The High School Musical soundtrack was so popular that it was inevitable that all of the stars of the Disney Channel phenomenon would release albums of their own. Ashlely Tisdale, who played Sharpay Evans, the queen of her high school's theater department, became the first female artist to debut with two singles on Billboard's Hot 100 at the same time, so expectations were high for Headstrong, her first post-High School Musical work. Unfortunately, Tisdale had more character singing in character as Sharpay: her voice is pleasant enough, but it's not especially distinctive, and she's not helped by a batch of songs that aren't nearly as charming as High School Musical's tunes. Attempting to give Tisdale an identity outside of High School Musical, Headstrong's sound is much more mature than the soundtrack's teen pop-meets-musicals vibe, incorporating heavy hip-hop beats, dancehall's call-and-response, Middle Eastern elements, and other mid-2000s pop music trends into the Disney pop sound. "Positivity"'s syncopated beats and old-school synths make it one of the best examples of this approach, and one of the best songs on the album. Gwen Stefani's hip-pop is another major influence, especially on "Headstrong" itself, which mixes and matches slinky verses with cheerleadery, "Hollaback Girl" choruses. At times, Headstrong's songs reflect that Tisdale is a little older than some of her Radio Disney peers, but at other times that fact is ignored: "He Said She Said" features a hard-hitting beat and backing vocals that sound like Kidz Bop; "Not Like That" has Tisdale singing, "I'm the kind of chick that hits spots/In my flip-flops/Listenin' to hip-hop." A few straightforwardly catchy tracks make up for missteps like the mopey ballad "Unlove You" and "Suddenly," which seems to be about Tisdale discovering her own stardom. "Goin' Crazy" sounds a lot like Britney Spears' "Drive Me Crazy," and "Over It" is a pretty typical angry breakup song, but they both deliver some much-needed hooks. Headstrong isn't as winning as either High School Musical or Hannah Montana, which is a little surprising considering the high-profile songwriters and producers involved (Diane Warren, Lauren Christy, Scott Spock, Nicolas Molinder, Joacim Persson, and Guy Roche, to name a few). However, it's fine for anyone who just wants to hear more of Ashley Tisdale's -- and not Sharpay Evans' -- singing.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares