Camp Rock, the Walt Disney Company's deliberately crafted follow-up to its successful television movie High School Musical (2006), the soundtrack for which sold four million albums after the film's premiere on the Disney Channel, is another musical tale about young teens made for pre-teens, this time with a theme that might best be described as Fame goes to summer camp. How one judges the resulting soundtrack album may depend on the context in which the disc is considered. As an album of music for the middle-school set, it is full of catchy pop/rock songs with occasional slight dance and hip-hop elements containing, as the Disney press release puts it, lyrical themes of "believe in yourself," "express yourself," and "be proud of who you are," which may be indicated by such song titles as "Who Will I Be?," "This Is Me," "Here I Am," and "My Time Is Now." The songs are sung by a few Britney Spears wannabes, as well as the Disney-promoted teen group the Jonas Brothers, and they are unfailingly earnest as they sing the empowering, high-self-esteem words. That's all well and good, of course. But even as tween entertainment, one might hope for more than material as contrived and insipid as this. The poor youngsters doubtless will be overwhelmed by the Disney promotional machine that replays the movie endlessly, not only on the Disney Channel, but also on the Disney-owned ABC broadcast network and the ABC Family Channel, and flogs the songs on Disney Radio. The point seems to be less to foster positive self-images among the young than to create what the press release calls another "franchise" for Disney to sell and resell. Then, too, all those "This Is Me" songs, intended to sound so positive, come off as a group like paeans to selfishness and self-aggrandizement. Admittedly, the score itself takes on that issue, giving numbers like "Too Cool" to the "bad" girl played by Meaghan Martin. But it's an awfully thin line between a positive attitude about oneself and rampant egotism, and it's easy even for a grownup listener to get confused. Do the pampered American preteens who sit glued to the Disney Channel really need to be encouraged to be more self-obsessed than they already are? But then, the point here really isn't to make kids feel good about themselves. It's to make them break out their gift cards and spend more money on Disney products.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann