ANALYSING THE DISNEY CHANNEL GOLDEN ERA: RANKING THE HOLLYWOOD RECORDS CORE
WORDS BY BIANCA DAVINO & HAYDN HICKSON
Millennials capacity for self-indulgence, self-expression and self- importance can be directly traced to the genre known as Hollywood Records-core. Disney Channel arguably peaked from 2005 - 2010 delivering the pop world with some of the most seminal albums of all time. Leaving no musical stone unturned, our multitalented artists delved into worlds of pop punk, R&B, stadium pop and new wave whilst preaching tales of self love, acceptance and the freedom to ROCK! (with parental permission of course). Here is the definitive ranking of 17 of the most iconic releases from this time:
17. HERE WE GO AGAIN - DEMI LOVATO
Demi Lovato’s second album relied heavily on the success of the singles Catch Me and Here We Go Again. The rest of the album very much sound like album-fillers - left overs, if you will, from Selena’s debut, Kiss & Tell. Having said this, Here We Go Again is an excellent sophomore single - exhibiting a sort-of Kelly Clarkson / Avril Lavigne hybrid. Demi expressed a crucial development in her songwriting abilities on bona-fide pop punk anthem Solo, which featured word-play and punnery the Bard himself would be proud of. The gothic-pop influenced Remember December showcased an even more aggressive side to Demi’s powerful growl whilst the Amy Winehouse reminiscent, Every Time You Lie left fans whispering in a state of hearsay - was the subject matter Joe Jonas? Only time would reveal the cracks in what seemed to be the perfect pairing...
16. HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE - MILEY CYRUS
Fulfilling the prophecy intended by Walt Disney, the need to infiltrate the Hannah Montana brand into every crevice of the universe was completed by the release of the cinematic masterpiece Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2009. Following the box office success of High School Musical 3, the movie saw MIley Stewart return to her roots in Tennessee, with the music aptly following suit. The Hoedown Throwdown is singlehandedly responsible for inventing country music whilst Taylor Swift written You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home could go down as one of the greatest teen-pop love-the-skin-you’re-in anthems of all time. Mainstream cross-over smash The Climb, is clearly the stand out on the album, dominating High School graduation ceremonies for years to come. Unfortunately, that’s where the praise ends, with the remainder of the soundtrack plagued by filler tracks from guest stars, the Rascall Flats, Billy Ray Cryus and, Taylor Swift.
15. DON’T FORGET - DEMI LOVATO
Demi did well to establish herself as the edgiest member of the Hollywood Records crew. The album artwork strikes some VERY uncanny similarities to Paramore’s classic album Riot released a year earlier. Furthermore, in similar punk fashion - Demi’s second single La La Land is very critical of the pressures of the pop industry she’s entering. Side Note: My Mum once saw the video for La La Land on TV and said “I’ll sing this to her when she’s 18 and in rehab”. Demi Lovato entered rehab in 2011….aged 18. Is my mum a psychic? Or are the pressures of being a Disney queen so intense, the public can foresee the trajectory of their career? 🤔
14. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 (SOUNDTRACK)
The difference between High School Musical 3 and its two prequels was that it was released in cinemas as opposed to being a Disney Channel Original Movie. So, not only did Disney amp up the on-screen production, but the soundtrack needed to work in Dolby Digital Surround Sound. So what does that mean? This soundtrack got to a whole new level. HSM3 presented some of the greatest songs in the trilogy, but also some of the worst. I Want It All is easily the best song on this album, a show-stopping anthem that truly belongs on the broadway stage. The songs reeks of melodramatic performance. Now or Never and A Night to Remember also act has album highlights with very contemporary production and improved vocal delivery. However the rest of the songs on this album fall flat when compared to their prequels. Shame.
13. THE CHEETAH GIRLS (SOUNDTRACK)
With a little re-work of the original 3LW line up, the debut of the Cheetah Girls saw new force of girl power in the Disney Channel realm. The combination of different ethnic backgrounds as well as the array of socio-economic status’, made the Cheetah Girls the forefront of intersectional feminism. Album highlights include the track ‘Cinderella’, a wonderfully meta empowerment song that summed up the I-Don’t Need-A-Man zeitgeist the Spice Girls left behind. The torch had been passed, and it was Cheetah-licious.
12. WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN - SELENA GOMEZ & THE SCENE
Her third studio album with the Scene saw Selena treat synth-pop as her own grown-up, pop playground. Delving into new adult territory, this album is her own version of Can’t Be Tamed, growing stylistically and creatively alongside her ageing, dynamic listeners. World domination is definitely an aim for Selena through her Spanish single, Dices (Who Says) and the risky contemporary production. Love You Like a Love Song, Bang Bang Bang and the Pixie Lott assisted track We Own the Night, are all cases where this risk paid off.
11. HANNAH MONTANA (SEASON ONE SOUNDTRACK)
The album that undoubtedly founded Hollywood Records-core. The back and forth drum beat intro on Best Of Both Worlds inspired a generation of 8 year olds to beg their parents to get them singing lessons and allow the wearing of 4 outfits at once. Yes the whole ‘I’m more than just your average girl’ of Who Says may have acted as the catalyst for the atrocious Not Like Other Girls phenomenon perpetuated by the likes of Halsey and Co. However, the glam-rock stylings of Pumpin’ Up The Party exude pure unadulterated fun and no anthem of unrequited love has hit quite as hard since If We Were A Movie.
10. A YEAR WITHOUT RAIN - SELENA GOMEZ & THE SCENE
A Year Without Rain is one of the most emotionally vulnerable albums of all time. Following her breakup with Nick Jonas, this was Selena’s chance to explore the deepest crevices of heartbreak and growth, most notably evidenced in the likes of Live Like There's No Tomorrow and A Year Without Rain. Furthermore, Selena Gomez sounds much more comfortable on this album than her predecessor, finding warmth and freedom in the simple pop production that The Scene provided. Round & Round, Rock God and Intuition showcase an ability to craft meticulous pop bangers as well demonstrate a new-found strength in vocal ability.
9. THE TIME OF OUR LIVES - MILEY CYRUS
Who knew that what started out as a Walmart exclusive was soon to become the sophomore effort that would cement one of the biggest stars of the modern day. Spanning just over 8 tracks, this EP leaves no room for error and doesn’t disappoint. The opener Kicking and Screaming, establishes Miley as the Straight-Outta-Disney femme fatale through her newly found vocal strength on a blaring rock beat that leaves Paramore shaking in their grave. The real highlights though are the moving power-ballad When I Look at You and the zeitgeist defining Party in the U.S.A. The Jessie J penned, 7x Platinum single is nothing short of incredible, ready to be played at all the weddings of our generation.
8. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (SOUNDTRACK)
The original High School Musical soundtrack is nothing short of iconic. One could credit this album and subsequent film for putting Disney Channel on the map for relevant and innovative programs for children, and they wouldn’t be wrong. HSM presented a wonderful tale about the pressures of conformity that reside in the schooling system to this very day, and the need to Break Free to express individuality. Album highlights include the chemistry between Troy and Gabriella, the Romeo + Juliet of our generation, and the guest vocals of Meghan Trainor on Stick to the Status Quo (satire). Lowlights include the fact that Zac Efron just doesn’t sing Troy’s songs. I’m serious. Literally look it up. I know, rip.
7. CAMP ROCK (SOUNDTRACK)
The Camp Rock soundtrack was groundbreaking in its ability to holistically fuse an array of genres, including: singer-songwriter ballads, R&B hits and pop-rock stadium anthems. Hasta La Vista and What it Takes are examples of family-friendly urban crossover bangers guaranteed to start, start, Start the Party. The party continues through Tess Tyler’s Two Stars, a heartbreak anthem encroaching on danceable territory. Sorry, Green Light who? Lorde is literally shaking. But in true testament to its name, the best songs off of this soundtrack are the pop-rock numbers by Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers. Play My Music and We Rock put the Jonas Brothers on the map - but This is Me is the beautiful climax we all wanted but didn’t deserve.
6. BREAKOUT - MILEY CYRUS
‘Every week’s the same, stuck in school so lame’. The first lines of opening and title track Breakout sees a 15 year-old Miley Cyrus attempt to make an appeal to the normal. Her signature edgy snarl rings over Bruce Springsteen-esque guitar riff with the confidence of a seasoned professional. It’s easy to forget Miley was so young during the recording of Breakout, with iconic acoustic-punk anthem 7 Things, showcasing an emotional maturity beyond her years. The ambient electronic soundscapes of Bottom Of The Ocean foreshadow the experimentation of the Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz project (only true Smilers saw it coming). The heart-on-your-sleeve balladry of The Driveway has yet to meet an equally introspective and stadium filling counterpart, cementing Miley’s position as total pop chameleon for a generation.
5. LINES VINES AND TRYING TIMES - JONAS BROTHERS
If A Little Bit Longer is the Revolver of our generation, Lines, Vines and Trying Times is DEFINITELY the Sgt. Pepper. Delving further into experimental territory, no musical feat was too large for our curly haired favourites to conquer. A Stevie Wonder inspired funk track? No problem. A New Wave anthem inspired by the infamous T-Swift break-up? Excellent. Nuanced and mature at its very core, the brothers transcended the realms of Disney music, showcasing a higher awareness for structure and sonic interest landfill indie bands like The Kooks who were relevant at the time. Fresh off the cover of Rolling Stone, it’s clear the band were eager to be taken seriously as musicians. Paranoid’s soaring guitar licks felt more U2 than Radio Disney, with the cock-rock swagger drenched World War III putting The Rolling Stones to shame.
4. THE CHEETAH GIRLS 2 (SOUNDTRACK)
The second installment of the Cheetah phenomenon, saw the girls with even more growl power. If the original movie saw Disney dipping their toes into the Girl Power movement, this film sees them diving right in. The plot revolves around the foursome as they tackle friendship, the need to fulfil one’s own destiny and the concept of work hard, play hard. Furthermore, the plot doesn’t reply on boys, an aspect that held the first film back. But the real highlight, is of course, the music. Filled with breakdance-able bangers, the songs off this soundtrack take heavy influence from the glamorised hip-hop coming out of the early 2000’s. Notable tropes include the record scratches, the marching-band beat, even the pulsating melody in ‘The Party’s Just Begun’ sounds like an ode to Gangsta’s Paradise. Furthermore Strut and Amigas Cheetahs, demonstrate their excellent ability to fuse American Hip-Hop with Spanish Salsa.
3. HANNAH MONTANA 2 (SOUNDTRACK)/ MEET MILEY CYRUS
Following the success of Season 1’s soundtrack, the wall-of-sound production was amped up to 11 with the release this seminal double album. Forget Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, forget In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, this is the only concept album you’ll ever need to immerse yourself in. The tension at the crux of Hannah Montana was Miley’s personal search for both artistic fulfilment and normalcy, effortlessly summarised in 20 tracks. The 90s industrial synth-pop stylings of Nobody’s Perfect became an anthem for a generation raised on the bleak ideology of global recessions, political distrust and skewed employment opportunities. Hits like Make Some Noise and Life’s What You Make It firmly planted themselves within the zeitgeist, foreshadowing the social awareness and ‘woke’ness of today’s teens. Meet Miley Cyrus painted a picture of a carefree rock chick who was more concerned with skateboarding and eyeliner than school work (Rock on!) The pop-rock anthem See You Again saw Miley’s first solo foray into mainstream radio play whilst G.N.O (Girls Night Out) was every 10 year old in 2007’s first taste of independence.
2. HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2 (SOUNDTRACK)
If you throught High School Musical was fire, Disney Channel was about to drop an atomic bomb. The soundtrack of the HSM sequel is genuinely perfect. Each song has its own bold personality, yet they fit together in an incredibly cohesive way. The album begins with sheer excitement through the Crazy in Love-esque blaring horns with What Time is It?, a timeless ode to the school holidays. This then transitions to pure pop bliss with the superficial, glossy album-highlight Fabulous. If this song didn’t exist, Kylie Jenner legitimately wouldn’t be a thing. I guarantee. I Don’t Dance is another banger, challenging the masculine and feminine stereotypes awarded to sport and music, respectively. Finally the rest of the soundtrack manages to tackle romance, individuality and friendships in astonishing fashion. If you’re wondering what kind of person would buy two versions of this soundtrack just to get the bonus track of Humuhumunukunukuapua'a... You. Can. Bet. On. Me.
1. A LITTLE BIT LONGER - JONAS BROTHERS
This album is the Revolver of our generation. It was the Jonas Brothers perfecting saccharine drenched pop-rock, tailor made to make the hearts of pre-teens around the globe swell with puppy love. The acoustic meets classic rock stylings of Lovebug and frenetic pop-punk drumming and scathing social critiques featured on Video Girl proved they were more than just a cog in the Mickey Mouse machine. It catapulted them to the height of their cultural significance and onto the stages of the Teen Choice Awards for years to come. The popsphere, by 2008 had well and truly been swept by the emo-pop phenomenon, in which Gerard Way’s stage antics and Pete Wentz’ nudes may have proved a little too edgy for soccer mums. Musically, the heart-on-your sleeve balladry of Shelf wasn’t far removed from a track of Fall Out Boy’s seminal Infinity On High. But their purity rings - perfect for the morning school drop off.