Is it always the right time to talk about High School Musical? Bet on it.
But it’s especially apropos today (Oct. 24), because it’s the anniversary of the debut of the third and final film in the franchise, High School Musical 3: Senior Year — the only one to be released in theaters. The upgrade certainly didn’t take away any of the necessary and fun cheese that surrounded the story about a group of high school kids figuring out life, love and musicals.
The soundtrack for the third installment debuted and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 charts Nov. 8, 2008, and was on the chart for 37 weeks.
For Flashback Friday, for all those who got a kick out of it, willingly or against their will, we present a highly subjective ranking of 12 songs that appeared on the High School Musical 3: Senior Year soundtrack. NOTE: We’re basing these rankings not only the actual song, but the performance that accompanied it in the movie. Goofy choreography, this is your moment!
12. Walk Away
Full disclosure: A big problem here is that if we look at all the great Troy and Gabrielle numbers in the franchise, Efron got the (fun!) cheesy straight pop songs, while Disney saddled Hudgens with the “soulful” numbers that tried to move the emotions of the story forward. Unfortunately, those just aren’t as fun to watch, and in this case, it wasn’t particularly catchy either. This was also clearly a try out of sorts for Hudgens’ own solo work, and while the track wouldn’t feel out of place on Radio Disney, it really shouldn’t be anywhere else.
Cheesiest Moment: When Hudgens poses like Michael Jackson at 2:12.
11. A Night to Remember
A bold, forward thinking number that dares to ask: Where does reality end and the fictional musical called life begin? It’s anyone’s guess in this “getting ready for prom” song that is the perfect representation of what a 12-year-old thinks going to prom is like.
Cheesiest Moment: Fifty seconds in, when Efron bursts through a dressing room door and channels John Travolta.
10. Can I Have This Dance?
If you were a preteen when you watched this last, sure, you thought it was a beautiful fantasy of high school. But it’s one of the weaker duets, and the performance is earnest cheesy as opposed to goofy cheesy, which is an unforgivable crime. Also, the latter part of this video spans some kind of space/time continuum that even Stephen Hawking couldn’t explain.
Cheesiest Moment: When it starts raining. Paging Taylor Swift!
9. We’re All in This Together (Graduation Mix)
Sure, the original performance is great and iconic. This slowed-down version was a nice callback in the movie, but doesn’t really stand alone on its own merits.
Cheesiest Moment: “You did it. You graduated.”
8. Now or Never
It’s a bold order to be the lead number from the movie, and while it’s obviously one of the most over the top (Never forget: The game stops so Troy can have a romantic moment with his supportive girlfriend), the high-energy opener is exactly what we wanted from the film. No more, no less.
Cheesiest Moment: 2:04, obviously, when time stands still for love.
7/6. I Just Wanna Be With You/Senior Year Spring Musical
There are like three different versions of this song in the movie, and they are two separate tunes on the soundtrack, but the climactic performance between Tory and Gabriella as part of the “Senior Year Spring Musical” is by far the best. It captures the literal “we’re all in this together” spirit that the entire franchise is trying to thematically (and literally) present.
Cheesiest Moment: “That is Troy Bolton.”
5. Right Here Right Now
High school is ending, and that’s scary. Watch two characters wrestle with change and their own mortality in this plaintive ballad that dares to ask: Is it rude to hang out with your significant other alone while you’re having a party downstairs for friends and family?
Cheesiest Moment: When the treehouse top magically opens and fans see the stars and know that love is real — and it’s in this treehouse tonight.
4. The Boys Are Back
Full disclosure: This song’s high ranking is nearly entirely based on the ridiculous movie scene (the song itself might not be the best). But who can go wrong with a number that takes place in a garage (another Grease reference), includes a “little kid” flashback, and features Bleu and Efron perfectly in sync.
Cheesiest Moment: 2:10 for an elaborate extended dance break with a bunch of people who were just randomly hiding out in cars in a garage at night. Not cause for concern at all!
3. I Want It All
Channeling Madonna and all the pop stars who followed, this duet was a perfect send-off for everyone’s just-this-side-of-totally-inappropriate brother/sister duo. The entire team deserves a shout out for this movie highlight — from costumes to set pieces, the whole routine definitely earned serious rewatch status.
Cheesiest Moment: Imagining yelling greetings to the large crowds at all the cities they’ll visit.
2. High School Musical
The most blatant homage to Grease (more than any other specific moment of the entire franchise-long homage to the classic high school movie), this final number — the curtain call, if you will — embodies joy, and that’s something worth celebrating. Even better, each of the main six actors get their moment in the spotlight. Are you dancing yet? Why aren’t you dancing?
Cheesiest Moment: When they had a literal curtain call, because of course they did.
Not only the greatest moment of the movie, but a strong contender for best of the entire franchise (it’s bested by HSM2’s Efron solo number “Bet on It”). It’s super easy to mock these movies and songs — even their fans are fans likely because of how goofy, cheesy and earnest they are — but respect must be paid to Efron’s total commitment to the role, and the solo numbers he tackles are the best embodiment of that fact.
Cheesiest Moment: An impossible tie to break between when Efron tears down a curtain in the high school cafeteria containing his own photo, and the moment when he freestyle rage dances in the back of a theater. What a world we live in that Efron singing solo in a gym while basketballs rain down on him only cracks top three cheesiest moments.