When news broke this week about former Disney star Hilary Duff signing with RCA Records and releasing a new single, I found myself a HELLUVA lot more excited than I thought I’d be. Well that’s a lie. I freaked the F**K out over a picture on Instagram. In preparation for the onslaught of new tunes we’re about to be hit with, I thought it wise that I go back (back to the beginning…) and listen to some of Hilary Duff‘s earlier work. After taking the time to listen back through the Duffster’s complete discography (at least from her Hollywood Records days: 2003 – 2007)…I’ve got to say…there’s A LOT of mediocrity there. A LOT! We’re talking lyrics…vocals…everything! Of course, that’s not to say that there weren’t a few gems (erm…HELLO! “Come Clean“!) So why am I so excited about NEW Hilary Duff music if I feel this away about her old stuff? Well, I think it’s safe to say that when a popular artist re-emerges after a 7 year hiatus, he or she is bound to generate a little bit of buzz and excitement, right? Also, I think we all owe Hilary Duff the benefit of the doubt here. We need to keep in mind that her first album came out 11 years ago, when she was only 15 or 16. That’s a long time ago people! Hilary Duff has grown up, and likely so has her taste in music.
First single, “Chasing The Sun,” was premiered last night at a special event in Manhattan, hosted by Perez Hilton. The single, Duff’s first release since 2009 (and first with RCA) was written by Colbie Caillat, Jason Reeves and Toby Gad, and produced by Gad. The single, available for pre-order now (iTunes), will be released on Tuesday July 29th with the music video set to premiere the same day on VEVO. While singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran had previously spoken about working with Duff on, what he said was a single, evidently “Chasing The Sun” is not the product of their “earthy, indie-pop” collaboration. Hmmmm…so what does this new music sound like? Well, lucky for us we can check out a little TEASER Duff posted of the song on her Instagram yesterday.
Hmmmm. Even more intrigued…optimistic even! There’s not really enough to judge what kind of song “Chasing The Sun” is but I am feeling the vibe of it. What makes me even more optimistic about the, as of yet untitled album, is other rumored collaborators such as Benny Blanco, Dr. Luke & Savan Kotecha. Those are some of pop music’s heaviest hitters people! I think we might be on to something here! Plus, Duff has the full support of a major label, RCA Records. That’s huge! On signing with her new label, Duff had this to say:
“I couldn’t be more excited to join the RCA family! I love my team there and feel so lucky to be in the company of their talented artists. I came to them with my vision for the album and it has been a real labor of love, but something I am so proud of. ‘Chasing The Sun’ is just a peek into my new album. I’ve worked very hard and the album is a great representation of the experiences I’ve had in my life and where I want to go from here!”
Currently living in Los Angeles and finishing up her album, her fifth album I might add, Hilary Duff, now 27, seems ready for her comeback, yet understandably she’s bit nervous about how people are going to receive her foray back into the music world. Thankfully, the fans have been responding very positively on social media, as evidenced by this recent Tweet.
All the support shown today has really calmed my nerves..It was u from the beginning and it’s u now.Thank your for loving me unconditionally
— Hilary Duff (@HilaryDuff) July 24, 2014
Duff acknowledged her hiatus from music but explained how, if anything, this break actually helped her creative process with this album.
“I took a break from music for quite awhile, but it gave me the power to choose my next steps carefully and I’m really proud of the album I’ve made. ‘Chasing The Sun’ is a light and fun summer song that I hope helps people to feel a little more carefree.”
Hilary Duff initially gained fame back in 2001, starring as the titular character in the Disney Channel’s popular ‘Lizzie McGuire‘ series. Tween-targeted movies, like The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Agent Cody Banks and A Cinderella Story followed, as well as more serious fare such as 2008’s War, Inc. with John Cusack. Musically speaking, when Duff released her debut album Metamorphosis, the girl was 15-16 years old AND a Disney star. Her target demographic was younger and, let’s be honest…not very discriminating when it comes to lyrics, production, vocals, etc. Kind of equivalent to Miley Cyrus circa the Hannah Montana years, sort of. ANYWAY, when you listen to Metamorphosis today, I repeat, 11 years later, you’d kind of expect it to sound a little dated, right? Even the singles; “Why Not” (actually from The Lizzie McGuire Movie soundtrack), “So Yesterday” and “Come Clean,” while definitely highlights, probably wouldn’t be compatible with pop radio today. Pop music in 2014 is just different than it was in 2003, and THANK GOD for that!
It really wasn’t until I got to listening to Duff’s 2005 ‘greatest hits’ collection, Most Wanted that the music started getting more palatable, thanks in large part to remixes which injected NEW LIFE into songs like “Come Clean,” “Why Not” and “Rock This World.” Even QUALITY mid-tempo Top 40 friendly pop songs like “Wake Up,” and “Beat Of My Heart” and a little ballad called “Fly” (of which I own the CD Single) were listenable…even catchy. That all being said, it was her 2007 album Dignity that REALLY connected with me, thanks to radio-friendly, modern dance pop production from Richard Vission, Ryan Tedder, Greg Wells and others. From “Play With Fire,” the club-friendly buzz single co-written by Will.I.Am and remixed by Richard Vission to album stand outs and official singles “With Love,” and “Stranger” (both produced by Vada Nobles and Logic and co-written by former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi) delivered serious dance floor appeal, something, at the time, that I didn’t expect from Hilary Duff. I even liked the Depeche Mode-sampling, Ryan Tedder-produced “Reach Out,” taken from her ‘Best of Hilary Duff‘ greatest hits album. Now, was this music groundbreaking? Was it like nothing anyone had ever heard before? Absolutely not, but it was Hilary Duff, evolving her sound and changing with the time and I say kudos to her for trying!
Unfortunately for her, despite the album landing in the Top 5 on the Billboard 200 chart, none of the Dignity singles connected with a mainstream pop-loving audience. While both “With Love” and “Stranger” topped the Hot Dance Club Play chart, neither single made much of an impression on the Hot 100 chart. “With Love,” the highest charting single from the album, peaked at #24, while follow-up single “Stranger” peaked at #97. Now, is chart performance and end-all/be-all? Not necessarily. Hollywood Records stuck by this former Disney star for a good long while without a single REAL chart hit to her name, as a matter of fact, “With Love” in 2007 became her highest peaking song on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 radio chart since “Come Clean” in 2004! While her albums performed significantly better, with her debut, Metamorphosis landing at #1, her self titled 2004 set hitting the #2 spot and Dignity debuting a #3, it wasn’t enough to keep Duff from putting her music career on h0ld for a few years. I’m interested (and I don’t think I’m alone) to see how much Hilary Duff has grown as an artist and as a singer since the last record. Really my only requirement is that the music be good. Something with a beat. Something with some heart and soul. Is that too much to ask?
In addition to her forthcoming album, Duff is also making her return to television, starring in Younger, a new TV Land original series starring Sutton Foster, Debi Mazar and Miriam Shor. The series is written, produced and directed by Darren Star (Sex & The City) and based on the novel by Pamela Redmond Satran. As if her career as an entertainer wasn’t keeping her busy enough, Duff is also a mother to a precious little boy and a philanthropist, working with charities that help children and animals. Duff founded an organization called Blessings in a Back Pack which helps inner city school children get the nutrition they need. Lots of stuff going on for Hilary Duff, but it’s good to see her pushing herself creatively. I for one, am rooting for this girl and I think you should do the same, regardless of how you feel about her past work. Let’s not judge her new material until we’ve heard it. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?
“Chasing The Sun” is out July 29th, while Younger premieres this Fall on TV Land. Check out videos for “So Yesterday,” “Fly,” “Beat Of My Heart,” “Play With Fire,” and “Stranger.”