Hilary Duff

Studio Album by released in 2004

Hilary Duff review

It's no surprise that teen pop gets such a bum rap from people with adult ears attached to their brains. So at the outset, it's a mild shock that acting/singing sensation Hilary Duff self-titled album is as listenable as it is. Her second album exchanged the neutral fluffiness of Metamorphosis for an anthemic rock-pop style consistent with efforts from Ashlee Simpson and Avril Lavigne. The record continued to shape Duff's public persona, which was a continually-evolving dynamo of branding, image, and teenage ambition. Even when Hilary Duff is at her most un-Lizzie McGuire-like, it's impossible not to like her, as she proves on this reinvention-themed, girl-grows-up album. Songwriters Diane Warren and Charlie Midnight pitch in, as does Hilary's star-in-her-own-right sister Haylie (the boyfriend-blasting Mr. James Dean). If there's evidence of the mixed-up lovable kook millions of teens once modeled themselves after here, it is only in the title: Hilary Duff may be the follow-up to the 5 million-selling Metamorphosis, but the real metamorphosis for Miss Duff takes place here.

Fly is an appropriate mid-tempo neo ballad to kick things off and usher in the new era of Duff. Sadly, this more mature vibe falters a tad on Do You Want Me? where she quasi-raps and slips into a false new wave-crossed-with Partridge Family harmony-careen toward the end of the track. Things twist back to the more mellow and introspective on Weird until the "ooh-ooh" Weezer-styled chorus. Hide Away returns to the mid-tempo ballad terrain that seems to be Duff's strong suit. Underneath This Smile is guitar driven pop. Dangerous To Know is an impassioned effort that displays Duff's command of her vocals and is a bit scary in terms of the lyrical seriousness/sensuality of the song, to boot. The rest of the album more or less follows suit with songs that flutter between the "serious" pop sound (Who's That Girl?, Shine, and I Am) and almost downright hilarious exercises in cheesy fluff (Haters is hard to take seriously as well as faux hard rock glitz of Rock This World).

For the most part Hilary Duff succeeds when Duff is staying staid and melding her decent vocal talents to more streamlined, tried and true pop thematics. The album might be a little too long and a little uneven, but it feels like the soundtrack to the life of a smart, ambitious, popular teenager trying to sort things out. Duff may not have a special voice, but at least she sounds human. While her image on the previous album was all spunky 16-year old, this time around she's been spiced up a bit looking more tartish and sensual than her age would suggest. The sound on the album is slightly more mature, as well. Musical director Ty Stevens' guitar casts enough arena-sized hooks to land a marlin. The result is an overall more grown-up stab at Top 40/Contemporary music.