Review Summary: Breathe in.... breathe out! Breathe in.... breathe out! You feeling any better yet?
Comebacks in music are pretty risky and often testy at times, especially when it comes after being on infinite hiatus or a disastrous album from years ago. It can prove lethal to an artist's career and legacy if inproperly done. The more unlikely comeback in music happened with former Disney star Hilary Duff, best remembered for her iconic Lizzie McGuire stint and less remembered for her lengthy music career. It wasn't a bad career, delivering four records to her credit and achieving two Top 40 hits. In the midst of pop superstars making their splash this summer, with other Disney counterparts like Demi Lovato with her surprising "Cool For The Summer" cracking the Top 10 and Selena Gomez's sensually-charged "Good For You" equally achieving - Hilary thought it was the right time to make a comeback. Her fifth record "Breathe In. Breathe Out." was supposed to signify her maturity musically, but it suffocates in too many spots to be taken seriously.
Hilary always has crossed the bubblegum pop path her entire career, but in her fifth record decided to diversify a bit. She decided to front in adult contemporary, EDM-pop with a hint of Owl City-like influence, and her old style all in one. She even brought in prominent, more recognizable names such as Tove Lo, Ed Sheeran, and Matthew Koma to assist in the album's creation, and it turned out decently. Songs like the sleek, modern "One In A Million" with its sparkling synths and enchanting hook display Hilary's maturity when it needed to, as her new record was supposed to be a showcase of such. It does itself justice when you stumble upon songs like the synth powerhouse "My Kind", having some of the sappiness of a romance track with a sense of vulnerability. It also blends with Duff's glowing vocals and the pulsating, sun-bathed synths that burst out throughout the track. This gives Hilary that sense of maturity and progression as an artist and it's hard to say otherwise.
While there is a chunk of the record that is solid, "Breathe In. Breathe Out." closes the airways in a ton of spots that feels like an asthmatic having asthma or being poisoned by carbon monoxide. For one, it starts off terribly with the cheeky "Sparks", a sort of introduction to the record itself. If there hasn't been a more frustrating start off to an album, the whistles on this song are bound to be up there along with the mediocre lyrical basis smacked upon it. The lyrical basis on the album in general is among the worst of the year, suffering immensely in laughable material like the flowery "Brave Heart", a dull, awkward attempt on an romantic, inspiring song with lines like "out here and alone/but still got one thing left/I got a brave heart" destined for face-palm moments and confusion. Even on some of the good songs like the chilling, futuristic "Arms Around A Memory", it features embarrassing one-liners like "hot sweats and cold sweaters" which can be difficult to ignore even on the bearable part of the set.
While Hilary Duff's fifth record shows some promising signs of the Disney alumni progressing and her maturity eight years after her last album, the constant inconsistency between tracks and terrible lyrical basis condense this too much to keep the air flowing. There's a ton of potential here with the direction of Hilary's sound and her soft, mellow vocals but it wheezed on through for the most part. While it is surprising to see Duff return back to music after a major hiatus, this won't garner much fanfare from even the more Disney-crazed or teen-pop fans alike in general and it shouldn't. Another poor try at a comeback but expected, just know if you decide to give "Breathe In. Breathe Out." a try - heed with caution and make sure you have an inhaler at hand. Your gonna need it after intoxicating yourself with this album.