Review Summary: It was not this time Duffy took Amy's post, but be sure she takes the downs in Endlessly as lessons
When Duffy came up to the world with Rockferry, the dominant reference in her style and timbre was Amy Winehouse. Praised for the elegance of her tracks, the constancy of her debut and the “old-style sexy” figure she built for herself, Duffy passed the last few years enjoying her success in the attractive discretion that is particular to her persona. Amy, on the other hand… She showed up drunk and drugged, checked in and out of a handful of rehab clinics, and even spent some time in Brazil, topless and capoeira games aside. Such a star she became, in the worst sense of the word, that Amy risked losing her critic preference for the Welsh contestant. Endlessly, her sophomore album, was made to secure her as a strong artist, commercially and critically speaking. Things didn’t exactly work out, as Endlessly was received with indifference by specialists and complete disregard by the public. Why" Well, God only knows. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to guess.
Endlessly opens up with good expectations. “My Boy” is a serious candidate to the post of new fan favorite, with its infectious chorus and equilibrated production that hangs between the antiquated sound Duffy trademarked in her debut and a more contemporary context, brought by slight touches of synths and a funky bass. Still, there’s also first-single “Well Well Well”, disappointingly failing on delivering exactly what a single need most: a truly outstanding chorus to make the melodic and instrumental good ideas of the song. Anyway, the track has Duffy on the edge of her vocal game.
When it comes to ballads, Duffy’s second album is also a double-edged sword: opens up with exaggerated and darned “Too Hurt To Dance” and, a few tracks later, comes up with memorable “Don’t Forsake Me”. The latter is all that the other wished to be and couldn’t: a discrete and moving ballad, which reminds the listener that Duffy’s vibrato is still seductive, and joins the list of truly competent tracks on Endlessly. Maybe it’s really a case in which a bunch of cookers stirring the same pot is better than just one imposing his style. Clarifying: “Don’t Forsake Me” in among the tracks in which in which Albert Hammond, songwriting partner to Duffy in this new album, gets help from Stuart Price (Kylie’s Aphrodite and Killer’s Day & Age) on equating the Welsh singer’s music.
Speaking of Price, he’s is clearly responsible for Duffy becoming more poppy-like than she used to be. “Lovestruck” is the perfect example: its smart keyboards aim right for the top of the charts, and its chorus is probably the most vibrant on the singer’s career to date. Ultimately, it shows that Duffy actually can explore new horizons while maintaining the poise and personality. “Girl” goes in the same direction, with more discretion, keeping Duffy on her vocal yard, comfortably playing with the melody and the lyrics, but showing off on the production that contemporary pop can have a bunch of different faces.
Maybe the only times Hammond really gets right on the production by his own happen in title-track “Endlessly” and closure “Hard For The Heart”. The first one is one of that songs with keep-it-simple lyrics and execution that somehow get to become part of the listener’s affective memory. It’s a unapologetically romantic song, and one that works very well on Duffy’s voice. “Hard For The Heart” is a completely different story. It has the singer in an intensely emotional and surprisingly restrained moment. Her beautiful timbre finally gets to shine without choking out the sophisticated and apotheotic production, giving pulse and strength to a strikingly poetic composition.
It shows, as Endlessly contradicts his own title by leaving the room silent after its quick 33 minutes of execution, that Duffy still have her moments as a brilliant singer and songwriter. And the album, well, it stands out as a work of risks, that obviously couldn’t escape from wrong turns on the way, but serves the Welsh winger well on expanding her musical horizons. Next time, if she surrounds herself with the right people, Amy will be in real trouble to get her post back.