Hilary Duff is finally back, people.
Duff was once a near-global household name, charting a course through the tumultuous path from Disney starlet to fully-fledged popstar, actress, and star – until she drew back on the fame to raise a family. However, in the wake of her divorce, and newfound independence, she entered the music studio once more, with promises of pop music stardom, and an excellent calibre of music.
Given that her last album – 2007’s ‘Dignity’ was a fairly-successful, quietly brilliant collection of cutting-edge pop music – expectations were high for fans of Duff – and ‘Breathe In. Breathe Out’, hasn’t disappointed (even though the album title leaves a bit to be desired, at least grammatically).
Lead single and album opener ‘Sparks’ is, thankfully, miles better than her previously touted single (and now relegated bonus track) ‘In The Sun’, a much folkier effort that while inoffensively pleasant, was also bland and forgettable. ‘Sparks’ is fun, catchy dance-pop music (with pop rising star Tove Lo on the writing credits to boot), and it kicks off an enjoyable round of pop music that puts Duff firmly back in the spotlight.
The glittery pop of Duff’s former contemporaries, and the music she built a fanbase on, positively glows on the record – the effervescent ‘Confetti’, the satisfyingly empowering ‘One In A Million’, and even the folk-EDM-pop of ‘Brave Heart’ are joyous tunes that fare well against their contemporaries. Duff even finds time to continue her journey to the dancefloor, a path started in ‘Dignity’, with ‘My Kind’, a song nothing less than a sunny, sultry jam about hooking up that screams ‘summer anthem’, and ‘Arms Around A Memory’, a Matthew Koma-written dance song that provides plenty of dramatic dance beats alongside Duff’s sweet, deceptively solid vocals.
What’s perhaps just as impressive are the co-writing credits on the record – global guitar strummer Ed Sheeran has a main writing credit on the melodious ‘Tattoo’ while Duff herself has a co-writing credit on five of the deluxe edition’s fourteen tracks, including the irrepressibly catchy ‘Lies’ (with a ‘la-la-la-la=lies’ refrain that’ll be stuck in your head all day) and the pleasant ‘Rebel Hearts’.
Duff may never reach the same level of stardom that she once possessed as a Disney superstar – taking time out of the scene, not just musically but also acting-wise, to raise a family and live a normal life is risky if admiral – but that is certainly no bad thing. Pop music exists on a number of levels, and while some treat it like high art, and others like child’s play, Duff is treating it as something to be enjoyed for the sake of enjoying it, ensuring that her listeners will enjoy just as much this summer.