By Kilian Back to Black

Back to Black is a dark, seductive brew of pipe tobacco drizzled with honey. Its luscious richness is almost tangible. Back to Black is deeper in feel than the also-popular Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille. Where TV merely smells great, Back to Black has a story that it might be willing to divulge. Back to Black is exactly the sort of delicious oriental fragrance that I generally love, and until recently I did love Back to Black.  I still consider it to be a gorgeous fragrance, but I am no longer comfortable wearing it. Back to Black was allegedly named for an Amy Winehouse song of the same name. I told you before that this perfume tells a story, but it is not an honest retelling. Like a sanitized Disney version of a dark children’s story, Back to Black slaps on a happy ending where there is none.

Amy Winehouse’s death this summer hit me hard. I know how foolish that sounds, to be so affected by a stranger’s death (and a fairly predictable death at that). But Amy Winehouse wasn’t a stranger at all. I have known dozens of Amy Winehouses. Achingly talented young women who lose themselves in drugs, drinking, eating disorders. Women with formidable minds, women with magnificent voices, women who could make words crackle like lightening. I have seen these women shake uncontrollably for three days straight from alcohol withdrawal. I have watched as their immeasurable gifts withered away along with their dwindling bodies.

But that’s not the story that Back to Black intends to tell. Back to Black represents the allure of darkness, its sick glamour, its temptations. Back to Black reminds me of an addiction on its good days. The days when your addiction is your best friend, when it makes you funny or pretty or talented. Back to Black is the first few drinks, the ones that put you on top of the world. But what happens when the highs give way to their inevitable lows? What happens when the party’s over? Back to Black never reaches that point. It is a perpetual wild night that never has to face the next morning’s consequences.

Am I overreacting to what is essentially a harmless perfume? Absolutely. I’m actually a little embarrassed by how much I’m overreacting. But there is nothing harmless about the way that Amy Winehouse was glorified as much for being troubled as she was for her talents. We applauded when she told us that she didn’t need rehab. There is nothing glamorous about the darkness that ruins the Amy Winehouses of the world. It is a hideous and pointless way to live. Back to Black has lost its appeal for me. I was lucky to get out the first time.

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13 thoughts on “By Kilian Back to Black

    1. Thank you very much, guys. The way we idolize our “tragic geniuses” (Kurt Cobain, James Dean, Fitzgerald etc) makes me very nervous. As if tragedy is somehow integral to the creative process!

  1. I think there is an element of collective cannibalism there: a talented person with a balanced personal life is somehow a lot less interesting for the masses. A tormented personality makes genius more tolerable and easy to sell. And the added perk of watching the mighty fall makes the situation more appealing. No genuine admiration there I think.

  2. Couldn’t agree more, thanks for a moving post! I just recently started following your blog, keep up the good work,
    Eva S (from northern Sweden)

  3. Thanks for the great post. Perfumes invoke powerful emotions, and powerful emotions do look like this sometimes. They are disturbing, painful, but they are livening and pulling us through to better times. At least, this is what I strongly believe in.

    1. Thank you, Warum! I couldn’t agree more about the emotional power of perfumes. My issue with Back to Black was that I felt that it was actually not emotional enough. It did not address the emotional wreckage that can result from succumbing to the dark side. (That sounded really Darth Vader-y.)

  4. Lovely review!! I know exactly what you mean- the whole romanticizing tragedy thing is sad.

    I only briefly smelled Black to Black and found it more immediately appealing than TV. But I need to get more acquainted with it to say anything about it.

    Just started reading your blog and look forward to dipping into archives!

  5. I loved Amy’s voice and music style from the very first time I heard… in asbolutely no ‘Thanatos’ sort of way, nor ‘tragic’ associations because I heard her on the radio, without any information except the song, that was ‘Me and Mr. Jones’, which I truly love.
    I lamented her misfortune some time later, when I saw her for the first time in a Live Concert on TV. It was terrible… she gave me an awful time, I was all the time afraid/scared that she would miss half the lyrics, that she wouldn’t finish a song or that she would fall down or that she would one day die while she was performing drunk or whatever… Awful time. I didn’t want to see her nevermore, but just to listen the Back to Black LP again and again, where you can enjoy every musical nuance of her amazing voice because in every single syllable is noticed…

    I’m never get tired of listening to it.
    … about Amy Winehouse’s personality troubles or about the media coverage of anything shocking and scandalous, I think the fact is a lot of people enjoy watching a car crash. They bought the magazines, bought the tabloids, paid the paparazzi’s wages, and then complained how the press hounded Amy to death… Nonsense.

    If she had conquered her demons, it’s not impossible that ironically the public might not have been that interested… Lots of great talented music gets made, and ignored, every year. So cruel.

    I’m not in… I’ve always have been in love with Back to Black, and that’s all.
    I’m so sorry about Amy past away. She was so talented, but I think it’s over.
    Not a celebrity for me, not an Idol.
    Maybe just an Icon, yes. I see her just like a little sad girl with the eyes of a very sensible person and a certain talent… but I think that does not belong to what makes the real artist.

    Janis Joplin was really such a legend!, but at least for me not because she pertain to those ‘Who Lived and Died FAST’… but because she brought people into Live Shows where they can really feel her talented bluesy vocals and powerful stage presence. And to me, that’s the reason why she TRASCENDED. It’s the same thing with Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. They were unique, powerful at Live.
    Sadly, I’m afraid it’s not exactly the same with Amy.

    Anyway, we’ll always have Back to Black. A real Gem. 🙂

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