As 2008 came to an end, one person who may have been trying to catch up with what a whirlwind it had been was Welsh born singer Duffy. In twelve months she had a #1 hit, sold over four million records, had her song included on the soundtrack to the smash film Sex And The City, performed around the world and at Lollapalooza, and been nominated for three Grammys.
AimÃ©e Ann Duffy was born in North Wales in the UK, and by the age of six had caught the singing bug. According to recent interviews she claims that she was asked to leave the school choir because her voice was too big; bet that choir teacher is kicking themself now. Ironically it was Whoopi Goldberg's performance in Sister Act that really struck a chord with her and made her pay some more attention to soul music and want to become a professional singer. At the age of nineteen AimÃ©e dropped her first name and became known as Duffy, the same year that she came second in a Wawffactor, a Welsh version of Pop Idol, which showcases local talent and allows contestants to sing in Welsh. Slightly disillusioned from this, Duffy went to college, and whilst singing in local clubs built up a following. Duffy eventually dropped out of college, recorded an EP in 2004, and through contacts -- including one of the judges from Waffactor -- moved to London. However the real events that were to propel Duffy to stardom were still three years away.
Having signed to A&M Records in November 07, Duffy was invited onto Jools Holland's Hootenanny, a live musical show broadcast on New Year's Eve, an equivalent of the Dick Clark Show. Everybody was wondering who was this young blonde chick with the big voice who was holding her own against a big band and soul stars like Eddie Floyd? Well it wasn't long before everyone in the UK knew that it was Duffy. With their love affair with Joss Stone fading fast, Amy Winehouse's life looking like a train wreck waiting to happen, was Duffy the new sound of White Soul? Her debut single Mercy rocketed straight in at #1 in February 08 in the UK charts and stayed there for five weeks. Take a look at the UK version of the video, and you'll see Duffy cooly swinging on a platform stage reminiscent of the tv shows in the 60s. With a slightly raspy yet big soulful voice, blonde hair and blue eyes, you'd be forgiven for thinking she was a reincarnation of Dusty Springfield. There were even rumours that she may be the daughter of Welsh legend Tom Jones, which Duffy quickly dismissed in fits of giggles during interviews.
A month later her debut album Rockferry was released and followed suit to the top of the UK album charts, also showing that 60s soul was not the route Duffy was taking; she was making her own path. This was a not a soul album, but there was a lot of emotion in Duffy's voice, meaningful lyrics and enticing melodies which for some could be argued to hearken back to the sounds of yesteryear. The disc included songs of lovers reuniting (Warwick Avenue), the desire for simple things in a relationship (Syrup and Honey), wanting to a serious relationship (Serious), men not knowing what they have till its too late (Delayed Devotion), and the fear about trying again after a failed relationship (I'm Scared).
Since the album release in March '08, Duffy has gone on from success to success with sell-out tours, critical, financial and professional success and, unfortunately some controversy as well. After knocking Duffy from the #1 spot UK artist Estelle criticised Duffy and Adele, another emerging white female artist, saying they were not proper soul singers yet the industry was marketing them in this way rather than black female artists. Then there was an incident at an awards ceremony where Duffy was allegedly heckled and then pinned against the wall by 70s punk star Sid Vicious, and called her the c word. More recently, constant work and personal appearances were said to have nearly pushed Duffy to a nervous breakdown. However, despite those lows there have been numerous successes. In May, Rockferry was released in America to glowing reviews, and the tv appearances on shows like Ellen, Letterman, Regis & Kelly, SNL and The View helped get the album into the top 5 of the Billboard albums chart.
What lies ahead for Duffy? Well the future looks bright for the little girl with the big voice from Bangor, Wales. Duffy's recent Grammy nominations brought to a close a truly amazing 2008. Already writing for her second album, Duffy has recently released a deluxe version of her Rockferry album which includes 7 new tracks. She is expected to be a strong contender at musical award shows during the award season, plus she has recently signed a six figure deal with diet Coke. What more could a girl ask for?