This week, Daily Music Writers are looking back on the first albums they ever loved. Today, Catherine Baker remembers Hilary Duff’s Metamorphosis.

My name is Catherine Baker. It is 2004. I am eight years old. This is a story about Hilary Duff.

Looking back at my childhood (or at least the parts of it I haven’t blocked out of my memory), the moments I’m most nostalgic for are those spent in front of my small karaoke machine in the playroom of one of my old houses. I am usually alone, which is an unfortunate side effect of moving four times in four years, and I am often wearing a pink feather boa that once belonged to my cousin. (This is an unfortunate side effect of not having a strong fashion icon in my life. Mom, I’m looking at you.)

I would like to preface this by emphasizing the fact that I was an extremely angsty pre-teen. For a child with a low tolerance for conflict and eye contact, I sure had a lot of pent up anxiety. Clearly, this manifested itself in my affinity for Disney Channel stars and movies about dogs.

In this room with floor to ceiling windows, I arrange my Webkinz in a semi-circle at my feet, boot up my old karaoke machine and belt out “Sweet Sixteen” by Hilary Duff. In that moment, I’m not awkward, eight-year-old Catherine with too many thoughts and not enough athletic ability. Right then, I am a much older, much more confident version of myself, dreaming about “driving down to the club where we go to dance.”

Fast-forward to 2006, three weeks before my 10th birthday. I’ve moved again, this time to Michigan, and my mother has driven me back to Ohio for one last hurrah before I begin the adventure that is fourth grade. Five of my closest friends have gathered to see — you guessed it — Hilary Duff in concert.

As this is my first concert experience, I am dressed in my best jean skirt and sweater combo with no idea what to expect. Her sister Haylie is the opening act, and while I know relatively little about the rest of the Duff family, it does not stop me from screaming at the top of my tiny little lungs. After a few sugary sweet pop songs, Haylie exits, and the entire stadium erupts with cheers calling for Hilary. When she finally enters in the wake of neon strobe lights, I am silent in awe of her sparkly outfit and opening dance number.

My pink feather boa has been lost in the move, but for a moment I wish it was wrapped around my neck one last time. I know every word to the Metamorphosis album, and I fall asleep before the end of the concert, but it is the happiest moment of my short life thus far. I look around at the thousands of strangers singing the exact same words, at the parents that have been dragged along to this 17-year-old’s show and at my friends whose names I’ve now forgotten. Even at nine years old, I’ve been around long enough to know that I won’t see these girls again. This is their lasting memory of me—Catherine, in her fuzzy purple sweater that sheds on your clothes when you hug her, screaming the words to “Come Clean” with just a little too much aggression.

While Metamorphosis may not be the coolest first favorite album, it certainly made an impact on an impressionable young Catherine. From singing alone in my room to dancing with thousands, Hilary helped me grow up even when I didn’t know how.

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