"Back to Black" is that rare thing: an album you can listen to from beginning to end, in order, over and over again - and find a new favourite every time.
Strutting, defiant she pokes the finger at past lovers demanding, sweetly, "What kind of f**kery is this?" (" Me & Mr Jones" ) and keeps us waiting four songs before the title track peaks - or plunges - into the crux of her theme. It begins with a pacing, pulsing piano chord before sinking into depression. "I died a hundred times...You go back to her, and I go back to...I go back to..."
Reluctant to accept defeat, resolution is deferred as the "I go back to..." refrain gathers strength until, beaten down to a whisper by the piano, she puts us out of our misery.
Back to...black. Yet, just when she seems ready to pack up her guitar and reach for the nearest bottle, drums kick in with the wistful, resigned "Love is A Losing Game", Winehouse's reworking of the archetypal 'getting over him' song. Piling metaphor on top of metaphor; she is relentlessly philosophical. Love is a losing hand, she declares; love is a fate resigned. Love - love is a losing game.
One criticism of the album is that it's too short. After packing 11 songs into just over 34 minutes of alcoholic, iconic crooning she bows out, presumably to go and "smoke [her] home grown".
The end result is a taut show reel that leaves us salivating, willing us to press play again - and move from the playfully titled last track 'Addicted' back into 'Rehab'. It's circular, compulsive. Were it not for the amount of bleeps needed - and the difficult of getting a song whose main refrain is "you smoke all my weed man" past the censors - each would be worthy of radio play, especially the motowny, doo woppish, "Me & Mr Jones".
Yet it's a little too introspective for the airwaves. Even the cover is dark. Where first album "Frank" pictured a grinning, pink clad Amy dragging a dog on a lead, this one shows her languid on a chair in an empty classroom, peering moodily out from between gothic fronds.
Well, it is called "Back to Black". Noticeably thinner (her shrinking frame has elicited mutterings of 'anorexia' from interviewers) and more angst-stricken, undercutting the powerful, almost masculine voice is a dissonant note of fragility - despite the bold reassurance of lines like "I'll battle till this bitter finale/Just me, my dignity and this guitar case." ("Some Unholy War").
Unlike "Frank", a bright-eyed newcomer surveying the musical landscape, Back to Black is a leap into the abyss of self-exploration. In contrast to her 2003 debut, there are no jazz standards covered and her writing credits appear on every track, oozing intimacy.
It works: we're poised on the edge of her cliffhanger. Let's just hope she doesn't fall off.