Making household names out of its cast -- not to mention lots and lots of money -- High School Musical was too successful not to spawn a second installment. While the original movie had a surprising amount of personality and sweetness, as well as songs that actually sounded like they could have appeared in a high-school musical, its glitzy sequel feels more like High School Musical: The Ride. Likewise,High School Musical 2's soundtrack is louder and brasher, operating under the principle that turning up the volume will distract from the fewer, and less inspired, songs here. Disney found more stories to tell about Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, Ryan, Chad, and Taylor, and more songs for them to sing -- High School Musical 2's plot revolves around summer vacation, a love triangle, and, of course, a talent show -- but this soundtrack feels a lot closer to Radio Disney than show tunes. "Gotta Go My Own Way," a bittersweet duet between Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, features the gentle beats and acoustic guitars that have been mainstays of teen pop ballads since the late '90s. The shift to an even more conventional, pop-friendly sound isn't really surprising, especially considering that nearly all of High School Musical's stars released solo albums in the wake of the movie's success. That includes Ashley Tisdale, who returns as thwarted musical theater queen Sharpay and is the soundtrack's star. A childhood musical theater veteran herself, Tisdale's chirpy, slightly saccharine voice is perfect (and sometimes, perfectly annoying) on songs like "Fabulous," a piece of diva-tastic pop that could also appear on the soundtrack to My Super Sweet 16. However, her turn on the Polynesian-flavored "bonus" track "Humuhumunukunukuapua'a" crosses the line from cute to far too cutesy, and could be the final straw for listeners past their early teens. A few of High School Musical 2's songs balance story and character-intensive lyrics with memorable melodies as nimbly as the original movie's music did, including "Work This Out," which finds the gang livening up their summer jobs, and "I Don't Dance," which turns big-band brass, a melody borrowed from Prince, and a stomp section into a jock jam. Meanwhile, "You Are the Music in Me" is a big, sweeping love song that sounds fairly funky and young while nodding to show tune traditions. High School Musical 2's lack of inspiration really shows on its bigger numbers: the soundtrack closes with "Everyday" and "All for One," two wannabe rousing songs that blend into one big, bland singalong. While it suffers from a bit of sequel-itis, the soundtrack isn't outright bad; too much is at stake for Disney for it to be terrible. High School Musical 2 is big, bright, and energetic. It's tailor-made for kids to sing and dance along with, and they might not notice that it's not quite as fresh or imaginative, relatively speaking, as the original was.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares