Oh Duffy, what were you thinking? Where did it all go wrong? We remember first unwrapping Rockferry, and finding something this decade hadn’t seen yet: a 21st century twist on a mid-20th century style, and one with sincere originality. You were soulful, and crammed your music with genuinely dazzling vocals. You soared, explored and came out of the other side sounding like a new voice, one who wasn’t willing to compromise it all for stardom. And we believed you. You reminded us of Amy Whinge-house, except you had soul, and you sung about things that mattered. You even left out the drug-addled, tabloid back-story. It wasn’t our normal ‘thing’, but we’ll admit to being just a little wowed.
Did the record label get to you? Did they insist you become more ‘accessible’ (read ‘repetitive’)? Did they point to Britney, Christina and Kylie, and demand that you add a funky backbeat? Perhaps they told you that your vocals were just as suited to throwaway pop; that being genuinely affecting isn’t necessary providing you have a nice hook or two? No doubt they pointed to the radio shows, the three-minute songs and the modern generations ‘short attention span’? Or, heaven forbid, Duffy, was this all your own doing?
What were you thinking when they handed you ‘Well Well Well’? Did you hear that sound back, clocking in somewhere between a pitch-altered chipmunk and a glaringly obvious and diabolically karaoke-esque reference to Dawn Penn’s ‘No No No’? Did you really think bringing in a slight hip-hop edge to a track or two was what your sound needed? And that bleepy backdrop on ‘Lovestruck’… admit it, you were thinking of the top end of the charts at the time, weren’t you? Did the title track or ‘Oh Boy’ not remind you of what this should have been?
We’re suspicious, Duffy. We’re suspicious that you knew exactly what you were doing. That you knew that hiding the soulful numbers amongst the album tracks and going all ‘pop diva’ on us would make you a bundle of cash. That following the path you trod on ‘Rockferry’ – or doing your own thing – wouldn’t demand the same attention. That you felt, second time round, you could no longer rely on your voice. There’s one thing we’re sure of, Duffy. Your voice is your greatest asset, and ‘Endlessly’ hides it under layers of middle of the road inanities. We weren’t expecting you to change the world, Duffy. We’d just hoped you wouldn’t become another clone. Thanks, though. Thank you for the good times, and enjoy your heaps of cash. We’ll try and avoid that inevitable mental picture: just another throwaway, middle of the road, cardboard-cutout pop star. What a waste.