The last decade has seen a revolutionary change in the music industry – streaming services became the dominant force, transforming how artists and fans engage with music; social media created platforms for a new generation of independent artists, enabling marginalised musicians better opportunities to connect with listeners; finally, thanks to #MeToo, widespread allegations of abuse by powerful industry players have been exposed and conversations about sexism, harassment and the overall objectification of women in music have made their way into the cultural lexicon.
And yet, with Amy Winehouse’s seminal album Back to Black blasting from the speakers as I type, it’s as if no time has passed at all. It only takes a few bars, and suddenly I’m transported away from my desk and into the local pub that housed many of my adolescent Friday nights. It’s the 2000s, I’m huddled around a dilapidated wooden table with old friends, crushed into our regular booth and nursing a pint I was probably too young to buy for myself, singing word-perfect to ‘You Know I’m No Good’ or ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’, asking a bemused barman if he’d let the whole album run.
The timeless power of Amy’s music is everlasting. Following the success of her first album, 2003’s jazz and hip-hop-inflected Frank, Back to Black’s rebellious rock & roll spirit redefined popular music for future generations. There was an undeniable power in her voice, with a husky tone echoing the greats of a time gone by and tinged the regret regularly saved for has-beens sipping whiskey at a downtown bar. Her rockstar bravado and bellowing vocals aside, it was Amy’s vulnerability and storytelling songwriting that allows her music to transcend time – her stories of hope, despair, love, anguish and sorrow are personal, yet universal.
It was Amy’s vulnerability and storytelling songwriting that allows her music to transcend time – her stories of hope, despair, love, anguish and sorrow are personal, yet universal.
She has undoubtedly laid the foundation for the last decade of women in music, and her influence ellipses genre – in the unflinching authenticity of Lana Del Rey’s hit single ‘Video Games’, the raw vulnerability of Adele’s gut-wrenching album 21 and even inspiring the rise of a new genre, ‘dark pop’, encompassing the likes of chart-topping artists Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Rina Sawayama.
Her impact on British culture extends beyond that of only music as Amy’s signature look was quickly propelled to icon status and can still be seen inspiring the styles of Camden’s locals today. Her look – the stacked beehive hairdo, dramatic eyeliner and old-school tattoos – matched that only of her badass attitude.
Her striking sense of style quickly caught the attention of Fred Perry, and in 2010 Amy designed her first collection for the British heritage brand. She was only able to produce one collection before her tragic passing in 2011, but it did not stop the brand from championing her legacy. Over the last decade, Fred Perry has continued to release Amy Winehouse collections in collaboration with the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which supports vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
Today, Fred Perry celebrates 10 years since the first collaborative collection with the legendary songstress by reissuing those first pieces in metallic gold, each piece signed off with two carefully placed love hearts – a reference to Amy’s distinctive tattoo. To mark the occasion, the hearts are gold.
In partnership with the Fred Perry x Amy Winehouse collection, we meet four emerging female talents still inspired by Amy’s music and trailblazing forward in a musical landscape that Amy undeniably paved the way for.
24-year-old North London native Delilah Holliday shares more than a postcode in common with the Queen of Camden – her sultry tone, R&B-tinged backings and fondness of a red lip all bring Amy to mind while listening to standout tracks ‘Babylon’ and ‘Snake Eyes’. Having similarly started her career in her early teens, Holiday also performs as one third of garage punk trio, Skinny Girl Diet, with her sister and cousin. She’s taken inspiration from many women in her life, saying, “My mother and my sister inspire me because they are so authentic and unique in everything they do. They always encourage and uplift me to live my truth.”
In her latest video release, ‘If You Care’, Delilah sports many looks inspired by her icons, from Betty Boop to Cleopatra, and Amy of course. But behind the kitsch, her lyrics are fervently personal. “For me, [songwriting] is an expression of my life and my lived experiences,” she explains. “Honesty is what makes the best lyrics for me. I try to preserve my memories and emotions in my songs.”
I think a big challenge that women still face in music and the arts is being often asked about their work in relation to their gender or race. We’ve got to fight until we’re also able to one day talk about our work apart from these things, like cis white men do.
Nuha Ruby Ra
NUHA RUBY RA
East London’s avant-punk queen, Nuha Ruby Ra, is a performance powerhouse sharply focused on her own artistic vision. Having emerged as part of the Vicuous Collective – a collection of ziners, satirists and fashion designers based in Hackney – it’s perhaps no surprise that Ra’s diverse influences vary from German experimental group Einsturzende Neubauten to American composer Wendy Carlos, best known for her music in Stanley Kubrik’s horrors The Shining and A Clockwork Orange.
Always thinking to the future, Ra says she’s inspired by Amy’s pioneering achievements for women in music, but there’s still a way to go. “I think a big challenge that women still face in music and the arts is being often asked about their work in relation to their gender or race. We’ve got to fight until we’re also able to one day talk about our work apart from these things, like cis white men do.”
“I’ve always been very open and direct in my songwriting, I feel like it’s the only way to make something that’s in any way relatable,” says Lucia Fairfull, one quarter of Lucia & The Best Boys. The Courtney Love and Gwen Stefani-inspired Glasgweign musician is a seasoned lyricist, writing her first tracks in her teens. “As I have gone through more challenging stages in my own life, I’ve really used songwriting as a tool to overcome more personal emotions, which I think has really helped to broaden what I write about and realise that there is not a limit to how much you are allowed to express your vulnerability within your songwriting.”
The group have earned their reputation as one of Scotland’s best home-grown talents, with Lucia’s versatile vocals lending themselves equally to bombastic alternative rock and sweeping emotional tracks. She says, “Being bold on stage came quickly to me when I started to perform. Our songs aren’t super aggressive but I really want to convey the meaning of the lyrics when I’m on stage. I love the performance element of being a musician so much, it makes me feel extra powerful and confident.”
Womxn are often denied their right to be tastemakers in creative spaces because of gendered perceptions of what makes a good artist. We have to challenge this, and we have to challenge ourselves.
Bleached eyebrows, elvin features, and a white-blonde mullet tumbling down off her shoulders – Anna Acquroff understands the importance of a signature look. When she’s not performing as lead singer and guitarist in Scottish riot-girl band Medicine Cabinet, she’s fronting campaigns and modelling for Hedi Slimane. “I use my style to mimic whatever inspires me at the time,” she says. “Like Amy, I like to appropriate things that are perceived as frivolous because of their femininity, like bikinis and miniskirts and big eyeshadow and wedding dresses, and assert them as symbols of personal feminine power.”
This boldness is clearly reflected in her music, and at only 19 she is a show-stopping live performer and innovator. “People need to challenge their constructs of what a good artist looks, sounds, acts, or even dresses like, and how their perceptions of gender, race, and class factor into that,” she asserts. “Womxn are often denied their right to be tastemakers in creative spaces because of gendered perceptions of what makes a good artist. We have to challenge this, and we have to challenge ourselves.” We’re sure Amy would approve.
Enjoyed this article? Help keep independent queer-led publishing alive by becoming a BRICKS community member for early bird access to our cover stories and exclusive content for as little as £2.50 per month.