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Listening Station: Amy Winehouse tops charts after death; ‘Chief’ (Eric Church); ‘LP1’ (Joss Stone)
Amy Winehouse tops charts after death
"They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said 'No, no, no!' "
Not since Nirvana's "Come As You Are," during which Kurt Cobain swore he didn't have a gun, has a song been so prophetic of its singer's doom.
Like Cobain, Amy Winehouse was never able to get the help she needed, locked into a public image increasingly defined by the addictions that felled her. During her concerts, fans hooted and hollered every time she took a swig from her highball glass. Had she only said "yes" to her family's rehab suggestion, perhaps her death on Saturday afternoon could've been avoided.
Miss Winehouse was a boozy, jazzy lounge singer for the new millennium, her vices upgraded to suit the times. There was something hypnotic about the dichotomy between her talent, which seemed to hail from an earlier era, and her tabloidish behavior. Whenever she pulled it together, she was magnetic to watch; whenever she couldn't, it was just as hard to turn our eyes away.
Even after her death, it's still impossible to separate her music from her erratic antics. "Back to Black" has returned to the top of the iTunes charts in several countries, having skyrocketed to No. 1 within hours of her death. In England, it sold more than 2,000 copies on Saturday alone, a 300 percent increase over the previous week's sales.
Miss Winehosue isn't the only artist to receive a posthumous spike in sales. In the two months leading up to Michael Jackson's death, his "Number Ones" compilation sold approximately 3,000 units a week. During the week of his death, that number surged to 108,000 albums, followed by an average of 199,000 weekly units during the seven weeks that followed. The total? A whopping 9,000 percent increase in weekly sales.
Sales of Nirvana's three albums surged by 170 percent after Cobain's death in 1994. Selena, who died the following year, sold 1,250 percent more albums during the two months after her death. More recently, Big Star experienced a 1,500 percent surge after Alex Chilton suffered a fatal heart attack.
Miss Winehouse had been working on another studio album this summer. A posthumous release is expected, of course, and chart-topping stats are more than likely. A more fitting tribute, though, would be a slow, steady stream of album sales, proof that Miss Winehouse has just as much appeal in our memory as she does on the front page of our newspapers.
Taking his cues from Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, Eric Church is a modern-day country outlaw. He's tattooed and tough, with a penchant for loud electric guitars and risque, R-rated lyrics that will have most parents covering the ears of their little cowboys-in-training.
For every song that clings to the conventions of contemporary country music - including his biggest hit, "Love Your Love the Most," which details a humdrum love for beer and honky-tonk shows - Mr. Church has another like "I'm Gettin' Stoned," whose devil-may-care title says everything about his outlaw image.
"I'm Getting' Stoned" is one of the 10 original songs on "Chief," Mr. Church's third album. Bouncing between Southern rock, swampy blues and outlaw country, it's a riled-up record for those who think Nashville's music scene has gotten a bit soft during the past 20 years.
On "Homeboy," Mr. Church skewers a friend who ditched town and lit out for the big city. The lyrics paint the usual picture of small-town America, with familiar references to ice cold beer and farm labor. The guitar riffs are the stuff of rock 'n' roll, though, modeled after AC/DC's electric wallop and pushed to the very front of the mix. This isn't your grandmother's country music.
At the end of the day, Mr. Church is still writing songs for country radio. He's more aggressive than most, though, occupying the narrow space where country and rock music overlap. Looking for a more twangy Kid Rock? "Chief" is a good place to start.
Don't let the title fool you; "LP1" is actually Joss Stone's fifth studio album. It's her first as an indie artist, though, and it features a trimmed-down version of the soul music she performed during her time on EMI Records.
Stripped of the major-label gloss that permeated her earlier albums, Miss Stone still sounds like a classic soul singer for the iPod generation, even though some of the album's best moments arrive courtesy of co-writer and co-producer Dave Stewart.
By Tom Fitton
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