polite, Hilary Duff doesn't come right out and dis other pop
princesses such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and
Lindsay Lohan. But the 17-year-old Houston native is clearly
proud to give the bubblegum-pop crowd an alternative.
In concert at the Allstate Arena last year, Duff relied
on the spirited playing of a gently pop-punk band, real
singing with her glee-club enthusiastic voice, a
self-assured message of respecting yourself as an
independent young woman and a reluctance to play the tawdry
coquette with a dozen sexy costume changes.
"I do sweat and I do sing during the show -- thanks for
saying that -- and I don't change clothes," Duff says. "I
don't feel comfortable being half naked in front of so many
people. I don't have anything against people who are
comfortable with that; that's their gig, and that's cool.
It's just not me, so why do it?
"People talk about me and make snarky comments about me
being 'a good girl' or 'the girl next door' or whatever,"
she adds. "But I'd rather be seen as that than be seen with
coke in my nose."
This no doubt comes as welcome news to the parents of
Duff's fans, as well as to her own mom and dad. Hilary is
the second daughter of Bob and Susan Duff, who owned a chain
of convenience stores in Texas. Their older daughter Haylie
is also trying to launch music and acting careers, but
unlike many teen stars, Hilary says her parents never
pressured her to enter show business.
"My sister started taking acting classes because she was
bored, and I followed her because I said, 'I wanna be like
my sister.' My mom never pushed me. When I was in L.A. and
would go on hundreds of auditions, if she saw one ounce of
disappointment, she'd be like, 'We're going home; there's no
sadness over not getting a callback.'
"My mom asks me all the time if I want it to be over and
want a normal life. I'm sure she'd prefer that, but she also
wants us to be happy. The thing I feel pressure about is
that I'm responsible for 60 or 70 people's income [during a
movie or tour]. If I feel like throwing in the towel, what
are they going to do? But I don't feel locked down by that."
Like Spears and Aguilera, veterans of "The New Mickey
Mouse Club," and Lohan, star of several Disney films
including the recent "Herbie: Fully Loaded," Hilary was
first introduced to her preteen audience by Disney, in her
case, the Disney Channel TV series "Lizzie McGuire."
Since then she has starred in several successful movies,
including "Agent Cody Banks" and "A Cinderella Story," and
she just finished filming the sequel to 2003's "Cheaper by
Duff doesn't want to choose which career she prefers,
acting or music. She brings the tour in support of her new
album "Most Wanted" (due in stores Aug. 16) to the Allstate
Arena tonight. "I don't know if I can separate them," she
says. "I've been so busy that I don't even know where my
head is at, but I know that I'm really focused on this tour
right now. I really believe in it, and I hope people like
it, because I want to keep doing music."
After making her musical debut with a Christmas album in
2002, Duff released her first pop disc in 2003 and the
self-titled follow-up last year. "Metamorphosis" and "Hilary
Duff" both became multiplatinum hits, despite the sometimes
saccharin songwriting and glossy over-productions --
criticisms that Duff readily accepts.
"When you are under the control of a label, you don't
always get to have the sound you like. If I could change it,
I would, and it would sound [less pop]. My name is Hilary
Duff, and I don't know why I don't get to make Hilary Duff
music. I just have to get the freedom to do it, and during
the show, I do get to do that: I get to throw away all of
the CD stuff that has been mastered and sounds really
pretty, and I get to sing live."
While it may seem ironic that an artist who has only
recorded two original albums is already issuing a greatest
hits disc, Duff notes that several of her earlier songs have
been remixed for "Most Wanted."
"They've got sort of a Muse feel going on, and I'm into
that right now," she says of the English rock trio -- and
she also recorded three new tunes with the production team
the Dead Executives.
"I love the three new songs because they're not very
over-produced," Duff says, "and even though my voice is high
and girly, it sounds kind of cool, with a rocked-out edge."
This is no surprise, since the Dead Executives are the
Madden brothers from the pop-punk band Good Charlotte and
John Feldmann from the respected ska-punk band Goldfinger.
Hilary Duff Inc. is a lucrative and well-managed industry
but Hilary Duff the young actress and singer seems to have
the fortitude, vision and good taste to move from bubblegum
celeb to bona fide young artist.
"I don't know what I'll be when I'm 27, but I want to be
Blondie," Duff says, invoking the worthy role model of
punk-rock godmother and risk-taking actress Debbie Harry. "I
love my job, and as much as there is so much crap that comes
along with it and so much superficiality, I love making
movies and touring and making music.
"I'd love to have a small role in a movie with great
actors and not be Hilary Duff, and I'd love to still have a
music career and try all sorts of different things, whatever
I want to do."