Good Morning Revival
Last week Hilary Duff told People that despite her November breakup with Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden, she and Madden only wish the best for each other (even if that includes Madden's recent relationship with Nicole Richie, which it surely mustn't). This is not the impression you get from listening to Duff's new album, nor from the latest Good Charlotte release.
"You treat me like a queen when we go out," Duff sings in "Stranger," the first cut on Dignity, "But when no one's around, there's no kindness in your eyes." Tortured syntax or no, that's about as frank an indictment of an ex-boyfriend as you're likely to get from a Disney Channel tween star these days. And Madden's not one to be outdone: In "Misery," from Good Morning Revival, he tells us to "look at all these happy people living their lives," then whines that "misery's my company." Yowza.
Thing is, beyond the he-said/she-said recriminations, Duff and Madden advance worldviews that seem totally simpatico—which makes you wonder why these two couldn't hold it together. Each is obsessed with locating truth in the midst of fakeness: In "The River," probably the best cut on Good Morning Revival (thanks in no small part to the presence of M. Shadows and Synyster Gates of SoCal pop-metalers Avenged Sevenfold), Madden sings about "walk[ing] through the valley of the shadow of L.A." He's "done enough now to know this beautiful place isn't everything they say," so he's searching for deliverance from sin. Duff echoes Madden's anti-Hollywood sentiment in Dignity's title track, where she informs Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton—both of whom "would show up to the opening of an envelope"—that "it's not news when you got a new bag" or "when somebody slaps you." What'd Duff and her boyfriend do for fun in the old days? Thumb through The Nation?
Musically, too, Good Morning Revival and Dignity share much (not surprising, considering Madden's writing and production work on Duff's 2005 Most Wanted). Synthed-up pop-punk is the idea, with beefy bass lines, glassy keyboards, and disco-rock guitar riffs that could be Franz Ferdinand after a night out with Fergie. Duff has more fun with the sound than Good Charlotte, who insist on emphasizing their realness with a couple of moody fake-Coldplay piano ballads about how Madden's got a lot to learn and life's too short to waste another day and blah blah blah. But both acts know the power of a soaring chorus, and they both abuse that power as freely as you'd hope.
So is there hope for a Duff-Madden reunion? Maybe. In "Never Stop," a stomping "Tainted Love" rehash, Duff admits, "we made mistakes along the way" but promises, "I'll never stop loving you." And in "Something Else" Madden acknowledges the improbability of a "princess" and a "working man" finding love before nonetheless announcing that "we got together and it's working okay." Stick around for future albums, and these two could be singing a different tune—together.