Thursday, October 12, 2006

The "Disney Era" of Teen Stardom

The current era of teen stars (the "Disney era" for lack of a better term) was trailblazed by Hilary Duff. The career path of trying to simultaneously launch successful careers in both singing and acting is the path followed by virtually all of the teen stars today. Hilary even tried to simultaneously launch/carry on legitimately successful careers as a TV star, a movie star, and a music star. Well, we see she hasn't been too successful at any 3 of those, not since Lizzie was cancelled at least, but she's made a boatload of money for Disney, and they're gonna squeeze whatever they can out of their current crop.

The realization Disney came to is that youth love their favorite stars in a different way than adults do. When an adult loves a star, say Reese Witherspoon, they love the body of the work of that star, maybe find her attractive, but don't tend to get too emotionally attached. Kids on the other hand LOVE not just the work of the star, but the actual star him/her self. They are gonna follow whatever that star does, no matter how awful it is. That realization is what causes Disney to exploit and overexpose all of their current stars, and in some cases to just poach stars from other networks (e.g. Corbin Bleu). Don't forget that Nick blatantly ripped them off by founding their own Nickelodeon record label and putting out show soundtracks sung by the stars on it. E.g. The Drake and Josh soundtrack sung by Drake Bell and Emma's Unfabulous soundtrack. But it seems to me that of all the singing/acting teen stars, none of them are really good at both. Here's a noncomprehensive list:

Hilary Duff - A good actress, and I've defended her voice before, but it's not a great voice. It's just a voice that has had a lot of great songs written for it. Would she be more successful in the mainstream now if not for overexposure/teen pop? I dunno.

Lindsay Lohan - A really great, underrated actress. I think her two albums were OK, but they certainly didn't meet to any kind of great success. I do think she has a lot of personality and charm as a singer and as an actress, which makes her a rare, welcome exception. Yet the fact remains that her singing career was essentially a flop.

Brie Larson - What personality and liveliness as a singer. A great writer! Seemingly impossible not to love! Yet wooden, and not good, as an actress.

Miley Cyrus - I believe my opinions on her acting AND singing are well known by now.

Aly & AJ - Alyson Michalka is a great actress, but a robotic singer. AJ Michalka is a terrible actress but a great singer. So together they are great at both!

JoJo, Emma Roberts, Sara Paxton - The three main stars of Aquamarine. JoJo is a good singer, but if her work in Aquamarine is any forecast for the future, might not have a long career as an actress. Emma R my opinions are known on. Sara Paxton (star of Darcy's Wild Life) is pretty good as a singer and an actress, but not great as either (at least in my opinion).

Ashlee Simpson - Good as a singer, great songs and lyrics. Why, oh why, did she feel the need for that stint on Seventh Heaven? Suffice to say, not a good actress, at least not judging by that yardstick.

Ashley Tisdale/Vanessa Ann Hudgens/Zac Efron/Lucas Grabeel: The stars of High School Musical. All the singers were good enough for what the movie required (wait, except Efron I guess), but none are great singers. Not likely to have long music careers, unless they turn out to be killer songwriters, or hire the best ones anyways. All four, except Vanessa, are good actors.

Almost all of the other Disney stars have at least SOME songs (Christy Carlson Romano, back in the day, Anneliese Van Der Pol, Raven, etc.)

Disney actresses who don't sing:
Brenda Song
Kay Panabaker (obligatory Kay P reference)
Jamie Lynn Spears is on Nick, close enough (though a forthcoming singing career seems really likely)

American teen pop stars who don't act:
Jonas Brothers
Hope Partlow
(Jesse McCartney was on Summerland)

Seriously, the incidence is so high it's scary. So I guess the reason such a low percentage of them are good at both, and none appear to be legitimately great, is that the kids are being forced to go into both even when they are only any good at one. This fleshes out and hopefully explains better some stuff I've been talking about on the Rolling Teenpop thread lately. Let me know if I'm missing anybody/anything obvious up above.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with much of what you said, but I think Lucas and Alyson are great at both acting and singing. I don't see how Alyson is robotic, unless you're referring to her more limited range than AJ's. Lucas hasn't had an opportunity to showcase his singing like Ashley, Corbin, and Vanessa, but he seems the most musically gifted, and was perfect as Sharpay's brother.

Vanessa has a very nice voice, with good vibrato and range (especially compared to Ashley's), but her album was so rushed that she ended up with bad material. Hopefully on her next album she'll get the big gun producers like Ashley's getting.

6:05 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

You know, Lucas Grabeel was the one person from HSM that caused me to pause when I was writing this, but I went ahead with it anyways. He IS a great actor (based, at least on HSM and H'town 4) but I just haven't heard enough of his singing yet to say he's great. And what I HAVE heard, from HSM, qualifies I'd say as "pretty good" but not "great". I really didn't like Vanessa's acting in HSM. Her singing was OK but a bit thin, and I didn't like her album at all, though like you say it was seriously rushed.

As far as Aly is concerned, I was referring to her limited range, and from what I've seen of her live performances, she doesn't really seem very comfortable on stage. She's another person who I put as "great" at acting, but maybe just "pretty good" at singing. And her personas are so different as an actor and singer anyways!

9:12 AM  
Anonymous ^^anonymous/Lauren said...

I agree about Vanessa acting; it was painful to watch. Thankfully it's the kind of movie you love just because of how cheesy it is, so making fun of her delivery in the "just like kindergarten" scene or trying to find when she isn't smiling is part of the fun.

Yeah, V got old fast for me. None of the songs are catchy enough to be singles. Vanessa only had two weeks to put together the album, and was stuck with two covers of already bland pop songs ("Let Go" and "Whatever Will Be"), so perhaps we'll see more of the infectious original pop material Disney's artists are known for churning out on her second album. Ashley Tisdale has until February to release her album, and has some of the same big name producers Hilary worked with contributing material, so Headstrong should be good, even though her voice is terrible and nasally and flat (check out some HSM tour clips on youtube). Maybe Disney try to even out her lacking vocal talent by giving her an advantage over Vanessa. It'll be interesting to see whether these HSM actors who are now teen sensations have staying power in the business.

I watched Aly's performance of Greatest Time of Year at the Grove and noticed what you said about her being less comfortable on stage. Hopefully she'll improve in that area since I have a feeling the sisters are going to be making great music for awhile.

I love your blog because I'm an older Disney fan too (18)!

5:15 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks for the kind words, Lauren.

I too am extremely interested in the Ashely Tisdale album. It seems like they are going to be pushing Ashley Tisdale as their big, "signature star" like Hilary Duff and Raven Simone used ot be. So I think they are going to put a lot behind that album.

And yeah, it's not like Aly's problems with singing are unfixable, especially with how comfortable she seems to be as an actress. She says she prefers singing to acting but I refuse to believe that's true.

8:52 AM  

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