various artists,
High School Musical
(Walt Disney, 2006)

There is a certain amount of predictability to High School Musical, as would be expected with the words "high school" in the title. Stereotypes abound with jocks, nerds, etc. And, true to form, the characters that fit in these stereotypes have inner qualities/interests that would set them apart from their social group.

But again, this is about high school, so for anyone over the age of 20, there shouldn't be too many surprises. Clearly the target demographic for this album is the just-before-high-school/"tween" crowd, but there is one surprise -- even adults may like this album (well, at least some of it).

The songwriters have clearly done their homework regarding musicals and Broadway stage productions. You have the sing-speak (overlapping spoken words with chorus vocals) that have been used previously in productions like Rent and A Chorus Line. The sneakers scooting on the gym floor, dribbling basketballs, swishing nets and blowing whistles in "Get'cha Head in the Game" are certainly reminiscent of Stomp. And of course it wouldn't be a teenage musical if it didn't throw in a nod or two to West Side Story.

While most of the cast gives an adequate performance, Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay) and Lucas Gabreel (Ryan) are the stand-out vocalists on this album. Their rendition of "What I've Been Looking For" is superior to the reprise later performed by the stars, showing they have better range and control. And in "Bop to the Top," their vocals do a nice job of matching the youthful exuberant pace of the music.

This album takes the route of predictability, but at least does it in an entertaining manner. The songs are more "catchy" than expected. "Stick to the Status Quo" risks being trite and cliched, but scoots by (just barely). The love songs are tacked on with angsty emotion, but again, this is about high school so it goes with the territory.

So, is High School Musical a bit heavy on the saccharine? Yes, but not to the point of being treacly. This album is a step above bubble-gum pop and achieves more than most made-for-TV musicals do. Don't be surprised if you're unexpectedly humming a tune or two from this album.

by C. Nathan Coyle
13 May 2006

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