I finally downloaded Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. Of course her singles and very public personal problems with drugs and bulimia have been all over the place for the past six months or so. I wasn’t too keen on “Rehab” when I first heard it, but I loved “You Know I’m No Good.” So, I checked out some of her other tracks on Youtube and decided that I liked her sound enough to buy the whole album. Here’s “You Know I’m No Good:”

Since buying the album, I’ve fallen in love with two additional tracks, “Love Is a Losing Game” and “Tears Dry on Their Own.” While she has a basic retro sound in all of her music, these tracks show how diverse that sound can actually be. “Love is a Losing Game” is a quiet, simple song that uses that quietness and simplicity to express such pathos about love, while “Tears Dry on Their Own” is almost an anthem of the self-sufficient woman who can get over failed love and start anew. Its up-tempo chorus is really catchy and triumphant.

Here’s “Tears:”

Here’s the video for “Love Is a Losing Game:”

I don’t know what to make of her life and talent. I do think she’s brilliant musically. But her life seems so out of control. It’s one thing to see Britney fall apart — she doesn’t really seem like she’s in all that much trouble. Nothing life threatening, at least. The worst that seems likely to happen to her is that she won’t be such a public persona.

Winehouse, on the other hand, seems to be tottering on the edge of life and death. Watching her falling apart is like watching someone kill themselves. Just seeing anyone risk her life like that is scary; watching someone with so much talent and potential doesn’t make it worse, but it does make it even more inexplicable.

It all reminds me of a conversation I had with some colleagues a couple of years ago. We were discussing a student who had been in each of our classes. We all agreed that she seemed anorexic, but what we couldn’t agree on was whether we should try to do something about it. What can a professor really do to potentially save a student’s life who might be suffering from this sort of disease?

Winehouse’s brushes with death seem to beg the same question. If “the world” is watching her do this to herself, what can we all do to help her? Anything? Do we just watch? Obviously, most of us can’t do much. We don’t even know her or much of anything about her.

But I do hope that she gets control over her life. I can’t think of anything that doesn’t seem trite, but I really hope her story won’t be a televised tragedy. Because of all of her problems with heroin and alcohol, Winehouse’s live performance of “Love is a Losing Game” a couple of weeks at the Mercury Awards is getting a lot of press. Here’s a clip:

In contrast to Britney’s recent fiasco at the MTV Video Awards, Winehouse shines in this performance and shows why she’s earned such acclaim. After the performance, the announcer keeps saying that Amy Winehouse has “one of the most amazing voices.” This performance definitely justifies that statement. In the middle of a series of hospitalizations, overdoses, and controversy, she pulls this out of her hat. She’s amazing.

So, I started looking at some of past music and performances. Here’s an older clip of her on a British t.v. show. She sings an old Dinah Washington song, “Teach Me Tonight” and shows how contemporary artists can make classic songs hot and sexy today. Again, she’s amazing.

The contestants on American Idol should have to watch this clip before they are allowed to perform old songs.