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Review by Brad Green:
According to the PR in front of me, Hilary Duff has been dubbed “The Tween Queen”. I’m not certain what a “tween” is, but let’s have a shot at it. Seems to have the ring of a portmanteau buzzword, a combination of twelve and teen perhaps, and the twinkle-toned rhyme suggests that it is the gals at the cusp of adolescence to whom Hilary’s a hero. At any rate, I’m pretty confident this album isn’t aimed at a thirty-something, wry scribbler with an intolerance to aural molasses.

So I am rather surprised at just how much of this album I don’t dislike. Between the odd nursery-rhyme with a beat, there is a decent cover of Earth Wind and Fire’s soulful Shining Star, a not altogether awful cover of the wonderful The Tide Is High, some theatrical finesse from Vitamin C, a strong piano ballad, a classy suite of orchestral score and most endearingly of all a romantic, Continental croon from Dean Martin. 

Inevitably, the “hot new single”, Why Not, is the weakest link. A fizzy ditty formulated to accommodate both Duff’s limited vocal prowess and the demands of commercial cynicism, it not only opens the album but also closes it, with the obligatory “remix”. At least this positioning avoids weakening the record’s solid centre, and as far as the second version goes, techno-fying a seriously ordinary song isn’t nearly so egregious as the common practice of ruining good ones. Duff’s little sis, Haylie, is more impressive delivering a punchy performance on the barre-chord-basic rock of The Girl In The Band, while Hilary’s other contribution, What Dreams Are Made Of, is another tune that gets two treatments: Duff’s vapid dance version suffering notably in contrast with the piano-ballad rendition that highlights the genuinely pretty melody, despite almost surfeiting on schmaltz.

Vitamin C provides the most interesting offering with a track best described as Queen (the band that is, not the Tween) meets Abba meets Broadway meets an Italian dictionary. Her guitarist certainly numbers among the disciples of Brian May -- a worthy fellowship, considering they worship at the fretboard of a genuine Rock God. 

Not unexpectedly, the orchestral suite is light and accessible. Cliff Eidelman’s arrangments feature solo piano, acoustic guitar, woodwinds and small ensembles of strings for a sweetly lyrical result. Intimate and easy on the ear, the orchestration avoids symphonic density without turning its back on musical sophistication. However, the pretext for a nod to The Sound Of Music’s Edelweiss, when the film is set in Italy, remains a mystery. 

Among the songs, Dino’s sheer maturity of phrasing puts the pretenders to shame. The Tween Queen will have performed a royal service for her young subjects if she lures them into opening their ears to an era before popular song simply equated to booming backbeat.

As I glance further down the PR sheet, I note that they are already plugging Duff’s next project: her debut solo album entitled Metamorphosis. (From Tween Queen to Pop Princess no doubt.) Good luck to her, but she’ll find a limit to that ladder. In the long run even a genuine Teen Queen can’t compete with a Rat Pack Crooner. 

Published July 10, 2003

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TITLE: Lizzie McGuire
ID: 336402
ARTISTS: Hilary Duff; Atomic Kitten; Vitamin C; Jump 5; Taylor Dayne; Paolo and Isabella

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