After the success of John Lennon’s origin story on Nowhere Boy (2009), Sam Taylor-Johnson is back in the directorial seat with new musical biopic, Back to Black. Taylor-Johnson delves into the tragically short life of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. Much of Winehouse’s career was defined by what happened outside of her award-winning music and accomplishments. As, at the time, the media spent more time indulging us with Amy’s inner struggles with addiction, her relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil and other controversies exacerbated by those in her sphere.

The soundtrack of Amy’s tragic fairytale has been given to Nick Cave and long-standing collaborator Warren Ellis. Aside from working together on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds creative endeavours, Cave and Ellis have jointly composed film soundtracks for nearly 2 decades. Some of their acclaimed works include: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), The Road (2009) and Blonde (2022).

With a dreamy start, Back to Black begins with a flurry of percussion, wind and string instruments on ‘Opening’. It is like listening to a moving breeze, as you are swept along by xylophone chimes, bells, a mesmerising flute solo and a few violin and piano chords. In keeping with this positive theme, ‘Tattoo Parlour’ is truly uplifting and delicate, as we are bathed in a gorgeously alluring warm flute awash with twinkling bars. These few songs shine brightly like rays of light on an otherwise darkly surreal and experimental sounding album.

Amy’s inner turmoil and struggle comes through on ‘At the Taxi’, and we remain in this foreboding space through the use of a ghostly bass flute on ‘Park Bench’. Mounting creepy tension builds on ‘Dublin Castle’ and impending dread looms on ‘Snooker Hall’ with a piercing lonely flute accurately depicting the feeling of isolation. ‘Sort Yourselves Out’ takes a sharp and distorted turn that ends abruptly. Ultimately, leading you to feel something terrible has happened or is about to happen. Inevitably, we come to ‘The End’, which sounds beautifully bittersweet.

‘Song for Amy’ features the glorious vocal talents of Nick Cave himself. His authentically rich delivery makes for an impassioned, sensitive and devastatingly sincere song. Ending the album, ‘Song for Amy (Reprise)’ features actress Marisa Abela delivering words written by a 13-year-old Amy Winehouse, when applying to the Sylvia Young Theatre School, about herself and her ambitions: “I want people to hear my voice and just forget their troubles for five minutes. I want to be remembered for being a singer, for sell-out concerts and sell-out West End and Broadway shows. For being just me.”

Track listing:
1. Opening
2. At the Taxi
3. Park Bench
4. Tattoo Parlour
5. Dublin Castle
6. Snooker Hall
7. Sort Yourselves Out
8. Soho to Glastonbury
9. Hollaway Prison
10. The End
11. Song for Amy
12. Song for Amy (Reprise)