When talking about Amy Winehouse, it’s easy to sideline her music or write it off as just more samey retro, the sort that all her successors make. Those successors took many of their cues from Winehouse, of course, but their sheer numbers can clog the market. The thing is, Winehouse’s music was anchored by her voice and her songwriting, not by its backing–Mark Ronson’s a strong producer, but he can’t save everything. Part of the tragedy of Winehouse’s death was how much of a musical force was lost with it.
Big Boi’s previously unreleased remix of “Tears Dry On Their Own” gives us a glimpse of what could have been, stripping the “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” instrumental from the original and replacing it with a less triumphant, more turn-of-the-century R&B backing. That Big Boi was a Winehouse fan or friend isn’t at all surprising–singer-songwriter-legend Kate Bush is among his musical idols. What makes this remix good is how understanding it is, how the tension of the track undoes Winehouse’s self-sufficient declarations in a way that you suspect Winehouse would have, if not necessarily connected with, approved of.