By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – British soul pop superstar Amy Winehouse is to play in Brazil for the first time this week. One of the biggest selling artists of the 2000s and international tabloid favorite, Winehouse will play a series of festivals and arena gigs in Brazil over the next week, including two dates at Rio de Janiero’s HSBC arena on Monday, January 10th and Tuesday the 11th.
Widely accredited as initiating the soul jazz revival of the early 2000s and revitalizing British pop music, Winehouse is a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-award winning artist who holds the record for the most Grammys won by a British female artist, four in 2008, including Song of the Year for the single ‘Rehab’ and Best Pop Vocal Album for her international breakthrough record Back to Black.
Born in 1983 in North London to a Jewish family, Winehouse’s musical talent was nurtured from an early age through exposure to old jazz and soul records at home and her grandmother’s encouragement to attend performing arts schools. She started playing guitar and writing songs in her early teens and before long was playing with a jazz band. Music industry representatives started to take notice with major labels fighting over the young, alternative starlet with the distinctive soul voice.
Her first album, Frank, was released in the UK in October 2003 to much critical acclaim. Heavily jazz influenced, Winehouse’s raw, contralto vocals and feisty lyrics garnered much praise and the album was nominated for the UK critic’s favorite, the Mercury Music Prize in 2004.
The follow up, Back to Black, released in 2006, would launch her internationally. Moving away from the prominent jazz flavor of Frank, Back to Black displays influence of 50s and 60s girl groups such as the The Shirelles and The Shangri-Las with New York hip hop soul producer Mark Ronson complementing Winehouse’s captivating dirty soul voice and honest, heartbreaking lyrics with lush, vintage soul-influenced production.
Singles such as ‘Rehab’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’ and ‘Tears Dry on Their Own’ became radio playlist staples across the world, notably in the US where the album entered at number seven on the Billboard 200.
Multi-platinum album sales, a string of awards and stellar (although somewhat inconsistent) live performances confirmed Winehouse as one of the 21st century’s most exciting and popular music artists, blending retro RnB, jazz and soul, genuine and often surprising lyrics with a unique, expressive voice.
However, unfortunately Winehouse is probably famous as much for her troubled private life as for her musical talent. Her neo-punk style, outrageous behavior and self-destructive tendencies have made her a paparazzi target and gossip column favorite. Her problems with substance abuse, run-ins with the law and turbulent relationship with ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil have all been well documented.
This level of interest appears to have abated as Winehouse seems to be resolving her problems. In an interview with UK Glamour magazine in October last year to promote her Fred Perry fashion collection she claims to have been drug free for three years saying “I literally woke up one day and was like, ‘I don’t want to do this any more'”.
While her personal life has sometimes overshadowed her music, Winehouse is a performer of rare talent and appeal and fans in Brazil are eager to welcome the star. A second Rio date was recently added to meet demand as the January 11th gig sold out. Opening for the Carioca shows is rising international soul star, Janelle Monáe.
Tickets are available for the HSBC arena gig in Barra da Tijuca on January 10th as well as her Summer Soul Festival appearances in Florianopolis on January 8th, Recife on January 13th and São Paulo on January 15th from amywinehouse.com. Full price tickets for the Rio gig cost from R$180 to R$700.