by Drew Boehmker/@IfUSeekDrew
I am just going to come right out and say it: I am shamelessly devoted to Hilary Duff.
And not just in an “I used to watch Lizzie McGuire way,” either. No, my love for the Duffster runs much deeper than that; I’ve been there for her star-making role in A Cinderella Story and her pseudo-threesome on Gossip Girl. I’ve read all three of her (surprisingly decent) young adult books, beginning with Elixir. And my iTunes contains no less than 131 songs (and remixes) by this legend—I mean seriously, who else can claim that they have three greatest hits albums (Most Wanted, 4Ever Hilary, and Best of Hilary Duff) when they only ever released three albums to begin with?
While nostalgia for Ms. Duff seems to be at an all-time high right now thanks to her recent comeback single and BuzzFeed posts like this one proclaiming her Metamorphosis album to be the most underrated pop album ever, for this week’s #ThrowbackAlbum I’m actually going to take a different approach and say just one thing:
Hilary Duff’s Dignity is one of the absolute best pop albums you’ve (probably) never heard.
It seems like an outrageous statement, but it’s absolutely true.
Dignity was released back in 2007, which meant it was already fighting an uphill battle because popular music at the time was extremely dominated by hip-hop (I mean, this was this year that “Buy You a Drank (Shawty Sippin’)” was one of Billboard’s Top Hits on Record after all).
This meant that Duff’s Dignity was released with a surprisingly small amount of promotion and relatively little fanfare—which is a damn shame, because there is no question that this album is Hilary at her best and most personal. In fact, every single song (sans one) on Dignity was co-written by Duff, which is pretty impressive for a girl who used to sing lyrics like “if you can’t do the math, then get out of the equation.”
The album kicks off with the fantastically good “Stranger,” a Middle Eastern-infused dance track written by Duff about her father’s affair ("'Stranger’ is a song I wrote about how my mom must feel around my dad,” Duff commented in a 2007 interview—pretty grown-up stuff for a former teen starlet). She then proceeds to read the f*ck out of her contemporary teen queen peers with “Dignity,” a song which sees Duff asking “Where’s your dignity? I think you lost it in the Hollywood Hills.”
Following that is “With Love,” which is probably the only song from the album you’ve heard (you know, the one from Hilary’s perfume commercials). Even eight years later, “With Love” is still an amazing dancepop anthem that sounds surprisingly current compared to today’s music, and it’s certainly worth a re-listen.
Following that, the album contains a series of songs that, while not singles, are undeniably catchy and interesting all in their own right. “Gypsy Woman,” another song about Duff’s father’s infidelity, remains one of my favorite Duff songs of all time, but both the ‘80s-vibe “Never Stop” and “Dreamer” (which was written by Duff about a crazy stalker who actually immigrated to the United States to stalk Duff—who does that?) are also worth checking out.
Surprisingly, the album’s only real weakness is “Outside of You,” a P!nk-penned midtempo track that would have been perfectly fine on one of Duff’s previous albums but just seems out of place here. Luckily, the album recovers with the closing track “Play with Fire”—an amazing diss track that showcases Duff possessing some serious swagger (“I don’t have time for this, I’m off to play in Houston” she croons at one point).
Ultimately, whether you were a Lizzie McGuire kid at heart or just a fan of good pop music in general, I urge you to check out Dignity. In fact, spotlighting albums like this—the ones by your past faves that you may have missed while busy being “too cool for school” in high school in college—is exactly part of the reason I started this #ThrowbackAlbum column in the first place. Dignity shows a side of Hilary Duff that you’ve probably never seen (or heard) before … and I think you’re going to like what you find.
Final Verdict: Pretty much flawless.
Essential Tracks to Check Out: "Stranger," "With Love," "Gypsy Woman," "Happy," "Play with Fire"