WHEN THE SOUNDTRACK TO THE Disney Channel’s High School Musical topped the Billboard 200 on March 11, 2006, it was, to quote the TV movie’s hit song, the “start of something new.”
Thanks to the popularity of the Kenny Ortega-directed film – according to Disney, more than 290 million global viewers watched it between 2006 and 2009 – the album became the first TV soundtrack to reach No. 1 since Miami Vice in 1986.
High School Musical went on to become the year’s best-selling album in the United States, according to Nielsen Music (with 3.7 million copies sold), while the movie spawned two successful sequels – High School Musical 2 in 2007 and the theatrical release High School Musical 3: Senior Year in 2008, which, in turn, produced two more chart-topping soundtracks.
“I’m grateful for every bit of that early success,” actor Zac Efron told Billboard sister publication The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 about his career-launching High School Musical days. (In March 2006, he was just 18.) “It was, hands-down, the most honest, carefree, passionate experience of my life.”
High School Musical also helped clear the path for similarly music-centric shows like Disney’s own Hannah Montana, starring Miley Cyrus, and Fox’s Glee. The former launched on March 24, 2006, just two months after High School Musical debuted, and the latter, in 2009. Like their predecessor, both shows became multimedia franchises that spawned multiple No. 1s on the Billboard 200.
In 2021, High School Musical‘s impact was felt on the charts in a big way again, by way of Olivia Rodrigo, the co-star of the spin-off Disney Channel show, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Her single “Drivers License” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated Jan. 23, 2021.
A version of this article first appeared in the March 14, 2015, issue of Billboard magazine.