Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Album Review: Duffy - Endlessly (4/5)
Something is amiss on Duffy's sophomore album, Endlessly. It's not the songs, as they are quite solid. Better than I expected actually, as the album has gotten surprisingly mixed reviews. I think the problem lies with the singer herself, or rather just her voice. Duffy, or Aimée Ann Duffy as her parents know her, has a rather set of pipes. She used it to great effect on Rockferry, her 2008 debut that was my favorite album of the year. But whatever magic producer Bernard Butler was able to work on that album has apparently eluded this album's producer, Albert Hammond.
Whether its his doing or her choice to play up her vocal weaknesses rather than her strengths is hard to tell, but I completely agree with the Slant review that says at times she sounds 7 and at other times 70. She overdoes the nasal and the vibratto, which is probably the reason a lot of people were turned off by the album's first single, "Well, Well, Well," which if, like me, you can get past that, is a smoking hot tune. Hip-hop group The Roots, who had a rather good year this year, create a bracing start-stop melody that always makes me want to stand up and dance.
It's one of several standout tracks. The album opens well with "My Boy," but gets better by the third track, "Keeping My Baby," a delicious disco re-read of Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach." We'll leave it to the lawyers to determine whether its an homage or an opportunity for copyright litigation. Also drawing inspiration from an obvious classic hit is "Don't Forsake Me," which embodies the same kind of '60s summer romanticism of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." I guess I shouldn't be surprised that these great songs, along with the upbeat pop track "Lovestruck," are co-produced by my favorite producer of the year, the amazing Stuart Price.
There are other highlights too. The title track is soulful, simple and sweet. Sugary "Girl" riffs on "The Beat Goes On" via Kylie's 2000 interpretation, "Koocachoo," complete with some "koos" thrown in. "Too Hurt to Dance" is a lovely doo-wop throwback, perfect for a high school slow dance. Listening to the album reminds me a lot of the movie Dirty Dancing, which Duffy's music evokes so much better than the Black Eyed Peas' tepid remake of the movie's hit song.
I guess Duffy doesn't really sound that bad, and the great songs make up for it, but she really needs to rein herself in a bit. Otherwise, this is a solid follow-up album. I hope that "Well, Well, Well's" lack of chart success doesn't mean some of these other great songs don't get a chance at being played on the radio.
Best: Keeping My Baby, Well Well Well, Don't Forsake Me, Lovestruck, Endlessly