I absolutely adore Vanessa Hudgens.
2005–2008: High School Musical and music
In 2005, Hudgens was cast as Gabriella Montez, one of the lead roles in the Disney Channel Original Movie High School Musical. The film saw Hudgens portraying the new girl at high school who falls for the captain of the basketball team. The two later reveal a passion for singing, and audition for the school play together. Hudgens starred alongside Zac Efron and Ashley Tisdale in the film, the former of which she was partnered up with during the auditioning process due to their “chemistry”.The film, released on January 20, 2006, was both a critical and commercial success. High School Musical was Disney Channel‘s most watched film that year with 7.7 million viewers in its premiere broadcast in the US, until August’s premiere of The Cheetah Girls 2, which achieved 8.1 million viewers. In the UK, it received 789,000 viewers for its premiere (and 1.2 million viewers overall during the first week), making it the second most watched program for the Disney Channel (UK) of 2006. On December 29, 2006, it became the first Disney Channel Original Movie to be broadcast on the BBC. For the film, Hudgens recorded numerous songs which had commercial success. The song “Breaking Free“, a duet with Zac Efron, went on to become Hudgens’ only Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 to date, when it peaked at number 4 on the chart. The song also reached number 9 in the UK, her highest chart entry in the country. Following the success of the film, Hudgens began work on her debut album. The project, later revealed to be titled V, was released on September 26, 2006. The album sold 34,000 copies in its first week of release, and debuted at number 24 on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. In February 2007, the album was certified gold by the RIAA. As of August 2009, the album has sold 570,000 copies in the U.S. It was preceded by two singles, “Come Back to Me” and “Say OK“, both of which were slightly successful in numerous countries. Both singles received heavy promotion on Disney Channel, with the music videos for both premiering on the channel.
In 2007, work on the second film in the High School Musical series began, and Hudgens was confirmed to be returning for the sequel. High School Musical 2 was released on August 17, 2007. The premiere was seen by a total of over 17.2 million viewers in the U.S., which is almost 10 million more than its predecessor, making it the highest-rated Disney Channel Movie of all time. Disney Channel aired a weekly program called Road to High School Musical 2, beginning on June 8, 2007, and leading up to the premiere of High School Musical 2 in August. The show offered viewers a behind-the-scenes look into the production of the movie. The world premiere of the opening number “What Time Is It” was on Radio Disney May 25, 2007, and similarly “You Are The Music In Me” premiered on July 13, 2007. The film was generally well received by critics, gaining a score of 77/100 at Metacritic, while it received a generally mixed response of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. USA Today‘s Robert Bianco awarded the film three stars out of four, saying High School Musical 2 was “sweet, smart, bursting with talent and energy, and awash in innocence”. While critics enjoyed the film, they noted that the timing of the movie’s premiere seemed odd, premiering just when school was about to start up again, while the movie’s plot involved the gang going on summer vacation. High School Musical 2 won the “So Hot Right Now” award at the Nickelodeon Australian Kids’ Choice Awards 2007, in which High School Musical castmate Zac Efron hosted with The Veronicas.
In 2007, Hudgens began work on her second studio album, partly due to the success of the High School Musical franchise. Her second studio album, Identified, was released on July 1, 2008. It sold 22,000 copies in its first week of release, 12,000 less than that of her previous effort. Despite the drop in sales, the album debuted at number 23, one spot higher than V. The album was preceded by one single, “Sneakernight“, which was her lowest performing single in the US to date. It was a success on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart in the US, where it peaked at number 8. Following the commercial failure of the album, it was announced that Hudgens had parted ways with Hollywood Records. Hudgens went on to reprise her role as Gabriella in the 2008 sequel High School Musical 3: Senior Year, the first film from the franchise to be released theatrically. It opened at number one at the North American box office in October 2008, earning $42 million in its first weekend, which broke the record previously held by Mamma Mia! for the biggest opening by a musical. The film finished with $252 million worldwide, which exceeded Disney’s expectations.
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