Hilary Duff / Dignity / April 03, 2007
Stranger / 05. Gypsy Woman / 12. Outside of You
I almost feel like posting a disclaimer first, something that might save me embarrassment and humiliation upon even deigning to write this, something along the lines of: I do not usually listen to music like this or, I realize this is very sad, or else, I usually have pretty good music taste, I just slipped because, you know, apparently it’s like, totally un-cool to listen to mainstream music now. Either way, it has to be said: Hilary Duff’s new album is not bad. And by not bad, I mean, pretty good. What I think made this CD so likable, besides several factors like production and the ever scientific catchy chorus factor, is that it seems Duff is finally embracing her hip pop side and has totally, if not completely (and finally), given up on trying to be a “rock star.” But Dignity, by employing mostly electronic and computer generated instruments along with the maybe 40% makeup of organic instruments finally flows and fits her vocal niche; while still retaining light, painstakingly feminine vocals with an almost utter disregard for emotive passion, the range finally goes hand in hand with the unnatural percussions and sporadic synth bleeps.
Unlike her previous albums, with songs dedicated toward the tween audience composing the bulk of material, Duff has managed to align her new sophisticated and angular, grown-up cheekbones with the biting and sometimes cutting anger and “you can dance” (props for the Madonna reference) nature of the upper teen audience, making an album more accessible to fans who have grown up with her and no longer find The Lizzie McGuire Movie an apt nominee for an Oscar.
The album opens strongly with “Stranger,” an upbeat and catchy number that illustrates the workings of a typical pop number but with an edge: the guitar riff and the fact that Duff is singing it and it’s still good. Other standout tracks include “With Love,” the second single released for the album, an upbeat dance number of almost club-like proportions, and of course, “Gypsy Woman,” probably the best song on the entire CD, alluding to, perhaps, a certain ex-boyfriend and his certain new girlfriend; either way, the Middle Eastern vibe and hip hop composition sit well, if not fantastically, with me, although I will probably deny this later (along with Fergie’s “Glamorous,” and believe I’m wincing while I admit this). What’s also noticeable about the album is that there are no brief interludes where Duff takes us on an epically bad ballad or acoustically sedate journey; it really is a get-up-and-go album and although there are still brief references to her pseudo-rock girl phase as in “Happy,” a song written earlier in her career and rehashed for album immortalization, it doesn’t detract from the overall coherency of the album.
One of the downsides to the album is that the tracks unfortunately begin to lag in the second half of the CD. It seems most of the show-stopping numbers were thrust into the first half to engage the listener, leaving behind a lackluster finish and I find myself mostly fiddling with the first six or seven tracks whenever I pop in the album, but admittedly, they are the tracks that make the CD so great, so what’s the harm in that?