What we need to keep in mind was the bloggerverse was in its infancy, the focus was still on music message boards back in late 2003. The iTunes Store was only six months old and the overwhelming majority of music fans still didn’t understand how to use it to buy full albums, especially from international iTunes Stores on the site. Amy Winehouse didn’t have the benefit of Vimeo, YouTube or Dailymotion so people could see her videos. There was no Twitter or Tumblr where people could help spread her music via the Internet. Back when Frank dropped, MySpace was only a few months old and it was a space for friends rather than music. When an online friend from the UK sent me a link to Frank my brother bought it from the UK iTunes Store the same day (this also predates Cloud services). We both played the album to death and we felt like we knew a secret that few people in America knew. It remained this way for years.
Let’s discuss what it is about Frank that makes it such a special album. First of all, it’s the fact that Amy Winehouse was only 19 years old at the time she began recording it. Rather than look up to Mary J. Blige or Mariah Carey like most young vocalists in her age group would do she instead gravitated to Ella Fitzgerald, Bille Holliday, Sarah Vaughn and other great Jazz vocalists from their era. Additionally, Amy wrote her own material which was fairly rare. Joss Stone’s album consisted entirely of covers which showcased her vocal ability and completely stunned and blew away listeners stateside. Had these same fans got the opportunity to hear Amy Winehouse’s originals songs and they way her album blended Jazz, Soul, R&B and Hip-Hop production no doubt they would’ve been just as impressed by Frank. I’d go as far as to argue that had Frank received the same push Joss Stone’s The Soul Sessions did in North America it probably could’ve even outsold it.
Amy Winehouse’s lyrics showcased a deep understanding of the complexities within relationships plus they gave the listener a glimpse into her mind and thought process (plus she made great love songs to weed). When we heard “Take The Box” we completely understood how she felt about her breakup and her immediate need to put it behind her. We felt the same emotions she did as she went through her disappointing relationship with Frank on “Stronger Than Me” where she chides him for being the older more experienced person but leaving her to have to take the lead and make the decisions. We then comprehend the spell he had her under initially with “You Sent Me Flying” where her lyrics tell the tale of a normally confident young woman who gives in to doing things totally out of character for a man and how she can recognize herself doing so. You simply don’t expect such a young person to be that introspective and self aware in their music.
The production was handled by Salaam Remi, Commissioner Gordon, Jimmy Hogarth, Matt Rowe and Amy herself. When you hear songs like “I Heard Love Is Blind” and “F-ck Me Pumps” you’re instantly impressed by the imagery and the level of her songwriting at such a young age. It also took me a while to realize that the entire album was inspired by her early infatuation with Frank Sinatra and that’s why the album was titled Frank. After discovering that little wrinkle my appreciation for it increased even more. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of music fans stateside had no clue who Amy Winehouse was even as her album was selling all over Europe, Oceania, Asia & South America throughout 2003 and 2004. It took until 2006 before any serious effort was put into introducing Amy to American music fans (Frank was released in Canada back in the Summer of 2004 and has yet to even go Gold there) and that was due to the success of other British female vocalists.
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