Amy Winehouse: Frank

B+

Amy Winehouse

Album: Frank
Label: Universal
B+

Amy Winehouse

Album: Frank
Label: Universal

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Amy Winehouse arrived on these shores with a big voice, big hair, big story, big screaming tabloid headlines, big hits, big sound, big album (Back To Black) and one hellacious appetite for self-destruction. But she was already an established artist in her native England before Back In Black transformed her into an international pop icon. Now Universal is capitalizing on her stateside popularity with the U.S. release of her 2003 coffee-shop-friendly debut, Frank. Frank traffics in bratty attitude and retro sounds, but instead of Black's almost oppressively catchy Motown/girl-group stomp, the album features languid, wide-open neo-soul grooves and jazzy vamping: Think Erykah Badu with Nancy Spungen's Neanderthal taste in men. On the first song, "Stronger Than Me," Winehouse admonishes an Alan Alda type overly in touch with his feelings to stop being so thoughtful, considerate, and sensitive, and start behaving like a man. The songcraft is looser and more organic than Black's, but also more ramshackle and meandering, with Winehouse's fluid cooing filling in the empty spaces and doodling airily in the margins. Thanks largely to timing, Frank inevitably feels like a warm-up for Black, but as rough drafts go, this one's a keeper.

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