Aly & AJ
Aly & AJ
Ever since their debut album sold almost 800,000 copies and their second record of original material moved them from Disney Radio to MTV, sisters Aly & AJ have wanted to be taken seriously as musicians and songwriters. The L.A. duo acted in several Disney films and TV shows and saw their songs appear on several Disney-related album soundtracks. In 2007, it seemed that just about every tween star was either an actor turned musician or vice versa. Aly & AJ were among the few who appeared to be successful at achieving both. "They write their material; they play their instruments," Hollywood Records' general manager Abbey Konowitch told USA Today. "They aren't in any way manufactured." And Aly & AJ have stayed true to their Christian roots and away from paparazzi parties. "I understand how some people have certain ideas and thoughts and that their personal lives are none of the public's business," Aly told Andy Argyrakis on ChristianityToday.com. "But if I put myself in a situation where I'm seen by millions of kids, I have some sort of responsibility no matter what. There's no excuse to [behave poorly], because people are looking up to you. That just comes with the territory."
Born in Los Angeles, California, sisters Alyson (Aly) and Amanda Joy (AJ) Michalka grew up in Seattle, Washington, where they were home schooled by their father, Mark, the owner of a contracting company, and their mother Carrie, a former singer in a Christian rock band called J.C. Band. The sisters took piano lessons as youngsters, and soon began acting classes. AJ began modeling at nine and acting shortly thereafter. The sisters, who played music together at home, both learned guitar before they were teenagers. They caught the acting bug, and moved back to California where AJ had roles in TV shows such as Oliver Beene, General Hospital, and Six Feet Under. From 2004 to 2006, Aly scored one in the teen market when she landed the role of Keely Teslow on the popular Disney show Phil of the Future.
While both sisters excelled at acting, music was something that remained in the forefront. "Ever since I can remember, we were putting on music shows when the relatives would come over to the house, and practicing songs our mom would sing at church," Aly told Argyrakis. "AJ and I wanted to be like her when we were younger so it really came from that." In January of 2005, Aly starred in the Disney TV film Now You See It, for which the sisters recorded a cover of The Lovin' Spoonful's 1965 hit "Do You Believe in Magic?" The song was a hit on Radio Disney, so the girls followed it up with a song they penned themselves, titled "No One," for the Disney movie Ice Princess. Another cover, this time Aly & AJ's take on the classic "Walking on Sunshine" (originally done by Katrina & the Waves in 1983), appeared in the film and on the soundtrack of the Lindsay Lohan feature film Herbie: Fully Loaded. All their Disney work gave the duo a diehard fan base, and when Aly & AJ approached Hollywood Records, label president Bob Cavallo signed them to an album deal on the spot.
In August of 2005, Aly & AJ released their debut full-length album Into the Rush. The record included "No One," as well as covers of "Do You Believe in Magic" and "Walking on Sunshine," but besides the covers, the girls were listed as co-songwriters on every track. A handful of the tracks had typical teenage themes, but some, such as "I Am One of Them," had a more serious note. The album's lead single, "Rush," made its way onto MTV's TRL program. Aly & AJ's image was pretty clean cut (people called them the "Disney Girls"), but without consulting the the CD's liner notes it would be hard for a listener to guess that the duo were deeply devoted to Christianity. "When we write songs, they come from an emotional place that's direct from our hearts," AJ explained to Argyrakis. "A lot of our songs have [spiritual inspiration] behind them, even if it's not specifically worshipping God or Jesus."
Into the Rush was made by teenagers for teenagers. Aly & AJ were perfect for the booming tween market. "Song after song encourages kids to just be themselves, to follow their hearts no matter what parents, bullies or any other haters say," wrote Blender magazine of Into the Rush, an album that eventually sold nearly 800,000 copies. In 2006 the sisters made their first movie together, with starring roles in the made-for-Disney TV movie Cow Belles. Aly & AJ began expanding their public visibility when "Rush" was used in commercials for the WNBA, the duo sang the national anthem at the White House, and they became cochairs of the AmberWatch Foundation's Child Advisory Board.
In September of 2006 Aly & AJ released the holiday album Acoustic Hearts of Winter. In an effort to show that they weren't tied to Disney contractually, or specifically tied to Disney's young fan base, Aly & AJ appeared in an MTV film in July of 2007. Super Sweet 16: The Movie, was a fluffy MTV-made-for-TV movie about the popular reality show My Super Sweet 16. The film aired just weeks before Hollywood released Aly & AJ's second album of original material, titled Insomniatic. The title, according to their Web site, means "the state of mind where one becomes addicted to the deprivation of sleep caused by an epic revelation of joy."
That summer it became clear that Aly & AJ acted, looked, and sounded more mature. Insomniatic had the kind of shiny pop tracks that could cross over from Disney Radio stations to the pop charts. The sisters earned comparisons to the rock group Heart, and their electro buzzing album had songs that could have easily matched Gwen Stefani's solo music, just more age appropriate. Aly & AJ sang about boys. And more boys. "Potential Breakup Song" was voted a hit on the show TRL, and Disney Radio and TV loved the song "Like Woah" (which was also used in the Disney film Minutemen). The songs on Insomniatic were edgier, with heavier guitar tones, sassier lyrics, and with a song like the whirling "Bullseye," Aly & AJ had crossed over the Disney hurdle. Whether they meant it or not, certain tracks, like "Bullseye," held a double entendre, and their songs began to rival those of Ashlee Simpson or Hilary Duff.
For the Record …
Members include Alyson Michalka , vocals, guitar, keyboards; Amanda Joy Michalka , vocals, guitar, keyboards.
Group formed in Los Angeles, CA., c. 2005; Alyson Michalka appeared in the Disney TV film Now You See It, 2005; Alyson and Amanda recorded song for album's soundtrack, 2005; contributed to various soundtracks, 2005; signed to Hollywood Records, released debut album, Into the Rush, 2005; released holiday album Acoustic Hearts of Winter, 2006; appeared in the made-for-TV Disney film Cow Belles, 2005; released Insomniatic, 2007; appeared in the made-for-MTV film Super Sweet 16: The Movie, 2007.
Addresses: Record company—Hollywood Records, 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521, Web site: http://hollywoodrecords.go.com. Web site—Aly & AJ Official Web site: http://www.alyandaj.com.
Billboard's Chuck Eddy wrote of the sisters' evolution in a review of Insomniatic: "Tunes are dressed up in a heavenly Europop-synth sparkle, and the lyrics [are] frequently harmonized through complex Destiny's Child time signatures." By this point, Aly & AJ were turning themselves into their own brand, while still keeping their individual identities. Their Insomniatic tour was sponsored by Sanrio; and their bus was decked out in Hello Kitty from floor to ceiling. A variety of Aly & AJ 10-inch dolls were marketed by Huckleberry Toys (who also made Gwen Stefani dolls), and the songwriting duo appeared to have plans to try their hands at all aspects of entertainment, including video games, clothing, accessories and, of course, acting and singing.
At the start of 2008, after a tour with Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, AJ landed a role in the very un-Disneylike drama The Lovely Bones, directed by Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings). Aly spent time in Texas for a role in the film Will, where she was able to put her musical skills to work as well. "Never think you're the best," Aly told USA Today, of their career. "There's something wrong when you think that you've done the best that you possibly can, because there's always better. That's what you see in those people who have long careers, those people who are legends."
(Contributor) Now You See It (soundtrack), Hollywood, 2005.
(Contributor) Ice Princess (soundtrack), Disney, 2005.
(Contributor) Herbie: Fully Loaded (soundtrack), Hollywood, 2005.
Into the Rush, Hollywood, 2005.
Acoustic Hearts of Winter, Hollywood, 2006.
Insomniatic, Hollywood, 2007.
Blender, June 2006.
"Aly & AJ: The Interview," AOL.com, http://teens.aol.com/entertainment/aly-and-aj-interview (January 24, 2008).
Aly & AJ Official Web site, http://www.alyandaj.com (January 24, 2008).
"Aly & AJ Pull Out All the Stops in ‘Sweet’ Sister Act," USA Today,http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2007-07-05-aly-AJN.htm (January 24, 2008).
"Aly & AJ Writing New Songs, Plot Films," Billboard,http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/search/google/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003694943 (January 24, 2008).
"Away From the Rush," ChristianityToday.com,http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/2005/alyandaj-1105.html (January 24, 2008).
"Insomniatic: Aly & AJ," Billboard,http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/content_display/reviews/albums/e3ic02d60bc6b59682e6fbff2fb0fee78f3 (January 24, 2008).
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