The most elaborately organized Sweet 16 party has nothing on Aly & AJ's plans for the coming days. Who needs tiaras, limos and extravagant evening gowns when, like this teen singing duo, you're starring in your own TV movie adaptation of MTV's hot reality show My Super Sweet 16
"It's got all the drama and the cat fights and the girl tears and stuff, so it's very comical," says Aly, 18, who, with sister AJ, 16, also will release a new album and kick off a summer tour next week in Phoenix. "Fans of the show and MTV and our music are going to dig it."
With the marketing blitz that's accompanying the CD, Insomniatic
, and Super Sweet 16: The Movie
, the sisters (real names: Alyson Renae and Amanda Joy Michalka) are being positioned as the pop-culture heirs apparent to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
"It's definitely a positive comparison for us," says AJ. "Those girls are incredibly smart. They're amazing businesswomen."
Aly and AJ — the only children of a dad who owns a contracting company and a mom who used to sing in a Christian pop band — got their start modeling at ages 11 and 9, respectively. That led to small acting parts on Six Feet Under
and General Hospital
for AJ, while Aly landed a co-starring role in the Disney Channel series Phil of the Future
Their big break came when Disney-owned Hollywood Records signed the duo to a recording contract. The 2005 debut album, Into the Rush
, sold nearly 800,000 copies, getting most of its exposure through Radio Disney airplay and Disney Channel showings of their videos. The two also starred in a 2006 Disney Channel movie Cow Belles
If Aly & AJ make the leap from the Disney Channel to the MTV crowd, they'll have overcome one of the most challenging obstacles for pop-culture figures: keeping an audience as it ages.
"If you discount those acts who came over in the British invasion, it's been very difficult for teenagers to take their audience with them as they grew older," says manager Gerry Cagle. "We are trying to make sure that is a seamless transition."
With the recent, high-profile meltdowns of former teen faves like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, the Michalka sisters are making their move at a good time.
"Listen, we're all desperate right now for new talent," says Carissa Rosenberg, entertainment director for Seventeen
magazine. "And our younger generation needs role models."
Her advice: "They should act their age. That doesn't mean they won't make mistakes, (but) they shouldn't be out clubbing."
They'll be helped by their solid musical base. Having grown up listening to Heart, The Police and the Beach Boys, the Michalkas have a song-based sound that's rooted in the music of the '60s and '80s. They had early Radio Disney hits with covers of the Lovin' Spoonful's Do You Believe in Magic
and Katrina & The Waves' Walking on Sunshine
, the sisters had a hand in writing every song. The single Potential Breakup Song
sounds somewhat like Del Shannon's Runaway
run through a processor, but there's a lot more going musically than on your average teen-pop album.
"They write their material; they play their instruments," says Hollywood Records general manager Abbey Konowitch. "They aren't in any way manufactured. That's very important."
So, too, is the seriousness with which the sisters approach their career.
"Never think you're the best," Aly says. "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."