Amy Winehouse, perhaps best known for her problematic lifestyle instead of her music, died in her late twenties due to alcohol poisoning. Her last album, Back to Black, was the best-selling British album in the last decade. It was sold over twenty million copies worldwide and won five Grammy Awards including Record of the Year and Song of the Year (both for Rehab). Thanks to the monstrous media coverage and paparazzi, the world has been mostly aware of her drug addiction, her lyrics with problematic values, and her on-and-off relationship with Blake Fieder, the man who brought her love, inspiration and heroine. But what the world has overlooked is her authenticity, vulnerability, and unique talent in mixing different genres of music such as jazz, soul and blues. Her deep, expressive contralto vocal has no arms, palms or fingers to touch those who listen, and yet, it grasps them. Her autobiographical, soulful lyric has no enthusiasm, relief or hope to motivate those who listen, and yet, it frees them. Throngs of fans came to Amy’s house after her death and paid their deepest respect to such a controversial pop icon. They came with indescribable sadness, because they just lost someone who spoke their hearts.
Who killed Amy Winehouse? Amy was released in 2015 to honour a troubled life that dedicates itself to rebellion, the eagerness to be different, and love. Through a series of video clips, voices of family and close friends, and photographs, Amy presents an objective assessment of the British singer, provoking debates on fame, celebrity and media. Amy was not the sole contributor of her suffering; media own her an apology too. Like a toxic spiral, fame brought Amy popularity, recognition and self-esteem, but also publicised and distorted every detail of her struggles, which was lethal to her. Celebrities usually become experts of self-protection. They enjoy huge commercial success while keeping what they truly are to themselves. Amy, however, was not one of them. Life was her only inspiration, and her songs were all about her life, with no embellishment or reservation other than plain, authentic recording. Sharing such a pure relationship with music, Amy was an extremely vulnerable woman who failed to guard her inner artistic self from external scrutinisation and disturbance. In front of music and love, she was the moth flying towards the flame. She was too weak to save herself. Her tragic death was inevitable.
Amy sets the new standard for biographical celebrity documentary, with many creative approaches to documenting. It follows the chronological order just like everyone else in the same genre, but still, there is something fundamentally different in Amy. The difference is hard to pinpoint but can be felt every second. As riveting as it is sad, the documentary is exceptionally touching. It focuses explicitly on the trifles of Amy’s life and conveys a deep sense of empathy and loss. The story features a collection of old materials that often reveal a different side of Amy, like her innocence. Some scenes combine the recorded video tapes with relevant people talking in the background in a different time and setting. Amy’s life and her sufferings now make sense because the dots are finally connected. Her well-known singles such as Stronger than Me, Rehab, Back to Black, Tears Dry on Their Own, You Know I’m No Good, and Love is a Losing Game are played one by one at the right moment of Amy’s life, revealing both her creative process and her inspiration behind these soulful melodies. Although these melodies must have been played thousands of times, the documentary refreshes the memory and plays them in the context that has been overlooked. The sad story ends in a sudden, just like how everything once began.
I selected Love is a Losing Game as the title for my review. It is the last single released by Amy before her death. The song is abnormally short – only lasts for two minutes and thirty-five seconds. Still, it is long enough to be a perfect resemblance of Amy’s life which is abnormally short and about a losing game. Amy played the game with Blake Fieder, music and fame. She lost everything although she knew the end at the beginning. Her dedication to what she loved is courageous, and for that she lived an admirable, worthy life that endures.
For you I was a flame, love is a losing game
Five story fire as you came, love is a losing game
One I wish I never played, oh what a mess we made
And now the final frame, love is a losing game
Played out by the band, love is a losing hand
More than I could stand, love is a losing hand
Self professed… profound, till the chips were down
…know you’re a gambling man, love is a losing hand
Though I battle blind, love is a fate resigned
Memories mar my mind, love is a fate resigned
Over futile odds, and laughed at by the gods
And now the final frame, love is a losing game
– Amy Winehouse, Love is a Losing Game