From head-bopping anthems like “Get’cha Head In The Game” to weird numbers like “Bop to the Top,” High School Musical songs continue to slap sixteen years later.
You Can’t Help But Sing Along to the High School Musical Soundtrack
If you happened to be a preteen in 2006, you probably caught High School Musical fever.
You bought the merch. You learned the choreography. And you definitely knew all the words to “We’re All In This Together.” Singing it through the house, much to the mortification of your cooler, My Chemical Romance-obsessed siblings.
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Disney doubled up on the success of the first movie to produce two sequels within two years, High School Music 2 and High School Musical 3: Senior Year, respectively. Each adaption was accompanied by an unquestioningly catchy album that landed on the Billboard summit each year.
The movies were so successful, Disney relaunched the franchise in 2019 with a TV series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Show—talk about a mouthful!
The trilogy follows the lives of a high school class from junior to senior year. The iconic music undoubtedly provided the inspiration for many graduation mix tapes over the last sixteen years.
The original movies follow basketball star Troy Balton (Zac Efron), sweetheart Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), and their friends as they overcome high school stereotypes and teen melodrama through the power of, uh, song and dance.
The young cast saw the movie’s success kickstart many careers. The performance of Zac Efron, Ashley Tisdale, and Vanessa Hudgens drew particular acclaim.
With the TV series set to debut its third season in 2023, we decided to take a walk down memory lane and see if the original musical numbers are as good as we remember.
The High School Musical Trilogy at a Glance
The original High School Musical soundtrack features an ensemble of fresh-faced singers that feel underdeveloped at some parts.
Supporting actress Ashley Tisdale was the powerhouse whereas lead actor Zac Efron did very little singing initially, with Drew Seeley providing vocals for Troy Balton in the first film. Fortunately, Efron and his castmates improve throughout the entire trilogy, offering a broad selection of bops and a few odd eggs.
Ranking the East High Music
Here’s every High School Music song ranked from worst to best:
Does anyone even remember this number? Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) are the series’ best singers but not even they can make this song likable—and that may have been the point. (Remember, Sharpay was the films’ antagonist while Ryan was her pseudo-henchman twin brother.)
Between a petrified Troy Bolton and the potentially culturally insensitive lyrics, this song is too weird to like, even in a movie about musical theater.
31. “Senior Year Spring Musical”
Between a larger budget and a cinematic release, High School Musical 3: Senior Year is visually the superior movie. Musically, however, its soundtrack has more misses than hits.
This is the only song in the movie that shouldn’t have had an official cut. It essentially recaps everything you’ve already heard on the album without so much as a fun remix to spice things up.
30. “When There was Me and You”
The first High School Musical movie left the biggest impression, but this ballad by Hudgens’ character Gabriella has to be the weak link.
Vocally, Hudgens just wasn’t up to the task. It doesn’t help that the subsequent films feature semi-identical ballads about Gabriella and Troy on the cusp of breaking up.
29. “All For One”
It’s not an HSM movie without a big musical number at the end.
“All For One” was the ideal preteen summer song: A colorful backdrop, fun costumes, easy-to-learn choreography, and even a surprise cameo of Miley Cyrus at the height of her Hannah Montana fame.
It was the perfect end to High School Musical 2. Turns out it’s pretty grating to our adult ears. Maybe this is what our parents heard all along, but the cast’s vocals don’t mesh as well as they should.
28. “Right Here, Right Now”
We get it. Gabriella and Troy are in love. Disney Channel had kids hooked on their melodrama, but there were one too many love songs featuring the two.
It’s nice to hear Zac Efron belt out notes and Vanessa Hudgens’ pitch improve, but this song doesn’t add anything to the album, much less to the movie’s plot.
27. “Walk Away”
To continue our previous point, Hudgens’ ballad in the final movie was the same old, same old. It underperforms compared to her solo in the second film and plays it too safe to leave much of an impression.
26. “Just Wanna Be With You”
One of the more forgettable songs, “Just Wanna Be With You” opens with the excellent vocal strengths of Lucas Grabeel’s Ryan before transitioning into another duet between Efron and Hudgens.
Objectively speaking, it’s not a bad song. Even so, we can’t help but feel that this number should’ve been Grabeel’s. Though his character gets his dues by the end of High School Musical 3: Senior Year, he deserved more character development and at least a solo to call his own.
25. “What I’ve Been Looking For (Reprise)”
Gabriella and Troy’s romance was one of the best parts of the original movie and this particular song was a pivotal moment in their love story. The stars’ chemistry is genuine as it comes, never mind Zefron’s lip-syncing.
That said, it’s one thing to watch them “sing” and another to listen to it.
Their version of “What I’ve Been Looking For” is a sweet tune about young love, but it lacks much of the pizzaz the High School Musical songs are remembered for.
If you’ve never watched High School Musical, then you’ve never had to sit through Troy Balton’s testosterone-fueled, basketball-themed solos.
Despite that descriptor, his singles are more enjoyable than his co-star’s. Efron’s vocals improve tremendously by the third film, but, unfortunately, this song doesn’t showcase his talent as well as it should.
The best thing about this song is its music video. Very obviously inspired by NSync’s “Bye, Bye, Bye,” the director had fun with HSM3’s increased budget.
23. “High School Musical”
The titular song, “High School Musical” says goodbye to East High with one last group performance.
This song is one of the better numbers from the third movie. It highlights the respective talents of the entire cast and sends off their characters with a big, sappy smile.
Though it’s not as fun nor as memorable as other songs, it does reaffirm the franchise’s prevailing message about accepting oneself. The music video even comes full circle, cheekily revealing the entire trilogy to be, well, a school musical!
22. “What I’ve Been Looking For”
Rhinestone-crested and aggressively sparkly, Tisdale as Sharpay is arguably the trilogy’s best vocalist. Before Troy and Gabriella have their moment, this song in the first High School Musical movie demonstrates Sharpay’s confidence as a singer.
Simply put: She’s good. Maybe even better than either Troy or Gabriella (blasphemy, we know.)
21. “Now or Never”
Both High School Musical 2 and 3 open with a big number. “Now or Never” brought us full throttle into the final film in the best way it knows how—through basketball.
(For a trilogy about musical theater, there’s a shocking amount of songs set on a basketball court.)
“Now or Never” sets up high stakes and it pays off for the most part. However, the song would’ve ranked higher if it didn’t shoehorn an impromptu duet between Troy and Gabriella.
20. “Stick to the Status Quo”
Although iconic to the series, “Stick to the Status Quo” doesn’t hold up as well vocally as we hoped.
The lyrics come off as a little too cartoonish, even for a Disney Channel Original Movie. To add, listening to students discuss their extracurricular activities as if it’s such a big deal to cook or play the cello makes Troy’s dilemma about singing and dancing fairly trivial.
High School Musical 2 brings its plot to a close with a tender duet. Compared to some of their other moments, “Everyday” lends well to both Troy and Gabriella’s vocal talents. Both leads shined in their respective solos in this film, so it was a treat to see how well they actually mesh when it’s Efron sans lip sync.
The only downside is how dated the lyrics feel. Is there such a thing as too much optimism in a 2000s musical?
18. “Bop to the Top”
“Bop to the Top” has no right to be as enjoyable as it is.
Tisdale and Grabeel are unapologetically ridiculous throughout. What should be a trainwreck somehow turned out to be a rather good song in retrospect. The movies would eventually give these two characters their just desserts but “Bop To The Top” could’ve been a real show-stopper with enough initiative.
17. “You Are the Music In Me” (Troy & Gabriella’s Version)
Speaking of good Troy and Gabriella duets, “You Are the Music In Me” is one of the best in the series.
Narratively, it’s a direct callback to the two students’ hesitant rendition of “What I’ve Been Looking For.” Musically, it’s better.
With Zac Efron actually singing himself, Hudgens sounds more mature and not quite as nasally. The song also reaffirms what makes this couple quite so lovable.
16. “I Want It All”
Tisdale’s Sharpay and Grabeel’s Ryan return in High School Musical 3: Senior Year for their third and last duet, “I Want It All.”
Although their character development is minimal compared to the story’s leads, the siblings’ big personalities shine bright in this big number. It delivers the same charm as “Bop To The Top” but with more drive, energy, and a musical score that emphasizes the actors’ vocal abilities.
15. “You Are the Music in Me” (Sharpay’s Version)
Tisdale carries this song as Efron’s character is left flabbergasted, conflicted, and probably a little embarrassed.
Once more, Tisdale is a force of nature. She doesn’t shy away from upstaging her co-star, though Efron is clearly up to the task when he does contribute.
If the movies had only played down Sharpay’s obsession with Troy Bolton, then these two may have had a better duet in the third film.
14. “We’re All In This Together” (Graduation Mix)
The High School Musical franchise pays homage to its roots in this heartfelt rendition of the first movie’s final number.
This version isn’t what we’ve come to expect from their group performances. It sets a more mature tone that, retroactively, may have been out-of-touch with its middle school-aged audience. It nonetheless felt very appropriate for the film’s final moments, signifying the end of an era and the diverging paths of the trilogy’s characters.
13. “The Boys Are Back”
Corbin Bleu and Zac Efron’s number in the final HSM movie is charming if a little cheesy.
Sans a basketball court, Bleu and Efron’s characters take to dancing around a junkyard to solidify their friendship. In other words, “The Boys are Back” is a song about dudes being bros. What’s not to love?
Plus, both singers seem to enjoy themselves and its choreography is one of the more imaginative sequences in the series.
12. “Gotta Go My Own Way”
High School Musical 2 is arguably the best of the trilogy. From start to finish, its soundtrack delivers some of the finest vocal performance its entire cast has to offer, Vanessa Hudgens included.
Supported by Efron, Hudgens’ Gabriella in “Gotta Go My Own Way” is nothing short of mesmerizing.
The song has a stronger lyrical foundation. Whereas her ballad in the first movie came off as fairly juvenile, “Gotta Go My Own Way” is a more realistic take on the growing pains of high school romances and the importance of independence in a relationship.
11. “Can I Have This Dance”
High School Music 3: Senior Year delivers a true Disney-esque love song between Troy and Gabriella. They even throw in a rain machine, a rooftop waltz, and a romantic backdrop for good measure.
Fans had three movies over three years to root for this couple. If “Can I Have This Dance” was anything short of dreamy, then there would’ve been a lot of angry twelve-year-olds.
10. “A Night To Remember”
The East High students decide to put on a play about their senior year in the third film—and what musical during high school would be complete without a song about prom?
“A Night To Remember” perfectly encapsulates the terribly unrealistic but ultimately harmless prom fantasy, supported by an addictive beat and fun choreography.
Arguably the best song of the third movie, the entire cast is at their best. The song can stand on its own with a slightly more mature vibe that contrasts well with the rest of the discography.
9. “Work This Out”
In true Disney fashion, High School Musical is chock-full of songs about optimism and “teamwork makes the dream work” anthems.
While we decided to primarily focus on the music alone, we’ll make an exception for “Work This Out.” Its clever choreography and utensil-led dance break haven’t lost their charm. The song itself is simple and clean fun; it emphasizes the likability of every character (even those whose names we can’t remember) and is reasonably catchy without getting stuck in your head.
8. “Start of Something New”
The original High School Musical opens with a meet-cute on New Year’s Eve. Troy and Gabriella are roped into karaoke and perform the aptly named “Start of Something New.”
Although it’s Drew Seeley behind the mic for Troy Bolton, the immediate chemistry between Efron and Hudgens sets the tone for the entire film. Both the song and its actors deliver a wholesome performance that is sometimes overlooked in the franchise’s legacy.
7. “I Don’t Dance”
Corbin Bleu is fairly underutilized in the trilogy despite having one of the strongest voices. Thankfully, he gets his shining moment alongside Lucas Grabeel in this baseball-themed escapade.
Aside from the exceptional choreography, the song is one of the few selections from this list we could see working outside of a Disney film. If you told us this number came straight out of Broadway, we’d believe you.
6. “What Time Is It”
We get to hear Zac Efron’s real voice for the first time in this one —and it doesn’t disappoint. Whereas “All For One” is rather grating now, “What Time Is It” holds out as a certified summer classic. The entire cast supplies a delightfully electric bop we found ourselves humming to all day long.
5. “Breaking Free”
Okay, who doesn’t remember this number? “Breaking Free” is still one of the best songs on the original High School Musical soundtrack.
Perhaps this is nostalgia talking, but “Breaking Free” is everything a live-action Disney ballad should be. While it can’t shake off its late 2000s gleam, it remains a respectable fan favorite that hasn’t lost an ounce of charm.
4. “Get’cha Head In the Game”
We know what you’re thinking. Another basketball song? Well, yes but “Get’cha Head In The Game” is *the* basketball song.
Between Zac Efron’s charisma and Drew Seeley’s high notes, can you blame us for having this one on repeat? Our only critique is that the producers should’ve stopped at just one basketball-themed performance. There’s no way they could’ve outdone this gem.
To the surprise of no one, Ashley Tisdale’s solo in High School Musical 2 is, ahem, fabulous.
Its lyrics perfectly capture the character’s aggressive likability. She’s musically outrageous in the best way possible without once overdoing it. It’s unfortunate that she didn’t do another solo in the third film. Tisdale obviously has the chops.
2. “Bet On It”
Tisdale’s talents aside, the undisputed title of best solo goes to Zac Efron.
He fully steps out of Seeley’s shadow in the first film to deliver a stellar performance in the second. The song has the right amount of teen angst and hypnotic enthusiasm to make its dance break addictive as hell.
This song is so good, it doesn’t belong in musical theater.
Heck, this could’ve been Efron’s debut single and we’d still be head-bopping along. Sadly, Efron did no such thing.
1. “We’re All In This Together”
“We’re All In this Together” made High School Musical the hit it was—so much so, the actors revisited this bop to support fans during the early days of quarantine!
Sure, the song is cheesy but it works. It’s delightfully optimistic with a catchy bridge and irresistibly wholesome lyrics, further complemented by its choreography. There’s nary a fan out there who doesn’t remember the TV specials of the cast breaking down the steps so their audience could follow along.
“We’re All In this Together” is the best song from High School Musical, hands down.
Final Thoughts on High School Musical and Its Songs
Despite being well over a decade since its conclusion, the original High School Musical trilogy and its iconic music hold up surprisingly well. Between the catchy melodies and the undeniable vocal talents of its cast, it’s no wonder the whole thing had the impact it did.
What do you think? Did we miss off your most beloved long from the series? Share your thoughts and favorite songs in the comments!