The Amazing Evolution of Pop Icon Hilary Duff

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When Hilary Duff announced she was releasing new music, my inner teeny-bopper was ecstatic. It has been 7 years since the child actress turned pop megastar and released her greatest hits album. Not a bad effort for the then twenty-one year-old. With six albums, countless hit singles and a movie CV that would put Jennifer Lawrence to shame (well, maybe), Hilary Duff had conquered the world. Then she turned down the volume on her music career, and Duff fever began to decrease. Things seemed to slow down, at least in the public eye. She appeared sporadically in a few lesser known films, became an author, and most notably gave birth to her son, Luca. Hilary Duff grew up.  Now at age 27, the enigma of Hilary Duff is back. And she’s taking over the radio with her single, “All About You.”

It’s hard to argue with the fact that Duff paved the way for many Disney alumni. She was the first Disney brand actress to cross successfully into the music industry, and in essence showed Miley, Selena and Demi it was possible to lose the family-friendly label and become a bona fide pop star. One of the first teens in the classic Disney generation (or what 90’s kids would argue as classic anyway), her peers included Shia LeBeouf, Raven Simone and Christy Carlson Romano. Many of us still know Hilary as Lizzie McGuire; the awkward yet likeable 13 year-old who seemed to characterize so much of our own teen years. Three seasons and a movie later, and it was clear the direction she was going to take. You need only watch the epic music sequence that is “What Dreams are Made Of” at the end of the hit film to realize it is not so much about Lizzie McGuire becoming a world class singer, but Hilary Duff cementing her place as the face of naughties teen pop music. And, to her credit, she did it in style.

Her first single “Why Not?” was aptly released as part of the soundtrack for The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and this meant she hit the ground running. Her first album Metamorphosis came out in 2003, spawning another three singles. Irrevocably catchy, radio friendly and just edgy enough to lose the Disney tag, songs like “So Yesterday” became anthems of a generation. Debuting at #2 on the Billboard charts, you would think Hil had done her fair share of work. Yet, the singer continued and with each new movie release came a new hit single, worldwide stadium tours and numerous albums. Hilary Duff was Hollywood’s ‘it’ girl and everyone knew it.  

She added a new dimension to her career with the rock edge of her self-titled sophomore album, re-released her hits with the addition of the single “Wake Up” penned with the Madden Brothers in the album Most Wanted, and in 2007 rolled out another album titled Dignity. Hilary Duff was now older, wiser, and very clearly her own women. Yet somehow while navigating the glitz of Hollywood as a teen, she largely managed to avoid the drama and train wrecks of many of her peers and predecessors. And the chances are that if you loved Hilary Duff your parents did too, because she was clean, nice and sent a positive message to the world.

Fast forward to 2014 and I can still recall every word of “Come Clean.” I still have 18 albums/singles and 93 songs by Hilary Duff in my iTunes library (I was a collector, okay?!), and I don’t think I will be parting with them any time soon. With the release of the ever so catchy “Chasing The Sun” and the line dancing hit that is, “All About You,” it is obvious that the whirlwind of Duff-mania has come to reclaim its rightful place in the music industry. Will I be buying her new album? Actually, probably not. Though her new songs are catchy, they just don’t resonate with me the same way her teeny-bopper tunes did. But I’ll watch and listen with expectancy, and one day when a ten year old asks to me, “Do you know who Hilary Duff is?” I’ll be able to say, “Heck yes, I was there when she started.” Inevitably Miss 10 years-old will think I’m really old. Well maybe I am, but I still think my generation experienced the amazing awesomeness of the Duff train in ways today’s kids never will. So I’ll continue to jam to “So Yesterday” like I’m a fourteen years-old, because doing this at twenty-four is much cooler thanks to the evolution of Hilary Duff.

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Written by
Jessica Morris is a journalist from Melbourne, Australia. She has interviewed GRAMMY award winning musicians and ARIA and Dove award winners and nominees. She has an obsession with the USA, pug dogs and ice cream.