Disney Channel Duo Suffered ‘Identity Crisis’ After Attempting Mature Rebrand

aly & aj with miley cyrus as hannah montana
Credit: E! Online

In the early 2000s, amidst the success of Hannah Montana and other Disney actors turned music artists, Disney Channel duo Aly and AJ Michalka formed a hit pop band that captured the hearts of young fans, particularly their edgy single “Potential Breakup Song.”

As the front runners of their band Aly & AJ, the Michalka sisters signed to Disney’s Hollywood Records at the ages of 15 and 13, respectively, in 2004. According to AJ, they performed six acoustic guitar tracks they wrote themselves from the floor of the studio.

Cow Belles | Disney+

Credit: Disney Plus

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From there, Aly went on to star in Disney shows like Phil of the Future, even bringing in her sister for the hit Disney Channel Original Movie Cow Belles (2006). Furthermore, with the release of Insomniatic in 2007, they became teen idols for little Disney fans everywhere.

Despite their wacky antics in Disney Channel productions, Aly spoke to the extreme dedication with which both young performers approached their music during an interview with CBS:

We were always still brave enough to just raise our hand and … [ask], ‘Can we do this?’ And, I think I’m sure at some point it drove people nuts … But I think that at the end of the day, though, people knew that we really cared.

aly & aj potential breakup song still of two young white girls with blond hair in grey and black tank tops holding a vintage mic one with straight hair one curly

Credit: Disney

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Even so, like many other teen celebrities, the same image which kickstarted their career would cause them to push back against the pressure, attempting a rebrand under the name 78violet in 2009. Unfortunately, this independent venture would fail, costing the duo two albums and putting their music careers on temporary hiatus, and launching them into what AJ described as an “identity crisis” apart from their Disney-approved personas.

While both sisters continued acting, Aly says they had to “figure out what our voice was as adult women,” something which would take a decade until they finally recorded their single “Pretty Places,” also recently gaining new traction with nostalgic young adults after “Potential Breakup Song” went viral on TikTok.

Aly & AJ on Their New Music and How They Went From Disliking "Like Whoa" to  It Being Their "Gay Anthem" | Teen Vogue

Credit: Teen Vogue

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Since then, Aly & AJ have taken a leaf from the books of other teen pop icons, Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, releasing a new explicit version of their viral breakup hit with the satisfying curse words you probably always imagined anyways as a little kid because they packed the right punch, but which the two were not allowed to say on the radio. Now both in their 30s, the Michalkas have performed at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits within the last two years and are preparing to debut their new sound on their album With Love From.

On the rediscovery of their musical passion, AJ told CBS it felt like a “migration,” bringing them back to who they really are. Who knows? Maybe like Miley Cyrus, there’ll soon be a new Disney+ music special in their future.


About Spencer Johnette

Spencer is a lifelong lover of theme parks, princesses, and Disney history that recently relocated to Northern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she was the founder and first president of the campus Disney Club. A former Cast Member still mourning the loss of the Disney Store, she now haunts the Walt Disney Family Museum halls and shares her opinions with anyone who will listen @gothelsflower.