Following on from the last significant songs post about Sam Brown, this looks at another British songstress, who started with a massive success, then just faded away. Amie Duffy, who records under the single name Duffy, is now thirty years old. She comes from Wales, where female pop singers have been few and far between. After her debut release went almost unnoticed by the public in 2004, she was eventually picked up by A&M records, and released her first album in 2008. It was called ‘Rockferry’, and contained a mixture of soulful sounds and up-tempo dance tracks, along with some standout ballads. Duffy co-wrote all the tracks, many with Bernard Butler, guitarist with the well-known Britpop band, Suede.
This was an immediate success, going on to become the biggest selling record in the UK in 2008, and unusually also reaching the top ten in the US Billboard Chart. More interest followed, when it reached the charts in ten more countries, eventually selling almost seven million copies worldwide. The small blonde from Wales, with the sixties retro looks, had proved that she could not only write good songs, she could sing them well too, and give good performances in the promotional videos into the bargain.
I thought that she was great, and loved the album immediately, with its unusual mix of sounds, from torch songs, to Northern Soul. I got my copy, and played it constantly, finally deciding that this tear-jerking love song was my favourite. Despite its old-fashioned feel, it also seemed remarkably fresh, almost a musical contradiction, but a good one all the same. I really love this simple song, as you can tell. I waited excitedly for her next release, meanwhile enjoying her numerous TV appearances, and watching her videos played on music TV stations.
In 2010, I saw that her new record, ‘Endlessly’ was to be released, and pre-ordered it, for delivery on the date it came out. As soon as I started to play it, I sensed something was wrong. Despite a few reasonably good ballads, this album had taken a very different direction. There seemed to be an overriding pop influence in play, and it was more reminiscent of a below-par Kylie Minogue record, than the Duffy I had anticipated for two years. I read in interviews that her change of direction was deliberate, and self-driven. She had parted from her previous management, and her association with Bernard Butler; and it showed. She had nobody to blame but herself. Her voice, so powerful on ‘Rockferry’, had become squeaky and irritating, and at times it felt like listening to something from the 1950s, and not a good something from the 1950s. I played it twice, just to be sure, and I have never played it again since.
By 2011, Duffy was dabbling in film and TV acting, and announced that she would be having a long break from music. Despite a smattering of live performances since, she has not released any more records.
Here is the official video, play it loud! (Warwick Avenue is a station on the London Underground)