Amy Winehouse Frank

It isn’t very often in the banality of today’s popular song lyrics that we find any sense of complexity or maturity, and one would certainly never expect to come upon such in the scribes of a teenaged city-kid. But it is precisely this sense of maturity that is fundamental in the music of stalwart UK songstress Amy Winehouse. On her Frank debut, Winehouse — at the not-so-tender age of 19 — expounds on various real-life themes with the air of a woman looking back on a lifetime of the collective experience of her own personal female legion. She weaves raw and timeless tales of infidelity, loves both lived and lost, and just plain growin’ up over a musical subtext that blends elements of old-time jazz, soul, and hip-hop sentiments. She does all of this with a biting and gritty voice that pushes through the air like the tone of a well-worn trumpet singing the blues. (She’s been compared to the likes of Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, and Erykah Badu, though such associations might serve more to limit than to explain what exactly is at work here). On "Stronger Than Me,” the singer chastises a boy seven years her senior for being more of a man in their relationship, while "I’ve Heard Love Is Blind” has her rationalising to her man that it wasn’t cheating because she was "thinking of him when she came.” "Fuck Me Pumps,” conversely, is a salute to the aging club-girl coming to grips with the inevitable fruitlessness of the baller chase. Candid self-expression and a vocal ability that forces you to listen make this record a very refreshing listen and a profound opening salvo from this undoubted future starlet. (Universal)