Congratulations, you’ve joined the ranks of all the rest.
Hilary Duff has created more glimmering pop gems throughout her near 20-year career than the GP cares to admit. Whether she likes it or not there’s a demand for more new tunes. The problem is… she doesn’t really want to create more of these precious bops. Why, Hilary? WHY?
According to the Grammy nominated (hopefully one day) singer, her filming schedule is just too hectic. “[Younger] keeps me so busy. When am I going to tour? How am I going to make a record?,” she said in 2018. Even worse… in the beginning of 2016, Duff said she is “not going to be on a world tour and be the top of the charts because I don’t have the time to put in and that’s not what’s important to me.” Here we are three years later and still no closer to new music minus a couple of one-offs (“Little Lies” is that bop though).
It appears Hilary wants nothing to do with the music biz, so we’ve decided to write a piece explaining just how great her music actually is and *hopefully* inspire Miss Hilary to reconsider.
For someone who doesn’t seem to have a huge passion for making pop music, Hilary has a long menu of incredibly delicious pop entrees that gays and gals have gobbled up since the Lizzie McGuire era. If you didn’t memorize Lizzie’s choreographed dance routine to “What Dreams Are Made Of” did you even have a childhood? The film was the catalyst for Disney execs to reframe Hilary from tween queen to bonafide pop star, and they did it in a way where she didn’t lose her **** (or her clothes). Just a few weeks after Lizzie’s trip to Rome, Hilary dropped her debut album, Metamorphosis (I’m not counting 2002’s Santa Claus Lane and you will deal). It was bubble gum pop rock that was edgy enough for youngsters to feel like they could comfortably move on from Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century’s “Supernova Girl” (also still that bop) and into something more age-appropriate for a freshman in high school. That album put Hilary onto the map in a way we hadn’t see before – she wasn’t being recognized for her after school shenanigans with Miranda and Gordo – people who weren’t already following along started to take notice. “So Yesterday” was a self-assured song that oozed budding independence. It still reminds me to this day to let go of petty dramas constantly ignited by Internet comments or when I’m grilled in the besties group text. The record also birthed literally iconic theme songs for MTV’s The Hills (“Come Clean”) and Sweet Sixteen. Five bucks says you just pictured a mascara tear rolling down LC’s face and some little brat screaming about getting a Mercedes instead of a Bentley.
Yea, Metamorphosis was cheesy, guilty pleasure pop music for tweens, and I still jam to it on occasion, but more importantly it grabbed our attention and paved the way for more flawless music to come. Hilary’s 2004 self-titled is arguably the strangest body of work she’s ever put forth (in music and film). She perfectly captured the rebellious angsts of adolescence in a bottle with songs like “Mr. James Dean,” “Dangerous To Know” and “Weird.” Normally, Disney starlets startle parents by stripping off their wardrobe, but Hilary decided to scream on a bunch of songs and get the kids fired up to throw down. Though Hilary Duff was defiantly bizarre, it contained a back-to-back 1-2 punch with “Shine” and “I Am.” The songwriting on this couplet was explorative – she discovers puppy love on the former and self-love on the latter. It was the stepping stone she needed to create her masterpiece…
The leap from soda pop rock of the self titled to dark pop with Dignity is under appreciated. Hilary was finally channeling real-life situations into her music, disguising that manicured smile behind electro-tinged beats and icy synths. It’s one of the first instances in Hilary’s music where she flexed her vocal guns, pointed and shot mercilessly. She had a few unsuspecting victims in her crosshairs, and when the time was right… rained fire. It marked a pivot from shallow teeny bops to dance music with substance. Gone were the bratty guitar riffs and sugary sweet choruses – Hilary had an obsession with dazzling electric bangers a la “Play With Fire” and “With Love,” but she sinks her teeth into players on a few other standout tracks.
“Stranger” and “Gypsy Woman” take shots at the woman who her father had an affair with. On the former, swirling horns call attention to the urgency in Hilary’s icy stabs. “‘Stranger’ is a song I wrote about how my mom must feel around my dad,” she said at the time. “I made it seem like it was about a relationship I was in, because I didn’t want people to know about my parents, but I’ve realized that so many people can relate to what I’ve gone through.” “Gypsy Woman” is considerably harsher towards the unnamed woman, describing her as a home wrecking ***** that lacks empathy, but hey there’s some pretty infectious middle eastern-style production to distract us from the fact that Hilary is seething with resentment. The album title track may or may not be about Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. “Dignity is a song that is definitely about people in Hollywood”, she said. “I wouldn’t say that it is about [Richie] specifically but it is about people that kind of do what she does and act the way she acts.” You may recall the iconic line, “you’d show up to the opening of an envelope.” It’s Hilary’s angsty rage captured in rare form. Hilary said “Danger” was about one of her friend’s relationships with a guy considerably older in age. A friend wink wink.
But Dignity isn’t all pop doom and gloom – it’s got a couple of outstanding rays of sunshine that still light up my workout playlists, like “Outside Of You” and “I Wish” (seems like every album has two phenomenal back-to-back tracks am I right?). All these years later, the album sounds fresh and original to anything currently curating Spotify’s Top Songs playlist.
Hilary tried escaping the gravitational pull of electro anthems when she began recording the followup, breathe in. breathe out. Though she ultimately ended up with a collection of warm, pulsating dance tracks, she began with different intentions. Fans wouldn’t get a new album from Hilary for another eight years, and during that time she explored her roots with country-folk pop tracks. Hilary tried captivating audiences with songs like “Chasing The Sun” and “All About You,” both genuinely vibrant feel-good tunes, but she shifted back to a sound that might strike a chord on the Hot 100 and ended up releasing “Sparks” (which it did).
Dignity, though on the surface appeared to be YAAAS KWEEN-style bops, was pretty “super heavy” for Hil, so when it came time to record Breathe, Duff set her sights on something warm and cuddly. “The album is a range of stuff,” Duff said in 2015 of BIBO. “I would say definitely in the beginning when I started writing, it was pretty heavy, coming out of my past year of life. It’s changed since then, which is good because I think that the overall theme too – me, personally, I’m not this super heavy girl. You know? I’m one for the sunshine, so it’s shifted a lot and it feels a lot better to me.”
The Ed Sheeran-penned “Tattoo,” “Confetti” (co-produced and written by her now fiancé, Matthew Koma. Side note: it samples Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” and that’s pretty special), “My Kind” and “One In A Million” are innocent knee-slappers that steer clear from the chilling introspective topics that take center stage on Dignity. After tapping out from pop rock again, Hilary dyed her hair blue, threw on a leotard, learned some choreography and dove back into pure pop with “Sparks.”
“Sparks” had some serious talent behind it – Bloodshy co-produced it (Britney Spears’ “Toxic”) with songwriting provided by Tove Lo (Sweden’s impact). It’s probably the closest we’ve come to Hilary Duff The Pop Star™ in-part thanks to the stylized video. You may recall she initially released a clip for it that came off more like a really, really long Tinder advertisement than an actual music video, so begrudgingly her team released a “Fan-Demanded” version (sans Tinder and lots of dancing) because there was that much outrage. But what it proved is that Hilary isn’t just a one-trick pony, she’s versatile and wide-ranged – maybe not vocally, but great pop music doesn’t require that. If the tables were turned… could Adele pull off “Sparks?”
We’ve grown up with Hilary Duff. She personified a young rebellious spirit figuring life out on her earlier works, sharpened her nails with Dignity then went back to singing about sunshine and confetti on breathe in. breathe out. She’s in an interesting position right now in regards to how or when she should release new music. In the time since her last record, Hilary has fallen in love, had another baby, starred in a hit TV show and you know… lived. She has stories to share, and we’re all ears. That is, if she’s willing to tell.