October 18, 2004 12:00 PM

With last year’s triple-platinum Metamorphosis, Hilary Duff successfully morphed from Disney Channel darling to MTV sweetheart, making Lizzie McGuire seem, like, so yesterday. But don’t expect much of an artistic transformation on this satisfactory follow-up. Duff, 17, takes the same safe, Avril-lite approach that prompted an unimpressed Lavigne to call her “such a goody-goody, such a mommy’s girl.” Duff takes aim at her critics on the bratty “Haters,” one of two tracks that she cowrote with big sister Haylie, but her vocals and the lyrics lack real bite: “You look so clean but you spread your dirt/As if you think that words don’t hurt.” Duff is better off spreading the love to her young fans on self-affirming songs like the first single, “Fly,” which features a soaring, radio-ready chorus (“Fly/Open up the part of you that wants to hide away/You can shine/Forget about the reasons why you can’t in life”), and the album’s best track, the teenage-girl anthem “I Am,” contributed by Grammy-winning song-writer Diane Warren. Other highlights include the power ballad “Who’s That Girl?” and the teenybopper rocker “Weird.” Of course, Duff herself is anything but weird. She’s the popular girl out to get the homecoming-queen vote. This disc ultimately suffers from her unrelenting please-the-masses mission, with sweet but soulless vocals, cookie-cutter production and assembly-line songcraft on tunes such as the innocuous “Dangerous to Know” and the annoyingly sunny “Shine.” But hey, that should help Duff sell at least another 3 million.

POP

Download this: “I Am”

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