This week the Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy, is released, and you should all go and see it because it’s equal parts haunting and extraordinary. In honour of the late and great Empress of British Jazz, we’ve compiled a list of other fantastic songs with the word ‘Black’ in the title, inspired by Amy’s devastating masterpiece ‘Back To Black’. And why have we done this? Why not, really.
1. BACK TO BLACK – AMY WINEHOUSE
Ms. Winehouse provided us with countless breath-taking songs all of which are special if only for the fact that they possess that voice, a tool which is now heartbreakingly exclusive and irreplaceable. ‘Back To Black’ stands above the rest of Amy’s discography as perhaps the most emblematic of her career, and most powerful of her music, being a mesmerising lamentation of how inescapable her depression is, all set to cabaret-ish, punky, jazz music. The style is unlike that of any of her contemporaries, drawing influences from Jazz, Soul, Funk, and R&B, and with lyrics that are wound-inducingly personal and dark; each and every one of Winehouse’s songs are masterclass’ in music, with ‘Back To Black’ being the pinnacle of her career. The British music scene lost one of its very best when Amy died, but she will always be immortalized in her timeless and unique music.
2. BLACK COFFEE – ALL SAINTS
Why is it that songs with the most random titles are always the best? ‘Liquorice‘, ‘Biscuits and Gravy’, ‘Chewing Gum’ – the pop sphere is filled with song titles seemingly plucked from a shitty café menu. AND WE LOVES IT. All Saints were a very decent girlband back in the day, and they were lucky enough to catch producer William Orbit during his most productive and interesting years, resulting in some of his best music outside of Madonna’s Ray Of Light album. ‘Pure Shores’ is the true masterpiece of All Saints, but ‘Black Coffee’ comes a close second, being the more subtle and subdued of the two, with a floaty and harmonic chorus which straddles the line between R&B and euphoric dream-pop. The sound of the girls’ marshmallowy voices as they seduce ‘I wouldn’t wanna chaaaaaange, anything aaat all’ is one of the best girlband moments ever.
3. BLACK SKINHEAD – KANYE WEST
‘Black Skinhead’ is Angrye West at his best. The galloping, pulsating, slamming and banging production is such a rush of adrenaline and power as the drums lash down and the King of Rap stutters and screams lyrics utterly loaded with racial intensity and cultural grievances. It’s literally quite a difficult listen, such is the strength and anger that is conveyed alongside the tough-as-nails production, with West encouraging a debate on the myth of a Post-Racial America. West rides the ebbs and flows of the rhythm giving us one his best raps, and perhaps one of the best ever. He works against the music, and then with it, and then on top of it, evoking an image of two rollercoasters whirling and interlocking around one another, hurtling across the tracks almost smashing into one another but always dodging a collision at the last second.
4. BLACK HEART – STOOSHE
Ahh Stooshe. Remember them? Of course you do, ‘Black Heart’ was the soundtrack to your 2012 summer. It’s always difficult for girlbands to stick, even if we recognise them as the most efficient providers of pop music known to gay. Stooshe were no different, and their breakout hit was also kinda their downfall. Prior to ‘Black Heart’, the band consisted of three chavvy, potty mouth Laaaandoners strutting and chat-rapping about the underbelly of working class London, alcohol, drugs, and rubber duckies. The chorus to their first single was literally ‘Hurry up and hurry up and HURRY UP AND…… fuck me’. Basically, they were fab. But then came ‘Black Heart’, and that was still fab, but it was…different. In a post ‘Black Heart’ world, they soon realised that in order to achieve chart success they had to sacrifice everything that made them unique. It’s not that ‘Black Heart’ was in complete contention with everything they stood for previously, it’s just a shame that their breakout hit was their most accessible and ‘’’’normal’’’’ song so far, meaning that when they returned to their funky, alternative, Lily Allen x3 schtick the damage was already done. We don’t know what Stooshe are up to now, although their Twitter suggests they’re still performing at high profile gigs like the opening of a new Esso Garage down the road, but we would welcome their return with open arms – there can never be too many girlbands in this cruel world of ‘sad men with guitars’ that we live.
5. BLACK MAGIC – LITTLE MIX
We’ve spoken about this recently and it’s still one of the best songs of the year. THOSE DRUMS. THEM VOCALS. THAT CHORUS.
6. BLACK OR WHITE – MICHAEL JACKSON
If there ever was a pop-culture thing which epitomizes the Nineties so profoundly, it’s the video for ‘Black and White’. It is classic in how naff it looks now, as Jackson trots all over the world, and the on-the-nose message of love and acceptance surely inspired a thousand Lady Gagas. It features Macaulay Culkin for Beyonce’s sake! The song itself remains supreme, with the guitar riff that permeates the song being as electric and invigorating as it ever was, whilst the post chorus finale of ‘IT’S BLACK, IT’S WHITE!!!’ is a quintessential moment of the growly, rockstar MJ that we all know and love. In a catalogue filled with majestic examples of fantastic pop & rock, ‘Black and White’, still stands out.
7. BLACK JACKS – GIRLS ALOUD
Girlbands LOVE songs with ‘Black’ in the title, hey? ‘Black Jacks’ is breezy and bluesy, and features the classic Girls Aloud structure of sounding like 17 different songs thrown together to create one beautiful Frankenstein’s monster of a song. ‘Black Jacks’ has verses from a 60’s Jazz club, mashed with tribal Avril Lavigne-esque chants during the bridge, and a pop chorus straight from mid-noughties electropop. This was released on the girls fourth album, Tangled Up, as the stars began to align and Girls Aloud were beginning to experience a late-career renaissance with both the public and the critics – and it’s hard to deny that experimental and zany, but ultimately aggressively fun songs such as ‘Black Jacks’ had something to do with it.
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