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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Tuesday, December 2, 2003
I honestly hadn't paid muchif anyattention to Hilary Duff. I was aware of the Lizzie McGuire series on the Disney Channel and knew that it had been made into a movie. I'd also heard that she was having some sort of contractual difficulties with Disney. What I did not know until now that Duff is also a pretty decent singer, with shades of Avril Lavigne, Gwen Stefani, and Pink.
Metamorphosis is her first album and the title of track 11. In the liner notes, Duff writes, The album is titled Metamorphosis because I thought it was a good way to express my experiences in this ever-changing world. While this reads like standard marketdroid-speak, the songs are fun and catchy.
Since I don't listen to Radio Disney, I can't say which of the 13 tracks were selected as singles. I can, however, note my own favorites among them: So Yesterday, Little Voice, and The Math. So Yesterday is a probable single, with its tale of a high school breakup:
In Little Voice, Duff seems to grow up a bit, singing with a sultry purr:
This is a good sing-along tune and I admit chiming in on the chorus when listening in the car.
My favorite is The Math, which reminds me of some of the great pop songs of the mid-1980s; fans of the Go-Go's or Bangles will feel right at home with this one.
Overall, I would have to say that this is an entertaining disc and an excellent first release. Though I'm definitely not the target demographic, Hilary Duff has won me over.
If you don't watch the Disney Channel, MTV or are beyond college-age, the name Hilary Duff might ring a tiny bell. For anyone in the younger set (and particularly those in the in-betweenor tweenages of 9 to 14), Duff is the equivalent of a Britney Spears or Madonna (albeit with a much cleaner reputation); an acting, singing, smiling pop icon sensation who serves as a role model for all that's important at that tweenie age (you know, like, fashion and bubbly fun and stuff).
Duff, whose breakout role in Disney's Lizzie McGwire TV show and feature film, propelled her to teen superstardom, is on regular rotation on MTV for her current CD, Metamorphosis. Although Metamorphosis is her first venture into her own pop CD, it is not the first release for this 16-year-old Texan. A year before, she released a holiday CD called Santa Clause Lane.
Santa Clause Lane was originally released for the 2002 holiday season, following in the heels of the release of the song of the same name as the theme song for Santa Clause 2, the Disney movie starring Tim Allen.
Santa Clause Lane was re-released for 2003 with the addition of a new track, What Christmas Should Be, extending the original CD to 36.6 minutesastoundingly short (probably too short for fans, but just fine for parents).
What Christmas Should Be was recorded a year after the rest of the songs, and probably after she recorded Metamorphosis. The song is considerably more sophisticated in both tune and arrangement, and her voice shows quite a bit of growth when compared to the rest of the songs in this holiday CD. The arrangement is less bubble-gum, with some cranking electric guitar tossed in for good measure.
The rest of the songs, recorded by Duff a year ago, are sincere, but more innocent; she rarely strays from the straightforward notes she was taught to sing. In addition, she has difficulty handling some of the songs. Examples of the tinniness of her voice can be heard in Jingle Bell Rock, while she strains to hit the highest notes in Last Christmas, a Wham cover song. She's probably had quite a bit of singing lessons in the year since this CD originally came out; she sounds more seasoned in her Metamorphosis CD.
Santa Claus Lane consists of a fair mix of known Christmas tunes and originals. None of the originals are written by Duff, whose talent seems to lie more in being on-camera or in front of a microphone than in writing her own material (a la Michelle Branch or Avril Lavigne).
None of the cover tunes are particularly traditional. Only Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Sleigh Ride would qualify, having been written at least 50 years agoand neither of them use traditional arrangements.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a very pleasant standard arrangement of the well-known tune. Duff's voice is pleasant, and works well with this song. Well-placed, back-up vocals and slightly jazzy arrangement make Sleigh Ride another listenable cut.
Probably the most unusual arrangement is Wonderful Christmastime, a cover of Paul McCartney's famous holiday tune. This version differs from the original by simply being too busy with too much going on at one time.
After What Christmas Should Be, I Heard Santa on the Radio is probably the second-best cut on this CD. The mid-tempo tune is light with a catchy chorus; add to this a lovely harmony by pop singer Christina Milian, and what might have otherwise been a so-so song becomes a really sweet and pleasant tune.
The one jarring tune in the CD is Tell Me a Story, only because it is a hip-hop duet with Lil' Romeo that provides the only real funk in all the tracks. While the song isn't bad, the duet seems forced and artificial.
Christmas recordings are big business for record companies. Production costs tend to be lower since companies don't have to support the release with a big promotion, and royalty fees for 50-year-old songs can be cheaper than paying for original songs. The icing on the cake is that companies can expect a fairly good return, since sales are almost guaranteed to return once a year during the holiday season. However, instead of simply releasing this CD again for the holidays, Buena Vista Records chose to add a new cut (thereby making this a new release) in order to let it ride on the coattails of Duff's Metamorphosis, as Duff's management team continues to carefully cultivate her growing image as a maturing young lady.
If you are a Hilary fan, by all means purchase this holiday CD. There are a few really strong cuts, and although there are a couple of so-so tunes, you can pop this CD into the home CD jukebox so your whole family can enjoy the fun tunes by Hilary bubbling over in between the traditional Christmas tunes from the Carpenters and Bing Crosby.
and if you choose to purchase this used, make sure you get the 2003 release that includes her new song, What Christmas Should Be, the best track in this 2003 release.
Kevin Doc Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.
You can contact Kevin here.
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