This year was hailed as Amy Winehouse’s “comeback year”. This year, her team was sure, she would finally overcome her personal demons and get back to the height of her success.
But as 2011 starts slipping away at an alarming pace, that all looks impossible.
An album was promised for Christmas 2010, which failed to materialise. Then it was set for a January release. It’s now June. She’s attempted various live performances, with varying results. She played her five shows in Brazil in January this year and seemed back on top, despite having to interrupt songs to take sips of water and falling off the stage during one gig. But then she was booed off stage in Dubai in February after appearing tired and distracted. After checking into rehab for a week at the end of May and being told by doctors “Stop drinking or die”, Amy performed a polished set at an intimate venue in London on 12 June, which an audience member described as being “like one of her old performances”.
Somehow, though, in the space of a week – the wheels fell off.
Amy performed a disastrous set in Serbia on 18 June in which she seemed trashed out of her mind. She stumbled onto the Belgrade stage over an hour late, paused to take off her shoes, introduced her band members incorrectly and mumbled her way through her song Just Friends. And that was just the opening number. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can watch it here. It’s really not a pretty sight.
More after the jump…
The 20,000-strong Serbian audience was furious. Understandably, seeing as much has been made of the fact that the tickets for the show cost the equivalent of around R380 in a country where the average salary is only around R3000 a month.
Even the government was unhappy. Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac (who I’d imagine is somebody you don’t really want to piss off) posted on his Facebook account, “Amy’s concert was a shame and a huge disappointment. She is far from being a queen. She’s more like a patient of a rehabilitation clinic for drugs and an alcohol addict. She needs serious medical assistance.”
And therein is the greatest concern with the Amy Winehouse debacle. Who on earth is managing this woman? Who decided that it’s a great idea that she’s up to a 12-date tour of Europe? In May she was spotted swigging vodka straight out the bottle at 11am. She checked out of rehab after just a week to fulfil her tour commitments – and anybody can tell you that one week of rehab is nowhere near enough to make a difference. And, even more worryingly, how did they decide it was a great idea to send her on stage when she clearly couldn’t even stand upright, and couldn’t even remember which city she was playing in?
Sure, there are contractual agreements that need to be adhered to. Local tour promoters put in their work, the artist is expected to make an effort too – and that probably means pitching up to shows sober. But why schedule the shows in the first place?
Amy appeared on the 2011 Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of around £6-million (almost R66-million) – so surely money isn’t the issue here. She also owns four other companies which reportedly boast net assets of almost R25-million. In addition, she has reportedly turned down payment for the disastrous Belgrade show, despite technically fulfilling the contract (hey, she was on stage for 70 minutes).
One of my colleagues suggested that the whole thing is a carefully orchestrated plot to scare Amy into realising that she’s a disaster waiting to happen. Now, I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next girl, but that seems a little far-fetched. Putting on a show for 20,000 people isn’t quite as easy as popping down to your local and flipping on the karaoke machine.
More likely is her team’s realisation that her image is totally and completely shot – and that it’s now or never for Ms Winehouse. Amy’s rarely in the news anymore unless it’s related to her poor lifestyle choices, horrible relationships or drug and drink binges. She’s no longer a respected artist, she’s a trainwreck. There’s been a careful move toward positive PR over the past few months – sources claiming Amy’s doing x, y and z to “get her life back on track”, with articles also slipping in mention of her comeback tour of Europe.
But in 70 minutes on stage in Belgrade, she managed to undo all that hardwork. And now it’s panic stations for her publicists and managers – who, to be honest, probably deserve to find themselves swiftly unemployed after this one.
Unsurprisingly, she has scrapped her next two shows planned for Istanbul and Athens. Her publicist told EW, “Despite feeling sure that she wanted to fulfill these commitments, she has agreed with management that she cannot perform to the best of her ability and will return home. She would like to apologise to fans expecting to see her at the shows but feels that this is the right thing to do.”
I’ll add to that. The “right thing to do” here is get her into a proper in-patient programme at a decent clinic. Get her help for her addictions first, before eyeing that comeback album or world tour. Get her healthy, get her focused and get her clean, and all the rest will follow.