The Avrilette Awards

Hilary Duff, the real Avril
photo: Buena Vista Records

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?

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:

Megan from Pittsburgh: "Go Hilary! Whooooo! I love this CD! Every time when I hear her sing 'Santa Claus Lane' I get goosebumps cause I love the way she sings it!"

Jessica from New Orleans: "A seven year-old had it and told me to listen to it, so I did. It's AWFUL!"

Amber from New Mexico: "Hilary Duff's new Christmas album rocks! I love her Michelle Branch vibe. If you try your hardest you will succeed, and that's just what Hilary did!"

Eve from New Mexico: "If this is what music has come to . . . shoot me! Thank god for singers like Michelle Branch or the music industry would just fall on its face within 2 years of this madness!"

Leah from Salem: "Beautiful voice and great acting from Hilary Duff! Her voice brings out her soul. She is the most talented girl in the universe!"

Kameelah from Florida: "Oh lord this girl can not sing. She hurts my ears, this CD is the worst. I would rather hear a dog howl than hear her ever again!"

Cory from Michigan: "What can I say? It wasn't good enough. The whole CD was, like, computerized."

oz dog from Toronto: "Hilary Duff sure can sing. I listen to her album all the time! She is the best singer ever!"

Julie from Illinois: "She is very cute, and I love Lizzie McGuire, but she can NOT sing! And I don't think she should be compared to Mandy Moore, because Mandy unlike Hilary actually has singing talent."

Kateling from Hockeytown: "This CD is the best I have ever bought, all the songs are awesome, and Hilary can really sing!"

Natasha Ruiz from Brownsville: "I'll admit that Hilary is a good actress but she CAN NOT SING! She is just about the worst singer I have ever heard and if U think I just have bad taste in music, you're wrong! I like ppl like Aaron Carter, Jump 5, BSB, Play, and all those kind of ppl, but Hilary Duff is not like them, to me she's practically a fake!"

Well, Shelley Fabares or Bob Dylan would not have gotten past today's gatekeepers, that's for sure. Don't you kids have any respect for Hilary/Lizzie's cover of "Tiki Tiki Room" on last fall's Disneymania album? (It's quite a good version.)

Y'know, it's too bad Lester Bangs isn't still alive so he could go on tour with trend-queen Avril Lavigne and get to the bottom of things ("c'mon kid, write me a song! you're huffy puffing all this i'm-a-writer shit like some kinda high school tennessee williams, put it up or shut it up! start writin' or i'll start typing the damn lyrics for ya! do you know that reminds of the time in '77 in england when me and mick jones of the clash got drunk and. . . . ").

Speaking of glitter rock, "Up Up Up" by another girlteen, Rose Falcon of Tennessee, is pure 1974 raveola, à la a fast Rubettes song played by the Sweet with a girl (18-ish Rose, who wrote the song) chanting/singing "6-5-4-3-2-1, get up! get up! up bup bup! oh wa-oh, wup bup bup!" on every chorus. The song is worth every cent of the $9 eight-song Columbia mini-album debut (which is otherwise straight Lilith-girl stuff; some like it, some don't—all other tunes co-written with her dad/producer ex-new waver Billy Falcon!) Curiously, around mid-April "Up Up Up" was ganging up nightly with "Sk8ter Boi" and Hilary's "Why Not" to make an all-femme guitar rock troika on each eve's Diz-Kids Top Three countdown.

Backtracking past Lizzy Land's Christmas album and top-10 movie soundtrack, it was only eight months ago that Hilary Duff's voice was first heard on CD-plastic. That would've been "I Can't Wait" (lead cut and her only track on the Lizzie McGuire Show TV soundtrack, otherwise undistingished), a neat acoustic/electric piece of late-'60s sunshine-pop, as the Californians call it. The tune was played nowhere but Radio Disney (OK, exactly once in Texas—true fact), but the album went gold anyway. Tweeners . . . many of them, you think?

And now, for the past couple weeks running, Hilary Duff has had the #1, #4, and #5 songs on Radio Disney—at the same time the press was notified she had "quit Disney," whatever that actually means in the course of contract negotiations. Technically, this trumps the MC5 being released by Elektra when they had a Top 30 album; at $1M+ per movie, she probably has a lot more sportscar money than the MC5 too, albeit no license till September. (The other four songs in the Top 7 have been two Avril, one Rose Falcon, and D-Tent Boys from the Holes movie, which computes to 85.7% female any way you divide it. "Hampsterdance" is #8, and I believe he/she swings both ways.) Emmy magazine's "tweener" definition: "They aren't yet afflicted with teen angst, so they are attracted to the fun and irreverent." (Elvis, Beatles, Madonna, Spice Girls, and Britney, hellll yeah.)  

I do enjoy the fact that our 15-year-old Texgirl Hilary concisely trashed Holden Caulfield at first exposure. D'you think Kurt Cobain had those kind of street smarts? Full quote/ review: "Holden's kind of annoying me. I mean he keeps talking about people being fake and phony. But really he's the phony one!"

And let it be noted: As surely as the Beatles were weened on Little Richard, or the Rolling Stones cut teeth on their prized Best of Muddy Waters set, our girl was inspired by the major artists of our time: "I never wanted to be a singer, but when Aaron Carter came on our TV show and he was a singer who was acting, I thought: 'I can do that!'"

Yes, she is a natural blonde, a Texan, a Libra. And oh Jesus, will you look at what the daily clue truck just dumped off? Avril Lavigne: d.o.b. 9/27/84; Hilary Duff: d.o.b. 9/28/87.

She is the real/unreal/surreal Avril!

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