HITS Daily Double
“Mercy” may not be quite as emotionally deep as "Rehab," but it's a better single and will be even bigger.


Veteran Massey's Move to Mercury About to Reap Dividends for L.A. Reid
Sometimes I wonder if I have the right words to express the power and majesty that is sometimes deserved from great music. So, I have asked our esteemed editor and legit music critic, Mr. Bud Scoppa, to add to, clarify and enhance what I am writing this week.

But let's get one thing straight—the simple point is that Duffy's debut album, Rockferry, has the power, the depth, the songs, the vocals and the music to anoint it instantly as GREAT. And since everyone enjoys comparisons, to me it is in the vein of the classic Dusty Springfield opus, Dusty in Memphis, with its soulful vocals and throwback Stax-inspired production. (And while, comparing a new album to one that stood the test of time is always an iffy proposition, I am willing to go there and I'm thinking that you will as well.)

The baby-doll vocals do remind one of Amy Winehouse, yet this album seems even bigger, broader and actually better. The Welsh artist’s first single, 'Mercy," which is riding high on the U.K. charts, is instantly infectious, with a pumping, organ-accented groove that recalls the Spencer Davis Group’s "Gimme Some Lovin" (showcasing the soulful vocals of teenager Stevie Winwood). “Mercy” is a one-listen comfort song, immediately familiar and more irresistible with each successive listening. It's Hot AC, it's Top 40, it's R&B, it's Triple A, it should be Alternative—heck, it should be everywhere. This is the best single since Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and it has an infinitely better body of work to go with it.

Duffy’s U.K. breakthrough track should soon find its way to the top of the U.S. charts. It's not quite as emotionally deep as "Rehab," but it's a better single and will be even bigger. The rest of the album is more torch-like, with my early favorites being "Warwick Avenue" (skedded to be the next U.K. single), "Rockferry" and the closer, "Distant Dreamer."

And believe me, I am not alone in my adoration. VH1's Rick Krim was the first gatekeeper to get in my ear about it, and he and MTV's Amy Doyle have decided to break format and "team up" to support and help break Duffy. And radio programmers are starting to line up behind it in the early stages.

These things don’t just happen, of course. There’s a capable team of specialists behind Duffy, and each member deserves to be acknowledged. The youngster was patiently developed by Jeannette Lee at Rough Trade Management for two years before entering the studio. Once there, her primary collaborator was ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, who co-wrote the song “Rockferry” with the artist and produced the album, exhibiting as much old-school skill as Mark Ronson applied to his six cuts on Winehouse’s Back to Black.

Guy Moot at EMI Publishing U.K. played the demo for David Massey, head of the resurrected Mercury label, who promptly fell in love with the artist. He wasn’t the only one—by early 2007, A&R reps from a bunch of U.K. labels were swarming around Duffy. But in the end, Simon Gavin at A&M U.K., Lucian Grainge and Massey emerged victorious, signing Duffy last spring.

“Rockferry” was released in the U.K. as a limited-edition CD single in late November, coordinated with Duffy's first U.K. appearance on the TV show Later. “Mercy” was serviced to U.K. radio in January, entering the chart at #1 based on downloads only. The single hasn’t budged from the top spot in four weeks. That’s a helluva setup for the album, which on Monday will make its debut in the U.K. at #1, with 183k sold.

In the U.S., Mercury started the record at Hot AC and select Alternative and Triple A stations, and continues picking up key adds. A video will be serviced at the end of March, with the album streeting May 13; it’ll be Mercury’s first new-artist release.

Duffy’s making her stateside debut tonight at Mercury’s SXSW showcase. Her St. Paddy’s Day show in N.Y. is sold out.

The stars are aligned behind Duffy, the music is deserving and powerful and this newcomer is destined to go straight to the top. Bet on it. (Aside to Mr. Ken Ehrlich—save a slot for the next Grammy show right now, because Duffy is gonna be the chosen one!!)

So what do you think of Duffy and “Mercy”? There’s no excuse not to have heard the track, considering it’s the iTunes Free Single of the Week. So download it and give it a listen. Or maybe you have a discovery of your own; if so, tell us about it. Chime in at [email protected].

It’s amazing you or anyone else could make such a big deal out of such an old sound. It’s great when an artist “flips” a sound and makes it their own. Duffy productions are retreads of the past, not fresh. Yes, it’s Dusty and we’ve heard it all before. Even her voice, while great, isn’t really a signature sound.

You could argue that today’s teens haven’t heard it before, but that’s not an argument. It’s not fresh and neither is Amythis is just a symptom of how desperate the music business is and how far standards have fallen.

Whenever the next big thing comes along, it will surely be more interesting, newer, and fresher than the above.

A. Archer

Enough! Why must we praise these so-called "unique" girl singers as if they're the second coming? Corrine Bailey Rae, Feist, Winehouse, Lily Allen, Colbie... just a few from the last two years. This goes back to Macy Gray! Remember how unique and cool Macy was from her first album according to the hype? It's too much too soon. And too much to live up to. Look at Alanis. Was she ever better than Jagged Little Pill? Nope.

So, over-hyping Duffy 11 months before Grammy time will likely get her nothing but a hit single as big as "Put Your Records On." And that's it. Feist was supposed the best thing to happen to this industry, then she performed in an oh-so-lackluster way on the Grammys, then POOF, gone with her and gone with her support. (She was clearly missing an IT factor and was devoid of personality anyway.) So, I say, slow down. Don't jump on the Duffy wagon so soon.

Jerry J. Sharell

I heard "Mercy" often on my recent trip to London. I was drawn in each and every time. Love the soulful, bouncy beat. Duffy's voice is more supple and syrupy than Amy Winehouse's. The album came out the week that I was in London, so I picked it up. I'm really liking the album as a whole. "Syrup and Honey" may be my favorite song. I'm hoping it will be the second single.



I caught Duffy’s set at SXSW, after getting the album from Amazon UK (I wasn’t gonna wait until the U.S. release), and really, it was a kick from start to finish. People are throwing the Dusty comparison around, but as a couple of my friends have pointed out (and I concur), her throaty brand of UK soul is more like a modern-day Lulu. That’s a good thing. My favorite album released thus far in ’08 by any artist, old or new.

Mitchell Cohen
Verve Records Group

Love, love, love "Mercy" by Duffy. Can't wait for the album! I hope they give her a shot in the current hip-hop-driven radio of today, she's awesome.

Lenny and Bud:

(For full disclosure, I get laid off by Island Def Jam in July of 2006.)

I've been listening to the Duffy album for about a month and have enjoyed it to a degree; "Rockferry" and "Warwick Avenue" are lovely songs, and "Mercy" certainly is jaunty and fun. But in listening over and over, I'm missing the emotional resonance that I want to hear and feel in an album that is described as "soul." This is a very "nice" album; an album that is enjoyable to listen to, but missing the ecstatic rush that one gets when they hear something truly soulful.

Where Amy Winehouse was post-modern soul that went pop, Duffy is pop with soul flourishes, and for me, therein lies the difference. Perhaps it will be bigger than Amy; certainly, it's a lot safer. But I'd be willing to bet that five years from now, Back to Black will be looked upon as a great album and Rockferry will be looked upon as a pretty nice debut.

Ben Lazar
Tenth Avenue Music

...and definitely a little rougher around the edges, but there's this kid named Eli "The Paperboy" Reed and his band is The True Loves, and they have an album coming out on a local Boston label called Q Division, and while it might evoke G Love comparisons, I think this kid has the goods to be around for a LONG time, and artists like Duffy will perhaps pave the way for an entry point into the marketplace for Mr. Reed. WFUV, I believe, is the first to acknowledge his talents. I second that emotion!
Marc Nathan
Senior Director, A&R Research
Capitol Music Group
Hollywood, CA

There's a bit more Toyah (Ed. note: Do you mean Robert Fripp's wife Willcox?) in there than you might imagine....

Jimi La Lumia

Hey Lenny,

Although Duffy and Adele are very different, they are in fact book-ends to a renaissance of great blue-eyed soul that is a kind of left handed tribute to the old Northern Soul days in the UK. Trust the Brits to spearhead this refreshing move. Love the Duffy LP (and the Adele as well—great string arrangements!) Your review and Bud’s insights are on the $$$... always great to read your columns…

Jovan V. Mrvos
Barst & Mukamal LLP
New York, NY