High School Musical 3: Will It Allow Disney To Get Back In The Music Game?

noah | October 8, 2008 1:00 am

In two weeks, the soundtrack to Disney’s High School Musical 3 will land in stores, the final album in the trilogy of records that helped make adults who didn’t have children realize that the Mouse was still a force to be reckoned with in terms of delivering squeaky-clean pop music to the next generation. But will 3 give a boost to the album chart similar to those bestowed upon it by its two predecessors, which sold four million and 3.3 million copies, respectively?

The Mouse has already started spraying its firehose of promotional power over its boxed-in kiddie demographic: Two songs from the soundtrack are currently in the Radio Disney top five, and last night’s London premiere of the flick was accompanied by reports that UK advance ticket sales had broken records two weeks out from the film’s release. But still, there’s something nagging at me about the soundtrack’s prospects, what with ever-plummeting album sales, the aging of both the High School Musical demographic and the show’s stars, and the brief, unfortunate forays into solo careers by HSM staples Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale. I asked chart guru Chris Molanphy for his thoughts:

Here’s a question: how did “the base” like the songs on HSM2? (I have no idea — I have few tweens in my life right now.) The debut week of an album is typically a referendum on the perceptions of the previous product. For Those About to Rock goes to No. 1 because everyone loved Back in Black; Kid A goes to No. 1 because of the long, slow growth of OK Computer; etc. If HSM2–which sold in a quick burst–is less beloved by the fanbase than HSM was (and I’m not even factoring in kids aging out of the franchise), then HSM3 could surprise on the downside.

Judging by the (pretty unscientific) method of looking at user reviews on Amazon and iTunes, enthusiasm is high (the 3,914 iTunes reviews average four stars; the 94 on Amazon average four and a half), and “You Are The Music In Me” got a pretty big reception when Jess and I went to the High School Musical ice show. So maybe it’s not the songs per se as much as the association kids have with them.

But what I think will be even more of a factor than the music, or the American populace’s incrasing distaste toward buying albums (seriously, even Miley Cyrus is going the cheapo rush-reissue route), or the continued fallout from Hudgens’ misdirected nude shots, even more than is the current economic climate, and how HSM3‘s theatrical release is forcing people who want to see it to head to the local multiplex and plunk down $10, instead of just hunkering down for a night in with the Disney Channel on the tube and some snacks on the coffee table. Sure, Hollywood in particular has been banking on the entertainment industry being “recession-proof” because of their ability to entertain in times of crisis, but the mood of the country is a lot darker now than it was in even August, let alone the relatively frothy moment when High School Musical and sequel No. 1 came out. If tightening belts result in a choice having to be made between the movie and the soundtrack, which will win? Something tells me that it won’t be the item that can be easily picked up via a 10-minute session of hunting around Google for a Rapidshare link, but maybe I’m wrong.