Amy Winehouse's final "performance" wasn't much of one. Two days before she was found dead, Winehouse walked out on stage at the iTunes Festival in London, danced around a little, resisted the microphone that was put in her face, and quickly left. It was, at the least, a better ending to her on-stage career than being booed off in Belgrade.
Winehouse's cameo was really intended to be a gesture and not a performance, though. She was there to draw attention to her so-called goddaughter, 15-year-old singer Dionne Bromfield. Little could she have foreseen just how much attention her appearance would draw. It ended up being a greater gift to Bromfield than Winehouse could have intended, with the world suddenly curious to see the doomed diva's last public moments.
If this was a torch-passing that was somewhat inadvertent in its finality, Bromfield was a far worthier recipient of Winehouse's largess than the term "15-year-old goddaughter" might unpromisingly suggest. Bromfield is an actual savant who's got the goods. She might just do something with that torch.
Don't judge Bromfield just by the video footage of her last hookup with Winehouse. She's fine there, performing the Shirelles' 1960 hit "Mama Said," which was her first single a couple of years ago (!), from her debut album of soul covers. It's a choice designed to show off the young teen singer's precocity.
But the focus of this footage is undeniably Winehouse. Why does she resist actually performing with Bromfield during what turned out to be her last minutes on-stage? Was it inability, or humility?
A combination of both, maybe; hard to know the answer to that for sure. But if you want confirmation that Winehouse's belief in Bromfield was well-placed, check out the recently released music video for "Yeah Right," the first single off the 15-year-old's second album, a collection o original material.
To be sure, the polished direction, choreography, and editing augment Bromfield's still-nascent performing skills. And it's hard to know whether the young singer would have arrived at that killer analog drum sound without the hovering influence of Auntie Amy. But she's got real presence, and damn if she doesn't sound like a pint-sized (or pint-ier sized) Winehouse, more by force of instinct than aping or affectation.
YouTube also has a six-minute sampler from Bromfield's album, which so far is available only as a British import (though the single is on American iTunes and Spotify). Regardless of how you feel about the adolescent pop stars clogging our shores, this is teen music you can get behind.
If you want to see footage of Winehouse backing Bromfield where she put a little more effort in, you can take a look at Bromfield's debut on a popular British dancing show, where Winehouse actually joined the backing chorus and did all the requisite soul-backing arm movements (even if it doesn't look or sound like she's making much attempt to be heard in the mix).
And for a more candid look at Winehouse's interaction with her protege—and a rare reminder that the late star could play the guitar—there's this interesting behind-the-scenes footage:
Bromfield came to Winehouse's attention because her mum was a friend of Amy's dad, Mitch. The "goddaughter" term being widely used is unofficial, as it turns out. But Winehouse certainly determined to become Bromfield's fairy godmother, as she signed the girl to the label she'd created, Lioness Records.
"Amy is really protective of me and that's a good thing because I am only 14," Bromfield said last year. "She is like a mother duck with me... We go shopping together and we love watching comedy programmes and she buys great presents. She has a heart of gold... Auntie Amy? She's Mother Teresa." Ah, if only.
Given a desire Winehouse had stated over the years to someday have children, it's somehow comforting to know that she did find an outlet for those maternal instincts. And we may be the indirect beneficiary, if Bromfield delivers on her promise. Even in death, we may owe Amy one.
To her credit, by the way, Bromfield doesn't try to come off as an old soul, even if the music she's appropriating is... old soul.
She has a crush on Justin Bieber, not Otis Redding. "I am totally in love with him," she said in a recent interview. "I used to like the Jonas Brothers, but only because I thought that they were good-looking, not because I actually liked their music. But I don't have a real boyfriend. Well, I suppose I will have to go out with someone sometime. How else am I going to have kids?"
- Amy Winehouse