Aly & AJ show more potential than just a breakup song

Since the summer, the song has amassed over 3 million listens on Spotify, despite it’s quiet release. Last week, another single, “I Know” was released off the upcoming EP “Ten Years.” (Courtesy/Twitter)

The Aly & AJ you know and love as early aughts teen icons have made a valiant return to the music scene, but with a total change to their sound.

Although Aly Michalka got her start in acting, as Keely Teslow in the short-lived Disney Channel series “Phil of the Future,” the Californian pop-rock sisters got their big musical break from their debut album, “Into the Rush” in 2005. Songs from the album were featured on a series of Disney Channel original movies. One of the singles, “No One,” was featured in the soundtrack of the movie “Ice Princess” and the song “Do You Believe in Magic” was used for the film “Now You See It…” in which Aly also had a starring role.

The Michalka sisters then went on tour, opening for the likes of The Cheetah Girls and Hannah Montana. They continued to keep their success under the Disney umbrella when they both starred in the 2006 DCOM “Cowbelles,” playing spoiled sisters getting a taste of reality for the first time.

Shortly after their Christmas album released in 2006 came their second studio album, “Insomniatic,” which came out in 2007. With this album, the sisters gained more creative freedom, featuring songs they’d written and composed themselves. Popular tracks from this record include nostalgic favorites such as “Potential Breakup Song,” “Chemicals React Remix” and “Like Whoa,” which was on the soundtrack for another DCOM, “Minutemen,” in 2008.

Aly then signed on to play Joe Jonas’ love interest in the Disney series about the heartthrob boy band, quite simply titled “Jonas.” This was another short-lived series, only running from 2009 to 2010.

After that, the Michalka sisters all but disappeared from pop-culture’s radar. In 2011, they left Hollywood Records, their first label, and renamed themselves, becoming 78violet. This move was made due to a change in vision. The sisters were pursuing a “rockier” sound, according to a 2008 interview with Radio Disney. Under this new name, the duo released one single in 2013, entitled “Hothouse.”

Since then, the sisters seemingly parted ways creatively. Since 2014, AJ Michalka has been starring in the ABC sitcom, “The Goldbergs” as Lainey Lewis. In 2015, sister Aly married her long-time boyfriend Stephen Ringer in Italy.

But now that they’re all grown up, Aly and AJ are striving to be more than just throwback queens. In August of 2017, their single “Take Me” was unexpectedly released, marking their first new music as Aly & AJ in 10 years. Since the summer, the song has amassed over 3 million listens on Spotify, despite it’s quiet release. Last week, another single, “I Know” was released off the upcoming EP “Ten Years.”

The hiatus clearly had a strong effect on the sisters’ sound. Instead of angsty teen pop music, the new sound is dreamy with an obvious 80s influence- think Tegan and Sara or Carly Rae Jepsen. The two released songs have a distinct synth sound and retro vibes, setting the tone for the coming EP. The vocals are strong and, compared to a decade ago, their lyric-writing skills have aged like a fine wine. “I Know” presents a cooler sound than the very flirty “Take Me,” which is even reiterated in the cover art. It’s a softer, brighter sound than listeners may expect from them, but the two sisters’ close connection still makes for very cohesive music.

“We’ve evolved. We’ve had 10 years of cocooning this music into something that has really taken off naturally,” AJ said in an interview with Billboard in September. “These tracks on the EP just came in an effortless way, and Aly and I kind of looked at each other and went, ‘Well, I think we found our sound.’”


Julia Mancini is the associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at julia.mancini@uconn.edu.