12:18 pm - 03/02/2012

Hilegendary Duff's Musical Return

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See, if you hadn't heard, Hilary Duff has been pregnant for the last ten years (approximately), but even while she's looking radiant as the most adorably enormous pregnant person ever, she's been back in the studio working with some major talents on an album that I'm expecting to blow my mind apart. This week, I'm taking a look back at Hilary Duff's criminally underrated career as the pop princess to beat -- and making some educated guesses about what we can expect on her next studio album. Buckle up, because the return of the Great Hilegend is quite literally what dreams are made of.

Before the era of Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato, there was Hilary Duff, the OG millennial Disney princess-turned-pop star. If her musical career feels like a distant memory, I can't hold it against you since Hilary has spent the last several years working on other projects, like guest starring on "Gossip Girl," shooting a handful of respected independent films, writing a pair of young adult fiction novels, launching a clothing line with DKNY, getting married to hunky hockey player Mike Comrie, and most recently, getting spectacularly and glamorously pregnant. Clearly, she's a Renaissance woman, but despite her acting roots -- Hilary first rose to prominence playing the title role in the wildly successful Disney Channel original series "Lizzie McGuire" -- for me, her primary strength has always been her work as a recording artist. Hilary might not be a Beyonce-level vocal talent, but that's never stopped her from making addictively listenable dance-pop music, which she was doing way before it was back in vogue. Actor-turned-singers are often unfairly attacked for being pedestrian or manufactured or talentless, but that doesn't change the fact that their musical instincts are sometimes right on the money, as, I think, Hilary's have been.

Hilary Duff's 2002 debut (not counting the holiday album released a year earlier), Metamorphosis, was bubblegum pop with a few surprising highlights, most notably the fuzzy The Matrix-produced pop-rock jam "So Yesterday," which fits nicely among the Avril and Ashlee singles of the day, and the swirly, downtempo techno of "Come Clean," which memorably served as the theme song for the MTV series "Laguna Beach"; listening today, it's unarguably one of the most interesting hits from that era of Top 40 pop music, which was dominated by anodyne guitar pop. Her self-titled follow-up in 2004 continued in the pop-rock vein, but failed to produce any major charting singles.

But it's with 2007's Dignity that things get interesting. Dignity is one of those albums that's revered by many pop music enthusiasts for its forward-thinking sound and sonic consistency; even now, at five years later, it sounds modern and lively. Slick and focused, fueled by vibrant electro beats and clever lyrics, the polished dance sound of Dignity is all the more striking given the musical climate from which it emerged. In many ways, 2007 was the final year that urban pop really dominated the mainstream charts -- for context, the No. 1 song on the Hot 100 the week of Dignity's release was Akon's "Don't Matter" -- and the glossy sheen of this self-assured pop record didn't fit with what was popular at that time. Hilary co-wrote every track on the album save one, mostly with the help of master popsmith Kara DioGuardi, with whom she'd collaborated on past songs (including "Come Clean"), and accordingly, the lyrics reflect the feelings of a young woman forging a path through the crass, shallow world of the entertainment industry. The crisp electropop of "With Love" became Hilary's highest-charting single to date, and tracks like "Stranger" and the title track became cult favorites among pop nerds, who compared Hilary to Kylie Minogue. (Her 2008 best-of collection featured two new songs -- "Reach Out" and "Holiday" -- both of which are equally prescient in their hypnotic dance vibe, especially the tropical synths of "Holiday.")

Lady Gaga is frequently credited with bringing dance-pop back to the United States after urban pop reigned supreme for much of the 2000s, and she did, ushering in a new wave of artists drawing inspiration from dance and house influences. But still, the sleek dance production of Dignity -- which wasn't really recognized in 2007 for its progressive sound -- prophesies the dance invasion that followed in the coming years. And now, five years later, with dubstep overtaking the four-on-the-floor beats that have become rote and sleepy in their predictability, Hilary's back in the studio -- and she's working with some interesting producers.

Because even in her very, very pregnant state, Hilary's been recording tracks for an upcoming album, due (hopefully!) later this year, and she's hooked up with some unexpected collaborators: Not the predictable Dr. Lukes and RedOnes who are making contemporary dance-pop hits, but instead, a handful of pop-rock experts like Matt Squire, who shaped the sound of Panic! At the Disco, Boys Like Girls, and 3OH!3, and Martin Johnson, himself the frontman of Boys Like Girls who has also penned tracks for The Cab and Hot Chelle Rae. (Intriguingly, Martin Johnson also co-wrote my girl Taylor Swift's stunningly gorgeous track "If This Was a Movie," which might just be my all-time favorite Taylor Swift song.) Hilary has also been writing with Ali Tamposi, who co-wrote Kelly Clarkson's recent disco-rock smash "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," and Damon Sharpe, who penned the glittering "Get Outta My Way" for Kylie Minogue's most recent album. These are diverse collaborators, and not the obvious ones, which suggest that Hilary's next album could go in a number of different directions.

Personally, I'm gunning for a rock-influenced dance sound, still beat-driven but with a little more crunch than the pristine Europop that's fallen into favor as of late -- and given the respective backgrounds of her various studio partners, this seems like a plausible bet. But regardless of the final product, I'm confident that Hilary will deliver, with the maturity imparted by a few years away from the game and a whole new generation of fans to court. And if motherhood takes precedence and we never get that next album, well, we'll always have our Dignity.


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trent 2nd-Mar-2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
So Yesterday brings back so many memories from middle/high school. Well, any of her music does! <3

So ready for The Queen's return!
fiddlemearound 2nd-Mar-2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
Stop trying to make her happen OP.
seanb814 2nd-Mar-2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
oop at you, she happened and is happening again

i.e. the second coming of christ
fiddlemearound 2nd-Mar-2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
i don't think you're informed about her not happening enough tbh.
ballsmazig 3rd-Mar-2012 08:46 am (UTC)
lol please you're embarrassing yourself
higherplace 2nd-Mar-2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
I miss your posts tbh!
seanb814 2nd-Mar-2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
thanks! It seems the only time I ever find to make them is laying in my bed hungover haha
markovnikov 2nd-Mar-2012 05:26 pm (UTC)
i am said she's going to make a pop rock album dignity was so good
markovnikov 2nd-Mar-2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
seanb814 2nd-Mar-2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
yeah, I'm hoping that it's not that and that these producers are branching out of their usual shit. the one tweeted hilary once about dubstep though!
sorryeden 2nd-Mar-2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
i wore that album out so much
ballsmazig 3rd-Mar-2012 08:48 am (UTC)
that just the authors speculation.
mikochin 2nd-Mar-2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
tl;dr. Does it say anything about when her new album or single will be out?
seanb814 2nd-Mar-2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
nope, just talks about her being underrated and the fact that she brought dance music back to america. but looking at ppl she is working with on the album on twitter, they have finished a lot of songs, like recorded, edited, mixed, the whole deal!
mikochin 2nd-Mar-2012 07:26 pm (UTC)
I hope she loses the fat after her baby asap and start focusing on her music! Her hubby can take care of the kid since he's basically unemployed now tbh. That way, I get my way and can have more Hilary music!
_underwhelmed 2nd-Mar-2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
i watched the interview w leah miller the other day, hilary looked so cute and she seems so nice. it flashed back to an old clip of her and she said she wanted respect, that even if people didn't like her music or movies they would still respect her as a person and i def think she has gotten that, that is how i feel about her anyways.
leah miller nearly ruined the interview tho...
jonasxforever 2nd-Mar-2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
our lips are sealed was my jam 'back in the day'... haha don't know why im admitting to this..
yourmoodswings 2nd-Mar-2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
I've been listening to stranger & gypsy woman on repeat for like 2 days now.
ballsmazig Re: 3rd-Mar-2012 08:49 am (UTC)
10 points for gryffindor!
vanishingbee 2nd-Mar-2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
Could someone remind me of what songs she's done?

Seriously all I can think of are movies.
seanb814 2nd-Mar-2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
lol look at the picture in this post
vanishingbee 2nd-Mar-2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
/squints at them

it's possible I have never heard a song by her.
anagram42 2nd-Mar-2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
hrdtxpln 2nd-Mar-2012 05:35 pm (UTC)


Edited at 2012-03-02 05:36 pm (UTC)
yourmoodswings 2nd-Mar-2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
well I mean at least lilo gives you something to talk about, I like both of them but hilary is boring. her performance in this post was like watching paint dry.
tlcspice 2nd-Mar-2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
lbr Lindsay is more talented and interesting. Lindsay managed to break away from Disney and Hilary didn't really.
naebynaeby 2nd-Mar-2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
She is adorable, but she can't sing. ~~I'M CUMMIIIIN CLAAAAAAAAANE~~
hrdtxpln 2nd-Mar-2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
troy_macclure 2nd-Mar-2012 05:40 pm (UTC)

yourmoodswings 2nd-Mar-2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
gosh why do I love that song
therealcharlie 3rd-Mar-2012 02:16 am (UTC)
That was the ONE song I had always wanted her to perform live, but I don't think she would've been able to hit the notes near the end.

ballsmazig 3rd-Mar-2012 08:51 am (UTC)
I KNOW OMG. Been to 7 queen duff concerts and always secretly hoped she'd whip it out but she never did ;_;

notes don't matter, she lip synchs most of the time anyways lol.
sn0bby 2nd-Mar-2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
download link for the dignity album please?! :)
stfuabel 2nd-Mar-2012 05:42 pm (UTC)

so wise.
ace_kay 2nd-Mar-2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
Oh man I used to stan so hard for Hilary when I was 12. I even made a fansite on geocities.
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