Liner Notes: Palak Patel

A Look at the Albums that Make Us, Us:
Hilary Duff’s Metamorphosis

In the summer of 2003, hot off the heels of the success of the Lizzie McGuire Movie, Hilary Duff released Metamorphosis, her debut as an early 2000s pop icon. As soon as she announced the release, I knew it would be a cultural reset, and I had to have the album. For weeks, I worked on convincing my parents on the significance of Hilary Duff and the impact this album would have on me. My tactics included playing Duff’s film, Cadet Kelly, in the background and wearing my denim capris from the Stuff by Hilary Duff line sold at Walmart. They finally gave in after reading my essay about how owning Metamorphosis was critical to my social standing and overall growth as a person. I still feel the excitement of walking into Target to get the CD I wanted so badly. Perhaps my parents regretted relenting after I played the album on repeat during all waking hours for the next week. For me—it was the start of an era. 

The mere possession of the album was my claim to fame in fourth grade. I was invited to countless playdates with explicit instructions to bring my copy of Metamorphosis. It seems like yesterday my friends and I were singing “Anywhere But Here” into our hairbrushes, with coordinated choreography like it was nobody’s business. I would bring the CD insert for anyone who hadn’t memorized the lyrics. I remember the anger and subsequent tears when someone finally dropped the case and cracked the corner.

Metamorphosis was the blueprint for the future musical success of Disney stars such as Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez. At its core, the album is bubble gum pop with the tiniest hint of punk rock. She mixed relevant concepts with angst-ridden lyrics such as “If you can’t do the math, then get out of the equation.” The style is reminiscent of Avril Lavigne with touches of relatability given that Duff was only 15 when she released the album. Arguably, the most recognizable single is “Come Clean”, which is prominently featured in the title sequence of Laguna Beach. In fact, it is hard not to be reminded of the Lauren, Kristen, and Stephen love triangle when I hear, “Let’s go back…back to the beginning.

2003 was a pivotal year in music (and for young me) and it was uncertain how much success Duff’s debut album would have competing against 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and Beyonce’s Dangerously in Love. However, with the help of Duff’s dedicated fans such as myself and millions of others, Metamorphosis surprised everyone when it debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Moving to number one a week later, it became the eighth best-selling album of 2003. It eventually sold five million copies worldwide. It was impossible to turn on MTV without hearing hit singles like, “Why Not.” And, unlike much of her competition, Duff’s music videos were also played on the Disney Channel for fans not yet allowed to watch TRL (like myself).

Not only was Metamorphosis the first album I owned, but it was also the first album I clearly associate with a distinct phase of my life. The album feels like reading an old diary. It evokes a sense of nostalgia from that awkward preteen stage of life. Metamorphosis brings back memories of moodily staring out of a school bus window listening to “Where Did I Go Right?”, or carefully dancing to “Party Up” to make sure my portable CD player didn’t skip to the next song. 

Hilary Duff was the quintessential girl next door that struck the balance between relatable and glamorous. Her music reflected that. I grew up watching Duff navigating those same evergreen preteen problems in Lizzie McGuire. In contrast, Metamorphosis grappled with Duff’s growth as she approached her “Sweet Sixteen” and was “discovering so much more in life.” As a young girl, I looked up to Duff and related to her journey and, as a result, I associate this album with transitioning from my childhood to teenage years.

You may think Hilary Duff is “So Yesterday”, but to this day, I still have my original, albeit scratched, copy of the album. Thankfully, Metamorphosis is available on Spotify and she even re-released the album in vinyl on its 15th anniversary. Even though Duff’s subsequent musical projects did not garner the same iconic status, Metamorphosis will always hold a special place in my life and music collection.