The Nickelodeon show Victorious is a musically minded teen comedy that follows an aspiring young singer named Tori Vega (played by Victoria Justice). This pretty gal and her wacky but talented pals romp ‘n’ roll week after week in and around their Hollywood Arts High School.
In truth, there’s really not a lot of difference between this stereotypical group of high school friends—from the cool one to the daffy one to the hunky one to the geeky one—and a lot of other teen casts on TV right now. They’re all about youthful silliness, less-than-brilliant choices and growing-up angst. This particular teen gaggle, though, is part of an arts school. Which means there’s at least a halfway good reason for them to break out in song once or twice per episode. And an even better reason to put out a cast soundtrack album.
“Make It Shine” is the Victorious theme song, and well it should be: It pretty much sums up what the TV show is all about. What’s that, you ask? Teens who worry about being invisible but hope and dream of soon making their stardom-earning mark. “You don’t have to be afraid to put your dream in action,” the tune tells us. “You’re never gonna fade/You’ll be the main attraction/ … ‘Cause you know that if you’re livin’ your imagination/Tomorrow you’ll be everybody’s fascination.” That’s not crass or violent or sexual, of course, but it’s not the best message for kids in 2011 either. Not when everything in their world is tugging them toward their 15 minutes of fame.
On the Katy Perry sound-alike “Freak the Freak Out,” Tori blows up at an uncommunicative boyfriend (“I’m so sick of it/Your attention deficit/Never listen, you never listen/I’m so sick of it/So I’m throwing on a fit”). Note that the second “freak” in the title is a not-so-subtle substitute for an intended obscenity. “Beggin’ on Your Knees” seems at first like a “You cheated on me” break-up song. But the singer has payback schemes on her mind: “You mess with me/I’ll mess with her/ … So watch your back/’Cause you don’t know when or where I could get you/ … I’ll have you crawlin’ like a centipede.”
As the title might suggest, “All I Want Is Everything” is a driving, scratch-and-claw cry for stardom. “Too much is not enough,” we hear, “I’m sick of settling for in between/ … We’ll sleep when we’re dead/’Cause halfway kinda sucks.” With a very “Lady Marmalade” sound and feel, “Give It Up” puts the physically aggressive high heel on the other foot as the female singers push a boy to “come a little closer” (“At the end of the night/It’s the same old story/But you never get it right/Give it up … Take a backseat, boy/’Cause now I’m driving”).
In our review of Victorious, Plugged In quoted the show’s producer Dan Schneider as saying, “If there is anything I’ve learned about kids today—and I’m not saying this is good or bad—it’s that they all want to be stars. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice if more of them wanted to be teachers and social workers; it would be. But at least in Victorious, you see a world where they’re all working on the talent part.”
That’s worth bringing up again. And again. And again. Victorious: Music From the Hit TV Show is a collection of ditties showcasing the young cast’s well-rehearsed, clean-sounding vocals, backdropped by catchy tunes that sound like well-produced derivatives of other songs you may have heard resting at the top of the charts lately. And they do have some nice things to say. Songs of love, friendship appreciation and innocent teen crushes cruise through your earbud wires. But like the Nickelodeon show itself, this soundtrack dreams that instant stardom’s gonna get you—all you have to do is imagine it. Oh, and you have to get a bit more aggressive with your amorous relationships too. That’ll help pave the way to a full and rich adulthood.
Let’s put it this way: In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Veruca Salt was cast as a bad egg when she screeched, “Don’t care how, I want it now!” The Victorious cast sings the same song … and they’re the new role models.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.