Welsh singer Duffy enchanted pop fans with her exquisite blend of 60-inspired soul, pop and soft rock on 2008’s best-seller Rockferry, scoring the massive chart topper “Mercy,” nabbing a Grammy win, producing sales of nearly 10 million worldwide, raving reviews in which drew comparisons to soul legends Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield, fast forward only 2 years later and the Welsh songstress isn’t shining as bright.
So where did things go wrong? Brassy lead single “Well, Well, Well” suffered an unenthusiastic reception (peaking at #41, her lowest charting since debut single “Rockferry”) and early reviews for the much-awaited follow-up Endlessly aren’t looking so great; Slant Magazine gave this a 1.5 out of 5 calling it “faux-town soul and preening lounge-act pop.”
Whilst Endlessly is notably not as enjoyable or as appealing as its predecessor, it’s not exactly a terrible album. It capitalizes on the same ‘60’s pop/soul throwback, showcasing good craftsmanship particularly on its ballads, exuding a sense of vintage soul in the same vein as Rockferry. “Too Hurt to Dance,” really turns the clock back; gentle orchestration over swooning drums patterns and condoling lyrics: “If they call it heartache, why is the rest of my body aching.” Similar is “Don’t Forsake Me” which goes for that same vintage essence, drums and an orchetratic backdrop with a hint of vulnerability—which sees Duffy practising the falsetto register of her vocal.
My favourite ballad on here though, is the title track “Endlessly,” which beautifully clocks in the melody and genuine sincerity backed with a nice tuneful acoustic guitar and trembling percussion. It’s fantastic. There’s a couple more ballads on here which aren’t as good like the airy wallowing of “Hard of the Heart,” and the plodding drum-fronted mid-tempo “Breath Away.” The uptempos serve up a sturdy balance, not all of them hit the right notes—but they’re good. “My Boy” lays down some racketing drum beats and warbling synth coated undertones. “Keeping My Baby” exudes a funkier outlook; faster paced drums, keyboards and subtle soundscapes, similar is “Lovestruck,” which isn’t as good and I’m not too fond of “Girl” either. I’m not too sure what she’s trying to do on that one.
Like I mentioned before, Endlessly isn’t a terrible album, in fact there are few good moments on here, however coming off the back of Rockferry, there should be a bigger sense of solidarity as ultimately it does feel a bit flimsy and to a greater extent uninspired—despite it still capitalizing on that golden ‘60s inspired pop—but that shouldn’t be surprise, apparently Duffy said she recorded this album in three weeks.
Best: Endlessly, Well Well Well, Don’t Forsake Me, Too Hurt to Dance, My Boy