2015 is a tumultuous time for the music industry, with so many older artists struggling to find their footing in a saturated market that is currently driven by authenticity. It is more so, for Hilary Duff, whose hyped-about comeback proved lacklustre.
In the early 2000’s, mainstream success was found in heavily manufactured artists. Think: N’Sync, Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Christina Aguilera. What do all of these artists have in common? Controlling management that built images, personalities, and careers for them.
Most noticeably, the turning point towards originality and ‘raw’ talent came about with Adele’s immense success on her smash album ’21’. Consumers were refreshed, and excited at the prospect of watching a concert performed by a genuinely talented person who could also be your best friend. Adele’s powerhouse voice paired with her goofy sense of humour and incredible wit poised her as the poster child for ‘a real artist’.
Fast forward to 2015, and we can observe that the most talked about, followed, and popular artists are the ones who have direct involvement in their musical endeavours. Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lorde, Bruno Mars, and Maroon 5 are arguably the biggest and most prominent current artists.
Why? They’ve either had a heavy hand in writing their own music, or have shown themselves to be in total control over their stage presence. Consumers are responding to the sincerity and authenticity within their work.
This leaves former artists from the 2000s’ trying to make a comeback in the lurch. Musicians like Miley Cyrus have managed to stay relevant by becoming authentic, and rejecting their prepackaged images that no longer fit who they are as an artist. The difference between Cyrus and Hilary Duff, for example, is that Cyrus possesses more raw talent than Duff does.
Hilary picks up few writing credits on her latest record ‘Breathe in. Breathe out.’ and her name is often lost within a sea of professional writers. She received no production credits either.
What does this mean, to the average person? She had little involvement in the shaping of her new album. From one listen through, it’s quite clear to see that no distinct personality, style, or flare was put into the music. It’s not horribly bad, but it’s not impressively good either. Mediocre at best. The songs are bland and generic, and Duff’s vocals are heavily processed in a fashion that makes her sound screechy and irritating.
The stand-out track on the album is ‘Tattoo’, a song penned by Ed Sheeran. Duff brings very little to the track in terms of originality – the song is merely well written (and this has nothing to do with Duff).
It appears as though Duff is lost in a market of individuals: looking back at her previous works, she never really had to be personally involved. The marketing, writing, production and styling was all done for her – the only thing she really had to do was show up and sing.
Watching back old performances of songs like ‘Wake Up’ and ‘So Yesterday’, she often looks disinterested or terrified, it’s as if she was never comfortable being on stage. This sentiment is reflected in her recent ‘Ellen’ show performance of her newest single: she looks a little bored, and a little scared.
There isn’t a contemporary place for Duff in the industry at the moment. Should she hone her skills, improve her musicality and become more involved in her career – then perhaps her albums would sell better, and her singles would peak higher. She’s got an extremely loyal fan base that has been around for a long time, and they don’t look like they’re going anywhere.
What Duff should be concerned about is the recruiting of new fans, a younger crowd. Her music pales in comparison to her peers, and should she want to remain relevant, she needs to up her game.
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