f you’ve listened from the beginning, you shouldn’t expect much. Hilary Duff’s debut was a hit and miss affair. Leaving aside the great “So Yesterday” and the nearly great “Come Clean”, the best song on offer was the one-and-a-half minute synth driven “Inner Strength”, written by her sister (don’t worry, the last song here teams the two up again). The Matrix showed up for “The Math” (nice lyrics, but not much else) and “Where Did I Go Right?” (not much to speak of), but were slightly off their game. Admittedly, it was a perfectly toned bubblegum album, designed for maximum pop, but one that regretfully lost its taste after only a few listens.
With her eponymous second album, however, Duff follows the template that she previously softened (Avril Lavigne) to mixed results. When Duff tries too hard to rock (“Mr. James Dean” and “Rock This World”), it doesn’t work. Duff, to a certain extent, is a prisoner of her image and her attempts at Chrissie Hynde-intensity fall far short of even Ashlee Simpson’s gravelly vocal cords.
But when she rocks more lightly, she fares much better. The triptych of “Shine”, “I Am” and “The Getaway”, wherein Duff goes from love-struck girl to confused young adult to independent woman is breathtaking. “I Am”, clearly a candidate for the second single, is the requisite celebrity “but I’m so much more than that” plea, but as with Simpson’s “Autobiography”, it works quite well as a mission statement.
The album’s first single, “Fly”, rightfully leads off the album. And although it sounds similar in many ways to “Come Clean”, it’s an easily excusable offense, as it improves on the template. But perhaps the most exciting inclusion on the album is a song entitled “Haters”, which could easily be seen as a swipe at the boyfriend-swiping Lindsey Lohan. One can only hope that it can reignite the feud that smoldered throughout much of the summer between the two actress/singers.
The simple problem with the album, though, is its length. Where her debut clocked in at a svelte 40 minutes, Hilary Duff nearly reaches an hour over its 17 songs. With a little quality control, smoothing off the rough edges (and her attempts at rough and tumble rock and roll) and with a separation of the wheat from the chaff, this could easily be as strong as any other teen-pop album released this year. Unfortunately, Duff took the words of “I Am” to heart and included every aspect of her personality on the album. And while it makes for a fascinating listen, it also makes for a wearying one.