Belonging in Back to Black

Amy Winehouse reveals the pain of a broken relationship in her song Back to Black. The accompanying music video visually explores elements of isolation and despair felt by the persona, even though she is supported by others.

Filmed in black and white, the costuming and stylistic props acknowledge past memories and musical influences. The stoic attitude of Winehouse can be linked to the self alienating behaviour of Abigail in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

The following paragraphs were written collaboratively with 12EN1.

Belonging can equate with feelings of security, stability and companionship. The performative music video for the Amy Winehouse song, Back to Black released in 2007, reveals a funeral procession narrative with Winehouse as persona. Directed by Phil Griffin, the black and white video illustrates the end of a relationship by expressing her emotional pain. The original tombstone inscription “RIP the heart of Amy Winehouse” was deleted after the singer’s death in 2011.

Amy leads the cortege

The loss of belonging, for Winehouse, results in feelings of isolation and loss. The video opens with a wide shot of a cramped living room with two seated males ignoring Winehouse. Throughout the text, Winehouse remains the focus by Griffin’s use of close ups, extreme close ups and mid shots of her iconic tattoos, eye makeup and hair style. Different editing techniques, such as slow motion, wipes and fades, maintain the song’s leaden pace. When Winehouse descends the stairs to the waiting funeral cortege, we feel her pain and regret and understand the lingering sense of loss. The shadowy, grainy shots of band members and friends suggest a nostalgic return to the past and highlights the jazzy musical roots of Winehouse’s signature style.

aerial or overhead shot reinforces her isolation

A range of music and language techniques reference the sense of sadness and depression. Repetition is used when Winehouse laments “You’ll go back to her” reminding the audience that she is constantly reliving the end of the relationship. She repeats “I’ll go back to black”, with accompanying percussion and long duration on ‘black’ to highlight her inability to move on from this devastation. Her use of hyperbole in “I died a hundred times” emphasises her pain and regular assonance of ‘I’ ‘my’ ‘guy’ and ‘died’ echoes her self focus. Throughout the music video, the isolation of Winehouse is shown when she travels alone in the lead vehicle of the procession, the aerial shot of her leaving the car and as she throws a single flower in the grave. Winehouse remains at the cemetery as her friends depart, signalling her inability to move on which remains a barrier to belonging.

alone in a crowd of mourners

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