DioGuardi had written “Come Clean,” a song that she says was about “starting over again”; Hilary responded to it. “That song was like a rebirthing of my career,” Dioguardi says. “And for whatever reason, it struck a chord.”
“‘Come Clean’ is one of my all-time favorite songs I’ve ever recorded,” Hilary says. “I think it stands the test of time. People feel connected to my music, and it was crazy to me during that time that I sold out arenas night after night in every city — in Canada, Brazil, America, everywhere — and I never got any radio love. But I think everyone knows that song — Laguna Beach has a lot to do with it, because that song was so ingrained in every MTV commercial at that time that you couldn’t get away from it — and it was a great thing for me.”
It’s also a touchstone for the work she’s just begun to do, as she gears up for the release of her next record. “With ‘Come Clean,’ even now as I start to make music again,” she says, “it’s something that I’ll take and say, ‘Like this, but let’s make it more current.’ It’s such a great song.”
Listening to it now, Metamorphosis is a mixed bag, even as I remember how it soundtracked my early adolescence. The production, then-current, feels occasionally tinny and the lyrics can be cringe-worthy; her vocals are thin. And yet, that doesn’t detract from its staying power, both as a product of that teen pop boom and as a pivotal piece of the early groundwork for the artists who were to follow — proving that a young following from a kids’ TV show could translate not only into album sales, but into a legitimate pop career.
DioGuardi says that her personality, more so than the music, be her legacy: “As an artist, you don’t have to be the most incredible singer. You don’t have to have a range that’s out of control like Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera. The most important thing about an artist is that when they come on the radio, you know who they are. I always felt that you knew who that was — it was Hilary. She had a tone, maybe a Kylie [Minogue]-esque tone; her brand was identifiable. To me, she had what she needed, that you could recognize her, and I think that will be her legacy. Plus, I think she started doing organic instruments and loops and dance beats earlier than anybody else. It became a resurgence.”
There’s also the fact that, aside from the fairly moderate maturing of her image that accompanied the release of Dignity, Hilary never went off the rails. “I have such respect for Hilary in the sense that she always retained her career with grace, class and kindness,” Kara says. “She never changed. You never saw her in some cheesy club with her legs spread open. Kudos to her.”
That’s not to say that she was static, personally or artistically. “Once I started getting into the studio and being more hands-on with the music I was making, I was a little embarrassed by Metamorphosis. But I don’t feel that way now. So many people were connected by this. It put me on a map with my music, and they are good pop songs. But I went through a phase where I was uncomfortable with my past — maybe when I was 16 or 17 — and I wanted to be seen for something different.”
And yet, it’s a past that she owned then and still owns, not something that was forced upon her. “They never made me sing things I didn’t want to sing. They didn’t say, ‘Here’s your album, now go record it,’” Hilary says. “I always met with the producers. I always met with the writers. I sat in the meetings. I didn’t know how to write music, so they asked me questions, I talked about my life, and it was like an interview.”
Still, I liked that Hilary didn’t seem any more convinced that I did that Metamorphosis would stand the test of time, but also, that its potential transience didn’t make it unimportant or insignificant. “I don’t know if another ten years from now, people are going to be like, ‘God, Metamorphosis was the best!” but they might have some nostalgia attached to it,” she says. “And I think that’s really important. It got me to where I am now, and hopefully I have a big long career past it. Now, being 25, I don’t give a shit what anyone says. I’m proud of where I came from and what I did.”
It’s funny, too, to reflect on that record now that she’s back in the studio gearing up for the release of her first studio album since 2007, which she says will go in an entirely new direction (mum’s the word on that for now) — marking yet another stage in her ongoing evolution. “You know, Metamorphosis — that was my whole concept,” she explains. “I wanted the record to be called that. I was changing so much and becoming so different.”
Say what you will about Hilary Duff and Metamorphosis, but even at 15, she was prescient.