased tracks provided the opportunity to truly reflect on the sadness surrounding the singer’s tragic end for the first time.
As has been reported, the 12-track Lioness features the original versions of some modern-day classics from Back to Black, including “Tears Dry On Their Own”— much slower here, with the lyrics pushed to the forefront, allowing for a more melancholy sentiment — and “Wake Up Alone”. Strange that this softer, bare bones version of “Tears Dry” is the demo, as Amy sounds much older here.
Vocally, Winehouse comes off just as seasoned as Tony Bennett on their duet “Body And Soul”, also included on this collection. Forget about Adele’s current tearjerker chart behemoth “Someone Like You” — “Body and Soul” made me tear up in front of everyone both times Remi played it.
One of the saddest qualities about Lioness, however, is the sharp contrast between Amy’s youthfully playful cover of “The Girl from Ipanema”, recorded when she was just 18, and “A Song For You”, recorded in the spring of 2009 — you can actually hear the moment she just threw in the towel on the latter. Her voice is much deeper here, and although her vocal skill is still impressive, there’s something in her delivery that gives the impression that the singer had just caved in, emotionally.
Though it’s easy to argue that, with this album, her label and those associated are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of Winehouse, Lioness: Hidden Treasures actually seems necessary in putting the Grammy winner in perspective, both in terms of her body of work and as an artist in context.
As for Remi, from the sound of it, he probably just needed some sort of closure.
—Reporting by Anna Graizbord