Duffy's style isn't just old-school, it's old-fashioned. But in a good way, mostly. Her debut single, "Mercy," is a tale of lust, but is still fairly tame, lyrically. On the song, Duffy deals with her intense longing for an attractive guy, but finds enough inner strength to resist offering up her body:
"I love you, but I gotta stay true, my morals got me on my knees, I'm begging please stop playing games," she sings.
The song sets the stage for who Duffy is as an artist as well as a person. She's not a prototypical troubled bad girl like Amy Winehouse, nor a nice girl gone wild like Joss Stone. She's an old-fashioned good girl, and her music's a reflection of that. Even when sad and hurt, she keeps her composure, both lyrically and vocally, during her songs, as evidenced by the break-up song "Warwick Avenue," when she coldly sings "When I get to Warwick Avenue, we'll spend an hour but no more than two, our only chance to speak once more, I showed you the answers, now here's the door."
Authentic Retro Vibe
But as far as the vocals here go, Duffy displays seemingly genuine emotion on her tracks, something that one of her contemporaries, Joss Stone, had problems with on her first two albums. Joss was seen at the time to be just going through the motions and mimicking what she'd heard classic singers do on their records, but although Duffy doesn't have the strongest, most fluid voice, she definitely has mastered the art of emoting. What probably helps is that she wrote or co-wrote all the album's songs and therefore has more of an emotional investment in the material, as opposed to Joss Stone's early work, which was all cover songs and material written for her and not by her.
So the final verdict is this: Duffy's a genuine talent with a good young voice. Her old-school vibe seems to be genuine and borne out of love for classic Soul, and not just a gimmick. With a little more vocal seasoning, Duffy could be a major force in music for many years to come.