Posthumous albums are a look back at a musician’s career, their achievements and hits, as well as insight to their works in progress, plans for the future and direction as an artist. Following Amy Winehouse’s death from alcohol poisoning in July, her longtime producer and family decided to release a collection of covers and demos from the final months of the singer’s life. While at times disjointed and raw, Lioness: Hidden Gems showcases Winehouse’s talent as a jazz, soul and pop singer.
After her chart-smashing Back to Black, Winehouse returned to the studio to begin work on a forthcoming album. Though she died before she was able to complete it, producer and friend SalaamRemi took it upon himself to create a tribute to the troubled singer.
The album opens with “Our Day Will Come,” a cover of the 1963 hit by Ruby and The Romantics. A brass section and hypnotic metronome give the song an island feel, and the ’50s-style doo-wopharmonies float silkily in the background.
“Tears Dry,” a slowed-down rehashing of Back to Black’s fourth single, samples Marvin Gaye’s instantly recognizable “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Taking on a Motown classic is ambitious, to say the least, but Winehouse adds her signature soul sound without being overbearing.
The album then loses its way on “Like Smoke,” which features New York-based rapper Nas. The song begins with Winehouse’s throaty crooning drifting over back-up harmonies, but it is suddenly interrupted by Nas’s brutish style. While his rapping is respectable, his lyrics about “World Bank bourgeoisie” clash with Winehouse’s conflicted longing.
Also included on Lioness is Winehouse’s infectious cover of The Zutons’ “Valerie” as well as international hit “The Girl From Ipanema.” Winehouse’s traditional jazz voice fits well with the song’s Brazilian samba-influenced bossa nova style, a throwback to the 1960s. She stays true to the smoky relaxation of the original song while playfully scatting her way through some verses.
Those looking for the most esoteric of Winehouse’s repertoire will be disappointed. Most of the covers range from jazz standards to chart-toppers, and many of the originals have been released as singles.
Sadly, Winehouse’s third and final album seems scattered and rushed. There is no real arc to Lioness; the songs are hastily strewn like the bottles and sheets of paper that littered the floor of Winehouse’s apartment. But what the album lacks in cohesion, it makes up for in raw talent and unfulfilled potential.