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Winehouse's legit trip

The tabloid-cozy Brit lands a buzz-worthy showing with her haul of six nominations.

December 07, 2007|Chris Lee | Times Staff Writer

HARD-PARTYING retro-soul chanteuse Amy Winehouse may not want to go to rehab -- "no, no, no!" her most famous song insists. But barring disaster, she and her piquant hit single "Rehab" are headed to the Grammys in February as an expected front-runner, after landing six nominations, including in the four top categories: best album, song and record, and new artist.

Winehouse's second CD, "Back to Black," has been lavished with critical praise and street credibility, selling more than 3 million copies worldwide. Hailed as a classic upon its release, the album helped establish the London-native as a neo-jazz torch singer with a deliciously sneering world view -- a musical persona seemingly backed up by Winehouse's endlessly documented appetite for self-destruction.

On songs produced by pop rainmakers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, she sings in a whiskey-soaked voice about bruised romance and her fondness for "puff" (marijuana) and even details the righteous indignation she feels when a boyfriend makes her miss a Slick Rick concert. Moreover, in an era of niche-driven music commerce, Winehouse benefited from airplay on adult contemporary, R&B and alternative radio stations alike.

The nominations cap off a turbulent year for the extravagantly tattooed singer, in which Winehouse's personal problems frequently overshadowed her career achievements. After becoming known for her beehive hairdo and Cleopatra eye makeup, she became a British tabloid fixture for being hospitalized for a drug-induced seizure and subsequently canceling her British and North American tour, being arrested for possession of marijuana in Norway and engaging in a number of spectacularly public arguments with her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, including one in which she was photographed spattered with blood. (He's been in prison since November awaiting trial in an alleged witness-tampering plot.)

When announcing the Grammy nominations Thursday morning, presenter George Lopez said of Winehouse: "Usually when I'm high and drunk, I'm not very good, but Amy has it down to where she can get a good buzz going and be very creative. That's quite enviable. And she weighs 40 pounds. I don't know how she can hold her liquor."

In September, Winehouse canceled an appearance at the MTV Music Awards in Las Vegas while she received treatment for substance abuse. And her father, Mitch Winehouse, a London cabdriver, has gone public about her battles with bulimia, alcoholism and drug addiction.

If the singer's most recent award show appearance demonstrated anything, however, it's that Winehouse keeps cool -- some might even say sedate -- in the face of victory. Last month, the singer seemed to be at a loss for words accepting the Artists' Choice Award at the MTV Europe Music Awards.

After being handed her statuette by R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, Winehouse mumbled a terse "um" and "thanks" before leaving the stage, prompting boos from the crowd.

chris.lee@latimes.com

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