Should Have Been Bigger: Vanessa Hudgens’ “Say OK”
Vanessa Hudgens was poised to become pop’s next princess in 2006. After winning the hearts of fans across the globe in Disney’s High School Musical earlier that year, the budding superstar unveiled her debut album, V. By then, she had already soared into the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 alongside co-star and then-boyfriend Zac Efron on the iconic “Breaking Free,” so she was no stranger to the charts. And it seemed like a safe bet that she would fly even higher as she prepared for world domination. The diva stayed in familiar territory on the LP. She packed it with tightly produced bops and buoyant midtempos including the lead single “Come Back To Me.”
And things were off to a strong start. The sugary anthem broke into the Top 20 on Billboard’s Pop Songs chart and performed similarly well across the globe. However, things slowed down as Baby V turned her attention to “Say OK” in 2007. The earnest cut sees the hitmaker pleading for honesty and support as she settles down with a lover. “When it’s not alright, when it’s not OK, will you try to make me feel better,” she coos on the chorus. “Say that it’s gonna be alright. That it’s gonna be OK. Don’t run away,” she adds over the gentle production. The pristine cut seemed like a step forward as she began toying with more serious themes and highlighted her compelling voice.
In the accompanying video, Vanessa hits the bowling alley with her girlfriends and meets up with a potential fling, played by none other than Zac. Serving some looks that defined the early millennium, the pair adorably canoodled in several locales. Of course, things ended happily as they walked out into the ocean hand-in-hand. Campy and carefree, it was another win. But, the odds were not in her favor. “Say OK” failed to crack the Top 40 on the Pop Songs chart and only peaked at number 61 on the Hot 100. The middling success of her solo material brought an end to her V era, leaving several should-be hits sitting on the tracklist (justice for “Let’s Dance,” which was also destined for the charts).
That didn’t hold the hitmaker back. Later that year V and Zac climbed the charts with two songs from the High School Musical 2 soundtrack. And she returned with a vengeance in 2018. Ahead of the release of the third movie from the HSM franchise, she dropped her sophomore LP, Identified. She kicked off the project with the cult classic, “Sneakernight.” Alas, it was not meant to be. After the banger failed to pick up on the charts, it seemed like Vanessa’s solo career was coming to a screeching halt. She brought the era to a close without releasing any other singles and has not released another solo album since.
Things are looking up though. In recent years, the underrated icon has begun toying with music once again. In 2017, 10 years after “Say OK” failed to reach its full potential, she leant her voice to Shawn Hook’s “Reminding Me.” She also duetted with old friend and HSM co-star Ashley Tisdale on an acoustic version of Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s.” I stan. And this week, she’s coming back at us bigger and better than ever before as she links up with Phantoms on their new single, “Lay With Me.” With any luck, her comeback will be well received and will lead to a new album’s worth of solo material. You’d best believe that I’ll never give up hope. While we wait to hear “Lay With Me,” revisit Baby V’s “Say OK” below!