When Amy Winehouse's music blew up in 2007 everyone took notice. Her soulful voice, unique retro-look and enigmatic presense caught the eyes of music lovers and gossip columnists alike. Ordinary people love extrordinary "messes". The sick desperation to follow the downfalls of others makes Amy's story that much more gut wrenching. People slow down on the highway to look at car-crashes all the time. Why? Because it gives them the hope and the comfort that it wasn't them. I didn't know Amy Winehouse, and I don't claim to, but I know what it's like to be gawked at. To be noticed only when things are falling down, to be ignored for the true, beautiful things you have to offer the world, and to be praised for the bad.
Tabloid phenomenon is something that we all engage in to some effect. We like sensational things, it's just human. When someone high-profile fucks up, we take solace in it because it appears that they have faults like us. Or they're even worse than we are. When someone like Amy Winehouse comes along, with so many gifts to offer the world, and the one thing people focus on is her alcoholism, or her partying or whatever, it gets frustrating. Everything is art v. commerce. The child-like beauty of her music and spirit was ultimately shattered by the notoriety of being a "party-girl" or whatever bullshit excuse people tell themselves. Amy struggled with eating disorders and addiction, in the same way that over 17.6 million people do. So what set her apart? Well, she was famous. She got good enough at music to become famous, and was then punished for it. The reason why people are so fascinated by her is that her talent was untouchable, and people probably constantly speculate on what she could have become if the media or whoever didn't hound her to death. Speculation aside, the most tragic thing about her and the saga that surrounded her, is that she walked away from alcohol and was on the path to recovery when she passed. People didn't care about that though. They only cared about the darkness, because they couldn't help but watch the car crash. Nobody cared about Amy Winehouse until she started to decay. Whatever beautiful music could have been made, whatever amazing human lied underneath, people would never know. The papers got a great story at her expense.
The reason why I'm writing about this, is because I stumbled upon a video called "Amy Winehouse Has Crazy Night in London"(which you can watch above), and I clicked on it, because I was curious about what "crazy" actually meant. I clicked on it because sometimes you just cant resist. The video was literally of her and Pete Doherty (whose had some issues of his own with the press and unfair treatment) walking into a convenience store to buy chips and some water. Something we all do on a daily basis, hardly worth press coverage. Doherty bought an NME magazine with his own face on the cover to shield himself from the paparazzi. Amy's face looked empty, sad, and irritated that she couldn't be left to go into a simple shop to buy some water. There is an indescribable emptiness that comes with success, and I could tell that she felt it. I watched this at work while trying to find the new Libertines song to listen to. And I almost started crying. It was just so insensitive, so inhuman. One of the photographers actually yelled to Pete, "Hey give us a show!" He was simply trying to mind his own business, as Amy's small frame tried to navigate through the crowd of oppressive lenses and microphones.
It's nobody's fault and it's everyone's fault really. We as a society are flawed. We love a good story, we love car-crash journalism. We love watching people fall down. We love a good fight, a good victim and we love to say, "I told you so." How do you avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy if everyone is just willing you there anyway? People love to set each other up for disaster.
We don't recognize a talent like Amy's until her funeral is front page news.
It's sad. It makes me sad, for her, for us, for everyone. If we take the time to appreciate those we see as front page news, and realize that they're humans too, then we may just enter into a more beautiful society.
Everyone's guilty of loving a crash, but things are different when you're the one crashing, so the next time you pick up a gossip magazine, or make fun of someone for being different, just remember that you may never understand their true struggle, and to engage in kindness when you can.