If you’re a teen girl and you want to work for Disney, you’ve got to have a very specific set of attributes. First, you’ve got to be perky and pretty, but not unapproachably beautiful. (Be like that popular-but-tomboyish girl next door who runs for student council and magically connects with all the different cliques.) Next, you’ve got to have a gift for zany, goofball comedy, because every TV sitcom the Mouse House pumps out is built on cheesy, over-the-top, situation-driven giggles.
Finally, you’ve got to be able to sing, because the suits who oversee these starlets never waste their time, money or vast promotional resources coronating one-dimensional teen queens. Exhibit A: Hillary Duff. Exhibit B: Miley Cyrus. Exhibit C: Selena Gomez. Exhibit D: Demi Lovato.
Exhibit E: Bridgit Mendler. She’s 19. She stars as Teddy on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. And she’s ready for her musical close-up.
In a word: love. “Top of the World” praises its power with, “Close your eyes/Love will take you high/We’ll be sitting on top of the world.” As does the chorus of “Love Will Tell Us Where to Go.” “The Fall Song” compares falling in love to leaves falling from trees. And on “Rocks at My Window,” a lonely young woman looks forward to marriage: “So now I wait for my Prince Charming/But I’ve got this picture in my head/of the chapel for our wedding/So I guess that I’ve got it bad.”
Fighting off a broken relationship, a girl on “Hold on for Dear Love” pleads with her boy to give it one more go (“If we’re not stupid/We’ll both hold on for dear love/Find our way through this/It’s not worth just giving up”). “City Lights” includes something vaguely like a prayer for guidance and affirmation. We hear, “Getting so lost, like a castaway/ … Just a small voice and no one’s listening to me/Ooh, tell me where to go/Tell me that you know/Just how bright I glow.”
“Forgot to Laugh” has Mendler telling a deceptive cad who’s leaving her that she’ll be A-OK by herself: “If it’s goodbye today/Know you’re leaving here empty-handed/’Cause I got my own life.” “All I See Is Gold” recognizes that a guy who looks great on the outside is coldhearted on the inside. “Hurricane” finds a girl receiving encouragement from a supportive boyfriend: “And that’s when you hold me, you hold me/You tell me that you know me, I’ll never be lonely/Say we made it through the storm now.” But …
… in the previous verse the girl confesses, “I’m flopping on my bed like a flying squirrel,” which might be a risky context for the aforementioned cuddling. “Top of the World” praises love, but also arguably indulges in recklessness when Mendler tells a guy, “Let’s risk it all, risk the fall tonight,” a suggestion that takes place in the context of an embrace (“I’m weak in the knees/When you’re holding me close/Got tingling toes tonight/You got me so elevated/You wanna jump?”).
“Love Will Tell Us Where to Go” romantically projects a couple into the roles of infamous outlaws (“It hurts when we’re on our getaway/I’m the Bonnie to your Clyde”). “Ready or Not” compares the singer to a thief (“I’m about to break out/I’m like a crook tonight”) and imagines the “good life” in lavishly materialistic terms (“Livin’ like a fairy tale/We could have a place right next to Oprah/37 cars and a yacht down in Boca”).
On “Forgot to Laugh” Mendler meanly tells her departing ex-guy, “You’re just a punch line/If you go, you’re a joke/I forgot to laugh.” “Blonde” appropriates negative clichés related to that hair color: “I’m a blonde, so excuse me/I’m a blonde, I get crazy/And everybody knows/We’re a little more than fun/I like to play it up like I’m dumb/Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb/’Cause I’m a blonde.” (Mendler may think she’s playfully critiquing the cultural stereotype, but the song could easily be heard as her embracing them instead.)
Disney singers generally love to trumpet the theme of you-can-do-it/don’t-quit/live-your-dream. And a handful of those moments do pop up on Bridgit Mendler’s debut, as do requisite romantic nods to Prince Charming and the glory of love.
That said, the sunny, Disneyfied view of the world dims a bit as she mixes in angst, risky behavior and, occasionally, sharp jabs at departing exes.
But, of course, it’s still Disney-style angst, Disney-style recklessness and Disney-style put-downs. Which is to say that the album is light on despair/wildness/meanness and long on poppy hookage that variously recalls Adele, Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson. Suggestive references are kept to an admirably chaste minimum here, never going beyond holding hands or cuddling.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.