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Back To Black: Paying Homage Or Another Cash Grab?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at West Chester chapter.

In July 2011, the world took a storm when the beloved singer Amy Winehouse was announced dead at 27. To many (including myself) she was looked to as an idol, with her killer vocals, metaphoric lyrics, and a prominent aesthetic. Despite it being 23 years after her passing, Winehouse’s legacy continues at a standstill, as most of her songs remain well-known and loved worldwide. Her most notable songs include “Valerie”, and“Back to Black”.

Now when reaching a certain level of fame and popularity, people inevitably become intrigued with your life, wanting to know the ins and outs. Whether this be personal issues, relationships, etc, Amy Winehouse is no exception. On May 17th, 2024, the Amy Winehouse biopic titled Back to Black will be released to theaters worldwide, to feed that curiosity, but the feedback has been fairly controversial.

So what’s the concern? Is the biopic eloquently showcasing the late singer’s life, or is the film more of a cash grab?

Family Permission?

Probably the most controversial thing about the creation of this biopic was the lack of family involvement. It is often seen that directors will reach out to family members of their late relatives when creating a biopic. In this case, the director of Back to Black, Sam-Taylor Johnson did meet with certain family members, yet refused to let the family have any input on what would be included in the biopic. This means no changes if they were uncomfortable with a scene and no correcting what was inaccurate. As Johnson stated “They have no involvement in terms of… like, they couldn’t change things. They couldn’t dictate how I was to shoot. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it.” 

Who’s singing, Because It’s Not Amy…

“Okay, let’s make a biopic about a Grammy-winning singer, which focuses on her singing but let’s have the actress playing her (with little experience singing), sing as her in the film.” 

Makes sense right? Yeah no. Many were quick to call out the director for not using Winehouse’s original vocals in the biopic. A clip of actress, Marisa Abele, who will be portraying Winehouse in the film was released back in March. In it she is seen recording the singer’s song “Stronger Than Me”, and let’s just say you can tell the vocals aren’t Winehouse’s.

Exposure for the newer generations

Although the majority of feedback towards Back to Black has been negative, I do think there is a positive attribute of the film, and that is to educate the new generation. Although this movie has the possibility of being portrayed poorly, there is no denying that the film will bring recognition to Winehouse’s story and her music. Almost most like the quote “Any press is good press.” In this case, generations that didn’t grow up with Winehouse’s music can now listen to and enjoy it, as well as see her story play out. And I think there is genuine value in that.

Making a 100% accurate, to-the-T representation of someone’s life is no easy task. Regardless it is something that needs to be constructed and well thought out. Amy Winehouse is not just a name, but a human being who made a large impact on the way music is viewed today. Personally, I feel as though a majority of the criticism towards Back to Black can be justified, as many know that before Amy Winehouse died she was exploited for her talent despite clearly struggling.

Although she may not be here today, expressing her opinion on the biopic, the respect needs to be prevalent, in the film. Now all fans can do now is hope the Back to Black gives Amy Winehouse the commemoration she deserves, and if it doesn’t, I’m sure the media will hear the outrage.

Lena Zadroga

West Chester '26

Hey, my name is Lena Zadroga. I'm a sophomore at West Chester, and currently studying English, with a minor with professional and technical writing. I've always had a love for reading and writing, which is why I wanted to join the incredible HER campus writing team. Little fun fact about me is that I have an complete obsession with sharks!