Saturday, July 7, 2007

Amy Winehouse, "Rehab" (2006)

I don't know why we've got all these blue-eyed soul British women all of a sudden, but Winehouse is the latest. She comes off like Joss Stone's unwed mother, a drunken, tattoo-covered hard luck woman singing in an Etta James-influenced croak over pseudo-Motown loops, desperate to show us what a bad girl she really is. Her second album Back To Black became a major hit behind this single, supposedly prompted by a management company's suggestion that she get treatment for alcoholism. If you think her response ("I said no, no, no") is clever, you probably also have a closet full of "I don't have a drinking problem: I drink, I get drunk, I fall down, no problem" T-shirts.

What bugs me about the song, though, isn't the banality of the sentiment or the execution (do we need anyone reviving Soul II Soul's schtick?): it's the missed opportunity. The substance abuse rehabilitation industry has mushroomed in recent years, with remarkable media support, and no one's holding it accountable. Judges routinely sentence offenders to attend rehab or AA meetings (or attach it as a condition to parole, which amounts to the same thing), celebrities vanish into rehab after any embarrassing public episode, and who knows how many regular people are following their example. But does rehab actually work?

It's difficult to get decent statistics on the success of rehab programs, because the nature of success is difficult to define - what period of time do you cover? do you count people who dropped out of the program? - and because the for-profit rehab centers have little incentive to participate in controlled studies. Certainly the anecdotal evidence from reality TV shows (Intervention is addictsploitation at its most gripping) and the aforementioned troubled celebrities is not promising. I'm sure they work for some people, and I'm sure they work better for people who actually want to give up the addictive behavior, but I'm also sure that, like prisons, rehab facilities often just teach you more about how to enjoy your addiction than how to give it up. I would love to hear a follow-up from Winehouse along the lines of "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said 'Heck yeah! Those dudes know how to party!!'"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so when are you gonna review the album? lol, just kiddin. take your time man...