The Avrilette Awards

Tweeenage Pop-Rock Nukes Annoying Hockey Girl's and Holden Caulfield's Paths

Anyway—people cryin' and babies dyin', bombs falling from the sky, it ain't mine to reason why—it was 9 p.m., Tuesday, April 1, when I hit my first temporary saturation point of personal non-stop Iraq-War-as-reality-show-TV-watching (being a '50s child who grew up in the shadow of WW II and cool Eastern Front "war footage" everywhere. Hate war, but damn those tanks are cool!).

I decided to reset MTV as my temporary default-channel-flipper—not realizing my bomb-twitchy trigger finger had twitchy-punched the down button to "55" (instead of the necessary "43-MTV")—and up came a brand new rock video not aired on the MTV/ TRL landscape until four whole weeks later.

And my mouth was agape at the video/ song that'd just commenced. Who? Wha? WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?

Hilary Duff, the real Avril
photo: Buena Vista Records
Hilary Duff, the real Avril

The nu-Britney? Maybe Avril's slightly younger sister is playing rock star stand-in??? The song was 10 miles better'n anything by the dreaded 'Vril too: poppier and groove-rockier (OK, my girl-rock standards are lower than usual after last year's carpet bombing by vanessamichelleavril) (and even "Sk8er Boi"'s catchiness gets nuked at the finish line for having the world's worst lyric—"rockin' on MTV," ohhh boy). Oh. My. God.

It is . . . Hilary Duff. TV's own Lizzie McGuire, but now playing/posing/goofing-around center-mike behind slacker-guy guitars/drums (like Avril) as a tweener-idol "rock star," can you believe this? Do 15-year-old cable stars get to have all the fun, or what?

What's rather amazing about this song/clip is that it trumps both teen-girl pop sides, right down the middle—the fine center line between an imaginary Britney and the other edge's Avril (also known as "annoying hockey girl") zone. Well, why the hell wouldn't TV actors posing as "rock stars" have better acting moves than the real thing? Yep, just try and tell me Mickey Dolenz wasn't one of the five greatest rock singers of the '60s!

Conveniently, "Why Not" is the lead single/video from Miss Hilly-D's movie (which grossed $17 million its opening weekend) soundtrack (which SoundScanned over a quarter million in three weeks). But check what every rock writer's favorite Santa brought me for my birthday, May 1: a TRL hour guest-hosted (no help or co-host) by our subject! While no new musical or philosophical frontiers were broached (though see Hilary's Holden Caulfield book review below), the month's Avrilette award was taken by the countdown's #6, "It's About Time" by western Canadian girl rock band Lillix, a pretty good tune on a pretty dull debut album (on Madonna's Maverick label).

Funnily, the very first post on Lillix's VH1 message board dissed them not for having an Avril-look member or two, but for being "Tuuli/liveonrelease wannabes!" (earlier Canadian major-label 21st-century girl rock bands). Toronto-based Tuuli's catalog is indeed worth investigating, while Vancouver's liveonrelease is/was a one-song wonder with their must-own hilarious all-time-rawk-great "I'm Afraid of Britney Spears" from year 2000's Dude, Where's My Car? soundtrack (and other liveonrelease Canadian CDs proper).

But I digress. The Lizzie McGuire Movie opens with Hilary/Lizzie bedroom karaoke-ing to "The Tide Is High," and the cheesy/scary UK-Atomic Kitten version at that. Twenty minutes' movie time later, Lizzie/Hilly-D is mistaken (on a junior high post-graduation class trip to Paris) for the missing "Isabella" of Italian dance-pop teen stars Paolo & Isabella (by the scheming Paolo, who is up to no good). Before you can say, "hey, what about Rob?" at the film's one hour mark, Paolo's giving Lizzie/Hilary/Isabella2 lip-synching lessons. Hmmm . . .

Mere minutes before Fab & Lizzy—I mean Paolo & Isabella2—can perform their tune in front of 5000 Italians at the International Video Music Awards, the real Isabella surfaces and (shades of MTV's immortal three-year-old 2Ge+her movie!) bribes the soundman into exposing Paolo to the live Euro-TV audience as a Milli Vanilli sync-ing, conniving, evil-male teen fraud. Paolo/Rob banished into oblivion out the backstage door, Isabella and Lizzie/Isabella2 then break into the soundtrack's girl-duo Italo-dance uptempo version of "What Dreams Are Made Of," girl-power reigns supreme (and it's a great song, a virtual one-tune Italo-disco revival—authored by Dean "Hungry Eyes" Pitchford plus Matthew Wilder), and two verses in, Lizzie/Hilary/Izzy2 is given the whole stage (plus a few dancers) for her first actual live "singing" in front of anything except the bedroom mirror.

Besides "Why Not," "Girl in the Mirror" (by older sister Haylie Duff), and a terrific "Why Not" dance remix—can Avril get away with rawk tune dance-remixes, I ask you?—the must-own song on the Disney Records soundtrack is the Beu Sisters' wonderful 1971-Jackson 5-ish "You Make Me Feel Like a Star," conveniently remixed and separated from their forgettable Virgin debut album.

Speaking of Santa, last winter saw an entire 10-song Christmas album from our girl Hilary as her first long-form effort—half of it very rocking, with one certified Spector-tribute genius track (written-produced by Charlie Midnight), "When the Snow Comes Down in Tinseltown." It's actually one of the best half-original rock-Xmas sets ever.

There are 76 "buyer's reviews" of Santa Claus Lane (Buena Vista/Disney) on, and our artiste's tweener-critics are all over the place regarding who should or shouldn't be allowed to sing. Let's eavesdrop, we've got nothing better to do:

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