The Lemonade Mouth soundtrack is a collection of songs from Disney's latest TV movie starring up-and-coming teen star Bridgit Mendler. It's based on author Mark Peter Hughes' popular book of the same title. And it's about a group of five detention-bound students who end up forming a band so they can give voice to their youthful beliefs and somehow work out their collective teen struggles through song.
The Mouse plus movie plus music equals lots of fans buying lots of products, of course, and this one jumped to No. 4 on Billboard's pop chart its second week of release. There's talk, too, of this fictional act getting its real on and staging a nationwide tour.
"A tour would be amazing," said 18-year-old cast member Adam Hicks. "We're all kind of waiting and hoping."
Speaking of waiting and hoping, what kinds of dreams is Lemonade Mouth stoking?
"Somebody" encourages young listeners to be more than simply invisible: "Can you see me/'Cause I'm right here/ … Oh, we're gonna let it show/ … We were meant to be somebody." Likewise, the Gaga-esque "Determinate" counsels putting fear and sadness behind and, with friends, making the world what you want it to be. "You and me together!/We can make it better!"
Following that general theme, "Here We Go" continues the cheer for kids being heard and seen ("We're gonna stand up for what we believe in"). "She's So Gone" confirms that a shy girl has become so much more than her shallow ex ever thought she could be ("And I'm stronger than you ever thought I'd be"). Bandmates pledge to support and stand by one another on "More Than a Band."
"Life feels like a string of cloudy days" until a "Breakthrough" encourages turning the page. The album's bonus track compares the things of life to "Livin' on a High Wire."
Even though the opening track sports a sunny "Turn Up the Music" bounce, it also pessimistically suggests that music is about all kids have: "We're just tryin' to get through/ … When we're stuck and can't get free/No matter what, we'll still be singing/ … Turn up the music/It's all we got." Another ambiguous line early in the song advises, "So let's mess around/'Cuz the future is unclear."
The hip-hopper "And the Crowd Goes" puffs up its pop-rebel chest with, "When we break the rules, They bend for us/ … What do you expect/Yeah we deserve it." We also get a big dose of teenage braggadocio: "I'm a superstar and I got cool car/And the girls like me better than whoever you are." Similarly, "Don't U Wish U Were Us" starts with "My girl is hotter than your girl" and continues to spouts its rather obnoxious anti-loser anthem from there.
"Here We Go" has some great positive messages … and a bit of chip-on-the-shoulder attitude: "We're motivated/We're aggravated/We're dedicated/So, now you're barricaded/ …Willpower/No consideration/We will devour."
From a purely musical point of view, the 10 bouncy soundtrack songs of Lemonade Mouth sound like well-produced, Disney-buffed copies of today's pop and light rock chart-toppers. Even the most casual listener will recognize familiar-sounding Lady Gaga- and Katy Perry-like song hooks.
Fortunately—to paraphrase those old detective movies—most of the lyrics have been changed to protect the innocent. Instead of the heavily sexualized themes omnipresent in pop music today, these tunes generally belt out the tried-and-true Disney messages about building your self-esteem, standing by your pals and following your dreams.
But those aren't the only messages here. The album's biggest problem is the way it leans on the pursuit of fame as a the primary response to youth's inevitable insecurities and unmet desires. On "Somebody," for instance, we hear, "We will walk out of this darkness/Feel a spotlight glowin' like a yellow sun." More of the same shows up on "Determinate": "Hate to feel this way/ … I gotta get myself onstage."
That approach to life is all too often the weakest link in Disney's current teen star-making formula. And it's especially pronounced here. Why improve your world through hard work and a caring heart when you can just wow the wild and screaming masses with your dazzling smile and rock-'n'-roll radness?