Sunday, September 16, 2012

Songs for Rainy Days and Sundays

As constant companions in stormy times go, one could do so much worse than Duffy. Ever since my iPod shuffle landed on her 2008 debut album Rockferry on Friday night while I was walking home in the rain from Babylon, she's been on a continuous loop on my mp3 player and in my mind. I just spent 45 minutes running around Lumpini Park in the drizzle, with only Rockferry as my soundtrack.

Though Rockferry went platinum in the U.S. and won Duffy a Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy, the Welsh singer has been overshadowed by Adele and Amy Winehouse among British pop divas of this millennium. A flop second album -- 2010's Endlessly, dismissed by critics and Rockferry fans but nearly as beloved by me as its predecessor -- put her even further behind those frontrunners. If Winehouse was Britney Spears (at the dawn of the '00s) to Adele's Christina Aguilera, Duffy was Jessica Simpson, which means she could still come back strong enough to be Ann Curry's first guest should Katie Couric's former colleague ever get her own talk show.

As much as I love Winehouse's Back to Black (which was released a year and a half before Rockferry and thus led to Duffy being dubbed by many as the new Amy Winehouse) and 19, Adele's 2008 debut, for me, Rockferry actually holds up slightly better today. Even if my iPod shuffle weren't so partial to it, Rockferry might still be the one in heaviest rotation.

Retro without being stuck in the past, vintage yet thoroughly modern, it's one of the best albums of the century so far. If I had to pick one to listen to all day -- Back to Black or 19 or Rockferry? -- especially a rainy day like today, it would be Duffy. No, she's not quite as dynamic a stage presence or singer as Adele and Winehouse, but she's an equally gifted songwriter and a more accessible one, unfettered by Adele's propensity for overstatement and Winehouse's archness.

"And the less you give the more I want so foolishly," she sings on "Stepping Stone," Rockferry's best single, even better than "Mercy," her biggest hit. That's unbelievably sad, yes, but it's the kind of straightforward hard-earned truth we cling to in times of crisis and despair because it says that someone else knows exactly how we feel. And that's Rockferry's greatest strength. When it's dark and stormy, outside and/or in, Duffy's songs about love among the romantic ruins still manage to let the sunshine in.

My Top 3 Rockferry Songs

"Stepping Stone'

"Hanging On Too Long"

"Delayed Devotion"

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