Thankfully since writing this I can confirm that Duffy has been successfully traded up for Adele; not too dissimilar to going from Lidl to Waitrose (in my opinion.) Ok that’s harsh….Morrison’s to Waitrose then.
It would be safe to say that those behind the UK’s very own Duffy are pretty pleased with themselves; and why shouldn’t they be? Brit awards, huge record sales, and a lucrative advertising contract with a certain cold beverage company have all proved to be accurate barometers of the singer’s recent success. However the Duf one has started to annoy me. Not because of her proliferation of our media, although I fear this may soon produce mass Duffy fatigue. Not more specifically because of that irritating Diet Coke ad, where the concept essential comprises of Duffy, a bicycle and random women all showing their allegiance to Duffy’s neo ‘more sophisticated than the Spice Girls’ girl power movement through the zombie-like singing of the words ‘I’ve got to be me.’ It’s not even that over riffy voice of hers, which actually sounds quite nice on some tracks; No, It’s the context.
If we ignore her press machine’s fairy dust for a moment, it’s evident that Duffy can and has produced hit recordings, and live performances for that matter. The girl can sing but, (and here is where I sound like a sad purist) if we are to believe the hype, imagery juxtaposition and styling we are supposed to link her to singers of yesteryear; Soul singers of yesteryear. She has said that her influences include Bettye Swann among other great soul females. Then there’s the throw-back styling and that over emphasised riff again. It all seems a bit Saccharin to me. Sings like a soul singer, looks like a soul singer, sings about subject matters that soul singers should sing about, but for me, still isn’t a soul singer. Amy has taken the Soul Motown look and immersed her herself so deeply in it, she’s emerged on the other side looking like a pub tribute act. However Ms Winehouse’s vocals and lyricism is mingled with an angst that reaches out cerebrally slaps you. As much as you hate her ways, you can’t deny the emotion.
What a good soul singer needs more than anything isn’t accuracy of tone or pitch, or magnitude of range; No, simply the ability to connect and communicate vivid feeling. To draw pictures in the mind. Yes, all successful singers from all genres need this same ability but soul I believe requires an added ingredient, vulnerability. Looking at Duffy’s life story it’s clear she’s had pain of her own. May be the soul singer was mislaid in some record executive’s office. I hope her success will provide the freedom needed to reconnect.