She knows it's coming. With two major motion pictures, a new album and an international mega-tour on tap for 2008, Vanessa Hudgens can sense the approaching cyclone. The media frenzy, the blur of time zones, the roar of the arena crowd: it's all part of the package. But having been around this block before, the 19-year-old singer is more than ready. With her new Hollywood Records CD, Identified, Vanessa Hudgens has matured, revealing a level of sophisticated artistry sure to thrill long-time fans and draw in new fans as well.
Working with A-list songwriter-producers like JR Rotem, Dr. Luke, Tim James & Antonina Armato, Vanessa took unexpected turns on the new album. "This time I did what I wanted to do," she says. "I always had a knack for a more soulful, jazzy sound, so right off the bat I wanted to kind of let loose, and come up with a sound no one has heard from me before." She's not exaggerating. For those familiar with her sweet-toned performances from the "High School Musical" films - which catapulted her to superstardom - or her 2006 debut CD, V, Vanessa has some gritty surprises in store.
Vanessa's first single and video, "Sneakernight," is both fun and funky, and may end up as one of the CD's most enduring hits. Says Vanessa, "Dancing in sneakers makes it all the better. People haven't been able to see that side of me. I can kick butt!"
Identified kicks off with "Last Night," the raucously rhythmic opener featuring Vanessa singing over her own chanted harmonies. "I loved it the minute I first heard it," she says of the song. "It's really intricate and really fun, something you don't hear very often." Best known as a singer and actress, Vanessa is also a superb dancer, so for the new album she raised the stakes with pummeling dance tracks like "Hook It Up," "First Bad Habit" and the hook-laden title track, "Identified."
With "Don't Ask Why," "Don't Leave" and the heartfelt "Paper Cut," there's no shortage of ballads on the album. Vanessa says ballads are her forte. "I like showing the vulnerable side," she notes. "It's a position a lot of girls find themselves in, where love takes control of you and you don't have any control over it."
Songs like "Party on the Moon" and the hip-hop-flavored "Amazed" place Vanessa at the forefront of contemporary pop interpreters.
Vanessa ends the album with "Gone with the Wind," a wistful lament about change in the wake of faded love. The lyrics tell a tale of a confident woman evolving out of the wide-eyed girl of before.
Sound familiar? That's Vanessa Hudgens, who became a household name following her starring role in the smash 2005 made for TV Disney Channel film, "High School Musical." In the years since, in film, music and performance, Vanessa has proven her appeal to both youth and adult audiences.
From the age of eight, the Salinas, CA, native displayed a talent beyond her years. Starting with local productions of popular musicals, Vanessa later moved with her family to Southern California to pursue her dreams. With her 2004 motion picture debut in the critically acclaimed "Thirteen," Vanessa landed roles in "Thunderbirds," as well as TV's "Quintuplets," "Still Standing," "The Brothers Garcia" and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody."
Everything changed with the January 2006 premiere of the Disney Channel movie "High School Musical," in which she starred as Gabriella Montez. The film gathered steam right away, spawning a hit soundtrack, a worldwide concert tour, a show at Walt Disney World and even a book series. It made superstars of Vanessa and her co-star, Zac Efron.
"We had no idea," she says, when asked if she sensed at the time the film would become a cultural phenomenon. "We were just having fun: just kids doing what we love most, and it turned out big."
Vanessa's RIAA certified gold debut CD, V, shipped September 2006, with hit singles like "Come Back To Me" and "Say OK" following soon after. She reprised her role as Gabriella in "High School Musical 2," which premiered on the Disney Channel in August 2007. That same month, Vanessa was named Choice Breakout Singer at the 2007 Teen Choice Awards. She also landed commercial contracts with companies like Neutrogena and Mark Ecko.
As for her acting career, Vanessa is set to star in the highly anticipated "High School Musical 3," which reunites the cast from the first two films. "It's got all of us back in senior year," she says. "It's going to be pretty crazy, with so much more dancing and singing. We're just stepping it up." Vanessa will also co-star in the comedy, "Rock On," alongside Alyson Michalka, Gaelan Connell, and Lisa Kudrow. She plays Sam, a 15-year old high school outcast with an enduring love of music. "It's a fun movie about friendship," says Vanessa. "I got to play a completely different character, one who is downbeat and moodier."
In real life, Vanessa Hudgens couldn't be more upbeat, especially with the release of Identified. Not only does the album affirm her standing in contemporary pop, it points the way for a gifted artist on the ascent. "I'm just really happy and thankful for my fans and the support everyone continues to give me," she says. "I feel I'm at such a great point in life. I hope everyone enjoys my album, because I totally enjoyed making it."