Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Overview of Teen TV Theme Songs

I briefly touched on some of these in a previous post on Disney Channel shows, but to flesh out and include the other ones I didn't include in that one, I am going to summarize my thoughts on the theme songs of several of the teen/pre-teen shows discussed here-in. I'm gonna try to minimize repeating what I've said before, so if you're curious what I think of the theme songs to most of the current Disney shows, most of it is integrated within this post which also contains all of my thoughts on the shows in general. This is a non-comprehensive guide featuring basically whatever shows I felt like discussing. So there's going to be a lot of stuff left out. Nevertheless, certainly don't feel scared to leave a comment if you feel I have unjustly excluded my thoughts on a personal favorite of yours.

The most timely show (to this blog, anyways), so I guess I should do it first. I'm pretty sure this song existed prior to the show; there's nothing that really connects the song to the show at all (quick internet research reveals it's "Beautiful Day" by Steve Plunkett but I couldn't really figure out whether it previous existed or not). Oh wait, the song features the phrase "beautiful day", and the show takes place in Southern California, where the weather is oft nice? Come on, let's at least attempt to create some connection between the show and song. Not only that, but the song itself isn't that good. A bit too limp and not quite catchy enough to really work as a TV theme song. I should instantly think of the show when I hear the song!
YouTube: Summerland

Phil of the Future
I know I have mentioned this before, and I know my opinion of this song is already noted on the sidebar for all to see, but it quite simply cannot be mentioned enough times. The Phil of the Future theme song is quite possibly not just the worst TV theme song of all time, but the worst song of all time period. You know that when *I* think a pop song goes too far, it's too far off the rails and too cheesy, that it's really hit something special. What absolutely horrible guitar, I don't like the singer at all, and the melody is just far too much. A fairly insignificant stain on an otherwise great show.
YouTube: I really wish I could find it. Somebody help please. I was able to find 50 montages of Phil and Keely moments set to popular songs.

Totally awesome. Like all the music on the show, this was written by Jill Sobule, who I previously only knew from her minor 90's cult hit "I Kissed a Girl". And I only knew that song because VH1 used to play the video, and they only played the video because it featured Fabio, and thus it was entertaining to make fun of. In any event, contrary to expectation, the song is NOT performed by Emma Roberts (Jill herself performs it), even though she does sing all the songs on the show itself. And there's not even a full-length version, at least that I'm aware of. Emma Roberts' album, which was entitled Unfabulous and More and purported to be a soundtrack of sorts to the show, did not have any version of this song. And you know what, I'm OK with that. Like a lot of other great TV themes, what makes it so great is that it seems like a fully formed song as it is. It's like a mini-suite condensed into 45 seconds! OK, I'd like to see what could be done with this song in a full length version, but it's still totally awesome as is. One of my top 20 or so all-time favorite TV themes.
YouTube: Unfabulous <-- bad sound quality and features Spanish language voiceover at the end, but it's all I could find.

Lizzie McGuire
A pretty good pop song. Nothing too special, it actually kind of has the same problem as the Summerland theme in that it seems a bit too limp and forgettable to be a theme song. I actually had to find the video on YouTube to even really remember how it went. Also it has nothing to do with the show. But why isn't it done by Hilary? If Lizzie McGuire were released today, this song would have been performed by Hilary Duff, it would have had tricked out teen production behind it, and it would have been released to Radio Disney a month before the show even aired. Also Lizzie would have had a twin or something. Interesting to see how the progression of Disney theme songs have gone. Now all of the theme songs are highly memorable pop songs, even if some of them are terrible. But the previous generation of huge Disney hit shows, Lizzie and Even Stevens had fairly bland and forgettable theme songs. I highly doubt too much thought went into the creation of them. Interesting.
YouTube: Lizzie McGuire

Kim Possible
I don't generally talk about animated shows on this blog, but this has to be mentioned because it is, I believe, the turning point in the continuum of theme songs mentioned in the write-up above. The theme song to this is "Call Me, Beep Me", and it was performed by Christina Milian, a legitimate recording artist! As my memory serves, this was the first of the Disney Channel series theme songs that they really heavily promoted. It was quickly released as a full length song, it got a lot of Radio Disney plays, the music video of it played CONSTANTLY on the channel, etc. It was probably with this song that the Disney people realized they could make a pretty decent turnaround of money on these theme songs. As to the theme itself, it's a pretty good song on it's own terms, but kind of silly to have as the theme song to a kid's cartoon. It features the words Kim Possible and that's the only thing it remotely has to do with the show. It doesn't even really sound like a theme song, it sounds like a Radio Disney hit song. But a good Radio Disney hit song.
YouTube: Kim Possible

Zoey 101
Oh, Zoey 101. I know I've said a lot of bad things about this show in the past--bad things that I will totally stick behind--, but to give credit where credit is due, the show has a good theme song. It's sung by Jamie Lynn Spears, who also stars in the show of course, and she's a good pop singer. She still as far as I know has not enacted on a pop career, but I hope she does, because she really does seem to be a good singer of these types of songs. Her career can start with a full length version of this theme song, which I'm pretty sure would be a good song. As it stands, the shortened version is OK, it just needs a bit more oomph.
YouTube: Zoey 101

I'll talk about Hannah Montana later, when I review the soundtrack album. The other current shows all have really boring theme songs that I don't have anything to say about. As for the older stuff, the only one that has a theme song that I really love was Pete and Pete and so much has correctly been written about how amazing that theme song is, that there's no reason for me to repeat it. Boy Meets World holds what may be an all time sitcom record as it had, I believe, 4 different theme songs over the course of its run, and they were all terrible and forgettable. Anyways, the real point of this post was to note that the Unfabulous theme song is amazing and that the old Disney original series had stupid theme songs, and I think I've accomplished that. In fact it only took one sentence to accomplish that, so maybe this post wasn't so worthwhile at all...

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Blogger Dave said...

Only one I'd add is Trollz "It's a Hair Thing" by the Valli Girls. Skye's done some pretty good theme songs ("Wayside High," "Radio Free Roscoe") and one-offs like "Just the Way I Am" for the Buzz on Maggie Disney cartoon.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Ha, never heard this Trollz before but I like it a lot. Then again if we are digging into children's cartoons I'd have certainly included Earthworm Jim, which is about as much of a self-contained mini-suite as a theme song can possibly be. I also dig the theme song to Disney's new cartoon The Replacements, which as an odd kind of indie-pop feel to it.

The funny thing is, I've actually seen a few episodes of RFR, and while the show was nothing special, I have always liked the theme song. Never knew it was by Skye.

Head smacking omission from my post was "Darcy's Wild Life" (no YouTube), though in my defense, I was really only considering Disney and Nick shows, I didn't even think of the ancilliary networks. It makes me so sad that there's no YouTube because it really needs to be heard to be believed. A girl raptheme song to a teen show! Oh man, it totally rocks. Even better than the Unfabulous theme.

Also want to close unnecessarily long comment by noting that while I do and always will believe that the "Phil of the Future" theme song is excruciatingly bad as a SONG, I am starting to come around on the idea that it's a totally genius THEME SONG. It's instantly recognizable, insanely catchy, and totally sums up the concept of the show in a succinct manner. The fact that it's a terrible song itself is almost immaterial.

6:59 PM  

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