I understand that the Disney Channel is generally seen as kids stuff and that music from the channel is never taken seriously to anyone outside the target demographic. But once upon a time, I was a kid and transitioning teen who grew up watching this very network and enjoying their programming. And even though they do still serve up trays of lameness once in a while (especially whenever they put an animal in the title), I have come to the defense of some of the better shows they’ve been airing since the turn of the decade, be it a heartwarming comedy romp about twins and family or a spinoff that shut down the argument of Disney no longer teaching life lessons. And since I can be easily swayed by nostalgia just as much as most of the Internet, I still haven’t outgrown pop music, and Disney is about to release a remake as it’s 100th Original Movie in June, I decided that it would be a fun idea to look back on the music of these films and count down all the ones I personally enjoy, whether because they’re fun to listen to even out of context of the film or because they tied in so well with the film’s plot and maybe helped push it forward. It could even be a mix of both. Just a heads-up: some of your personal favorites might not be on the list; some DCOM songs I left out might hold up well for you and that’s perfectly fine, they probably do little to nothing for me these days. It’s just a list of my personal favorites, but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. It’s my first Tuesday Top 10 since the WrestleMania themes list in March, so I’ve kept you waiting long enough for a new one. Join me on this innocent and nostalgic (or in a couple of cases, recent) musical journey; Let’s dive right in!
#10. High School Musical Cast “Stick To The Status Quo” from High School Musical
Yup, I’m kicking off with a song from the most beloved DCOM of all time, and sorry to break your nostalgic little hearts, but neither “Breaking Free” nor “We’re All in This Together” is my representative for the inaugural High School Musical. The latter is still a big (albeit cringingly cheesy) way to end the movie and the former is a Billboard Hot 100 Top 5 hit that’s still the beloved official theme song for the relationship of Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriela (Vanessa Hudgens), but I can’t remember the last time I’ve voluntarily thought about listening to them personally. In fact, I’d probably skip them if they came on in my iTunes. “Stick to the Status Quo”, on the other hand, holds up for me just fine. And there is one very big reason for that: it’s one of those DCOM songs that’s actually humorous about its subject matter. The song is about wanting to come clean about a secret passion you have and the general reaction of doubters whenever their ears hear about your supposedly-silly desires, fearing it’ll break the pattern that they’ve grown ever so used to. So basically, it’s the entire movie’s plot in a nutshell, but also shining light on the film’s more fascinating supporting cast members. Let’s face it, it’s because of this song that Zeke’s love of baking and Martha’s love of dance (and apparently hip-hop) became such well-known running gags in the franchise. This was Cello Boy’s peak, though. Also, Sharpay’s breakdown on the last verse is just the ultimate in drama queen and became incredibly meme-able. Yeah, I’ll take this over the films’ two most famous song.
#9. KeKe Palmer “It’s My Turn Now” from Jump In!
It was not easy choosing which song I wanted to include to represent the jump rope drama Jump In! The two main cast members of the movie both contributed songs to the soundtrack. I recall Corbin Bleu’s contribution, “Push It To The Limit” (not to be confused with “Push It” by rapper Rick Ross, which came out the exact same year) being pretty big when it dropped. The video was a hit on Music Choice On Demand’s Top 10 Countdown for a bit. But what about the song performed by his co-star KeKe Palmer? In 2006, the Scream Queens star broke out with Akeelah and the Bee and before moving to Nickelodeon for True Jackson VP, she popped up as the co-lead in this DCOM and appeared on the soundtrack with “It’s My Turn Now”. As far as subject matter goes, both songs are about the same thing: overcoming obstacles, taking no prisoners, working your hardest, and conquering your dreams. As far as production goes, they’re both pretty solid. The thing that gave KeKe’s song the edge for me is the vocal performance. Not saying it’s anything special, but it did more for me than Corbin’s vocals did in his song; keep singing in that one tone, Corbin. I’m sure you’ll pump somebody up.
#8. Lemonade Mouth “Determinate” from Lemonade Mouth
I’m surprised to find out that people are actually wishing Bridgit Mendler would come back to music. I don’t know if the posts I see wishing for her eventual return are meant to be sarcastic or not, but at least her music career left enough of an impression that people still remember it even happened. She released one solo album in 2012, featuring a couple a singles in the Fugees-sampled “Ready or Not” and one of my biggest guilty pleasure songs, “Hurricane”, which probably would have been #1 on this list if used in a DCOM. Musically, she came across to me the same way Selena Gomez does: someone who’s way more capable of being lifted up on the back of an enjoyably catchy earworm of a beat than she is at hitting any kind of decent notes with her vocals. See her 2012 X-Factor performance for proof. And yet she was casted in Lemonade Mouth as the lead singer of the band the movie is named after. Backed by rebellious outcast Stella (Hayley Kiyoko), rapper Wen (Adam Hicks), and two other people (Naomi Scott and Blake Michael), she ushered in a new era or ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ anthems for her school, with the most famous of these songs being “Determinate”. Surprisingly, the song actually rocks (by the Disney definition of the word) and can work as a motivational jam for their demographic. Also, how is Adam Hicks a better rapper than me?
#7. The Cheetah Girls “Strut” from The Cheetah Girls 2
Raven-Symone, Adrienne Bailon, Kiely Williams, and Sabrina Bryan. This is the second time I’ve discussed the Cheetah Girls on this blog. Before High School Musical, it was the biggest musical DCOM phenomenon; trust me, I was there. The star of That’s So Raven, two-thirds of 3LW, and Sabrina Bryan (I’m not that familiar with Sabrina’s non-Cheetah projects) all really tapped into that girl power movement of the decade through their music and general theme of friendship an teamwork. It was so huge, it spawned to sequels, both of which take place in different locations and the final of which does not include Raven. The second film takes place in Barcelona, Spain and this song seems to be a love letter to the beauty and culture of the location. While also making sure to throw in a positive life lesson in the hook. This is technically the biggest hit of the entire Cheetah Girls franchise from a statistical standpoint, peaking at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in a time when the polarizing Disney Channel music boom was really kicking off. And I can totally see why it was so popular: it’s a catchy groove, the vocals are once again on point, and it’s incredibly inclusive. I barely remember the other songs from the the latter two Cheetah movies, but “Strut” has endured for me.
#6. Ross Lynch, Maia Mitchell, & The Teen Beach 2 Cast “Gotta Be Me” from Teen Beach 2
In the build-up to the premiere of Teen Beach 2, I heard this song in commercials almost everytime I turned on the Disney Channel, which was often because what else am I gonna play when nothing else is on TV during the day? I think it’s supposed to be the official theme song of the movie. But despite how much Disney tries to cram it into my head, including by having the cast perform it on Dancing With The Stars,I kept telling myself that I would never buy the song on iTunes. And much like in 2011 when I said the same thing about a certain rap song about convertible with a Kill Bill color scheme paint job, I failed that challenge miserably. The surf guitar on this song was just way to catchy not to submit to. It doesn’t make up for the fact that the rhyme scheme in the song is really wonky and hard to detect the first ten or so listens or the fact that I have no idea how dancing to the beat is in any way correlated to how Brady (Ross Lynch) and McKenzie (Maia Mitchell) have to be themselves when they’re both more of surfers than they are dancers outside the musical numbers. But its greatest attribute is the beat, which will probably do nothing for people who hate teeny-bopper Disney music with a passion, but certainly gets me moving personally. It’s certainly the most replayable song in the entire Teen Beach franchise, especially with other songs from the movies sound as ridiculous as this.
#5. Vanessa Hudgens & Zac Efron “Gotta Go My Own Way” from High School Musical 2
How’s about some more High School Musical? Of course, due to my one-song-per-movie rule, it’s obviously from the sequel. While I can’t include any songs from High School Musical 3: Senior Year (in my opinion, the best HSM album) because it was released theatrically, I admit I had quite a selection spread across the first two. And I just knew I had to put one duet from the former dream couple that was Zanessa on here. And sorry to break your hearts again: it’s the break-up song. Calling this a duet is kind of a stretch since Vanessa gets way more mic time than Zac (who actually sang on this one, unlike the Drew Seely-assisted “Breaking Free”), but that’s because this song is about how her character Gabriela is hurt by Troy’s frustrating distancing and neglect of his best friends throughout the film. Probably the weakest reason these two ever separated in the franchise (in the first movie, Troy got caught up and claimed she meant nothing to him and in the third one, college was just sending them in different directions), but through a somber, emotional-sounding production and the lovely vocals of Baby V, it ended up inspiring my favorite song these two were ever featured on as a duo. Also, Gabriela running to the car at the end of the scene is actually kind of heartbreaking.
#4. The Cheetah Girls “Cinderella” from The Cheetah Girls
Bet you were expecting “Cheetah Sisters”, huh? Well, consider yourself swerved, like AJ Styles on John Cena. (Sorry, I had to work a wrestling reference in here somewhere and that one is conveniently fresh.) The Cheetah Girls franchise is chock full of empowerment in many ways, and I’ll touch on that when I get to my list of favorite DCOMs. As far as the songs from the first movie goes, “Cheetah Sistas” seems to be the one people remember the most since it was the big climax number at the end of the movie where they dance around in those matching outfits that the characters totally didn’t plan ahead of time. But I’ve always felt that “Cinderella”, which was played a lot on Radio Disney back in the day, was hands down the best song in the movie; it has a nice beat I’m sure most other pop acts might kill to sing over, the vocals are pretty solid, and the very concept of the song is a great way to get out that girl power message. The Cheetah Girls are in charge of their own destinies, refusing to be reduced to the damsel-in-distress role that Cinderella found herself in and blazing their own path in the world. I’m not one of those people who are always making everything about social justice, but this might be the single most feminist song in Disney Channel Original Movie history and I appreciate it so much.
#3. Dove Cameron “If Only” from Descendants
I remember after Descendants debuted, two songs from the soundtrack cracked the Billboard Hot 100; “Rotten to the Core” peaked in the Top 40, eventually got a bouncy solo version by Evie’s actress Sofia Carson, and is even featured on the new DCOM soundtrack on iTunes. The other song was a kind-of dramatic song that popped up at the midway point of the film, when Mal (Dove Cameron) metaphorically has her foot on the thin line between the good she’s capable of showing and the evil her iconic mother (and arch-rival of my all-time LEAST favorite Disney Princess) Maleficent has embedded in her all her life. She is conflicted on which side to fully set foot on and conveys this emotion with what is musically the best sounding song in the whole movie in my opinion. I prefer “If Only” not only for Cameron’s vocals (she actually does have a pretty singing voice) and the fact that it lyrically and contextually holds more weight than “Rotten to the Core” does, but also because “Rotten to the Core” has always kind of sounded like a cluttered mess with weird choreography to me. Really, that dubstep breakdown was not needed. Meanwhile, I enjoyed “If Only” so much that it was on my weekly Top 20 Countdown for a bit, peaking in the Top 10. It’s probably the one song from the movie that I really genuinely love; the others range from OK to neededlessly inept. I know it’s a sappy, melodramatic ballad, but I love it anyway.
#2. Demi Lovato “This Is Me (Acoustic)” from Camp Rock
In 2008, I immediately got annoyed with The Jonas Brothers global takeover. Nick may have tolerable songs now and “Cake By The Ocean” is hypnotizingly catchy, but in 2008, I had the same complaints as many others for the most part: they weren’t particularly great singers, they came across as lame and overly-wholesome even for the network they were on, it was annoying seeing their faces on magazines all the time, and seeing as I was into bands like Flyleaf at the time, I thought they didn’t rock much for a band who actually played their own instruments and were sometimes presented as a rock band. Mickey Mouse putting the fear of God in Joe Jonas is still one of my favorite South Park moments. But I still watched their movie Camp Rock anyway, and thank God I did because it marked the beginning of my fascination with Demi Lovato. Not only was she cute as a button and could be silly in an entertaining way (I’m not the only one nostalgic for Sonny With A Chance, right?) but she could actually sing too. The version from the climax of the film peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and serves as a victory song for Mitchie (Lovato) who not only gets to have the spotlight she deserves as a performer after Sharpay-lite (Meghan Jette Martin) tries to ruin it for her, but it also reunites her with her “rock” star love interest. But from a pure aesthetic standpoint, I prefer the acoustic version from earlier when she was still struggling to fit in at the camp. There’s a full-length acoustic version out there that I’m in love with and I would have preferred they used this version to climax the film with instead of the version with Joe, but hey, they gotta tie up the storyline, give her the typical Disney love interest, and get those Jonas Brothers single sales, right?
#1. Aly & AJ “On The Ride” from Cowbelles
I know I’ve stated in the past that Aly & AJ was one of my favorite acts growing up as a Disney Channel watcher. I think they actually rocked harder than the Jonas Brothers did most of the time despite not technically being presented as a rock act; and keep in mind, this is a duo that was once nominated for an American Music Award for Best Contemporary Inspirational Artist, losing out to the DJ Khaled of gospel music, Kirk Franklin. But the two were also known for acting, Aly in particular playing Keely on Phil of the Future. But the first time I’ve known them to act in anything together was in Cowbelles, which is basically just Material Girls with the Duff twins swapped out for two other pretty blondes and a load of dairy products. My feelings on that movie itself will be unleashed in the future, but for the soundtrack, they contributed a song from their debut album Into the Rush, titled “On the Ride”, which is a song about going through an adventurous life with that special someone. Given what the film is about, it’s safe to say the Michalka sisters were singing to each other rather than a love interest. But the song could be interpreted as that, or really any relationship depending on the listener. The point is that even if Aly & AJ’s announced comeback doesn’t include songs that sound like this (and given that they’re 27 and 25 years old respectively now, I guarantee they won’t sound like this anymore), I’ll always cherish their older catalog, “On The Ride” included.
The closest any song in the entire franchise came to resembling a rock song. And even that’s if I stretch the definition of “rock” like silly putty into the span of a few $5 Footlongs. Zac Brown Band are apparently more rock than Camp Rock was. The video for this song is lit though.
Silverstone could rap; who knew? Side note: am I the only one who noticed Youngstown’s only claims to fame were on Disney soundtracks where they heavily reference the movie IN the songs?
Chad Dylan Cooper was Sterling Knight’s funniest character, but his other character, Christopher Wilde was way more uncomfortable with fame, and spends 2:56 telling you why over a decent beat.
The lyrics to this one are beyond simplistic, but it sure does rock though. Also, wasn’t Selena Gomez & Demi Lovato as BFF’s just adorable? Now Selena is the Robin to Taylor Swift’s Batman while Demi hangs with Nick Jonas. What a difference seven years makes.
I actually prefer Zendaya’s non-Disney songs over the ones she contributes to her projects for the mouse house; but hey, the production is bouncy so I’ll give it points for that.
Too bad that obnoxious hologram stole Sam’s thunder; I’d have preferred to see Leah Pipes rocking out front and center to that instead of looking disappointed in the background while the hologram acted like an insufferable showoff.
This song is so recent, the music video hasn’t even premiered yet. It’s also not either Sofia or Sabrina’s best song….this year. But hey, the best on the verses is catchy.
Sure, this song was in Cadet Kelly, but these days, I associate this song more with OVW Era Taeler Hendrix than I do Hilary Duff and Christy Carlson Romano doing a drill routine.
The songs from Zenon do nothing for me, but y’all would kill me if I didn’t include one, so here’s the one I most prefer. Sorry, “The Galaxy is Ours”.
What do you think of this edition of Tuesday Top 10? Leave a comment or tweet me up @FearlessRiOT with your opinion or even to suggest a topic for a future edition! See you later this month for My Top 20 DCOMs list.