Should Amy Winehouse's unfinished album be released?

Record industry insiders are buzzing about the possiblity of posthumously unveiling some of the troubled artist's last tracks

Amy Winehouse during a January 2011 concert in Brazil: The singer had been working on a third album before she died, and now critics debate whether it should be released.
(Image credit: AE Alexandre Severo/dpa/Corbis)

Before her tragic death Saturday, Amy Winehouse had been working on a third album — a follow-up to her Grammy-winning hit Back to Black — that she was planning to release next year. Record industry insiders are now floating the idea of posthumously releasing the work she's done so far, which was quite successful following the deaths of John Lennon and Otis Redding, among others. But given the troubled, unhealthy state the singer was in when she recorded these songs, would it be disrespectful to publish the unfinished tracks?

It's a delicate situation: A posthumous release of new music "can be both a boon for the artist's legacy and a gift to the fan," says Billboard's Keith Caulfield, as quoted by The Christian Science Monitor. But only "if handled correctly." It's key to have someone who knew the artist well dictate what songs get put out, to avoid "the whiff of exploitation" that tainted the posthumous release of Michael Jackson's music. If chosen well, a fresh batch of tracks could "extend" Winehouse's career, as it did for Buddy Holly, Tupac Shakur, and Elvis.

"Amy Winehouse album: The pluses ad pitfalls of a posthumous release"

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And may ruin her legacy: Winehouse's new music would be "huge," says her biographer Chas Newkey-Burden, as quoted by The Nation. But its release might well "muddle her legacy." Her third album's numerous delays indicate that there were issues with the quality of the music, and Winehouse "obviously had doubts about it." A posthumous release of tracks that she might not have believed were up to par would tarnish the strong body of work Winehouse left behind.

"Third album would muddle Amy's legacy"

But the release is inevitable: Given how long fans had been waiting for new music from Winehouse, a posthumous release in some form "seems like a foregone conclusion," says Amos Barshad at New York. But no one knows what kind of state the material from her third album is in. So the question now is whether the release will be "cobbled together from scraps" of unfinished songs, or "built upon a solid backlog of material" that was recorded before her death.

"What's the status of Amy Winehouse's third album?"

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