The Rise of the Disney Singing Star

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A successful singer starting out with a Disney contract is not a new concept. See: The Mickey Mouse Club. The program’s 90s revival launched the likes of Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera into career trajectories towards stardom. Today, there is no current iteration of The Mickey Mouse Club, but Disney is still turning out talented singers who are topping charts and entertaining music fans everywhere. These artists are not only enjoyed by the tweens and children from their original fan base, but have taken over popular radio and now appeal to millions of older listeners.

Miley Cyrus became known to most of the world as Hannah Montana on Disney’s hugely popular show of the same name. The daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley beat out hundreds of girls for the lead role at age eleven – she had the musical talent on top of the acting chops. How could Disney have said no? Hannah Montana, about a high schooler who was also secretly a teen pop star, became an empire, and Miley was at the heart of it. Her first single, which was also the show’s theme song, “Best of Both Worlds,” was the precursor to the first Hannah Montana soundtrack, on which Miley sung nine tracks. By 2007, she had another soundtrack and her own debut, self-credited album under her belt and went on tour to promote both. From there, it was only a matter of time before Miley started to break free of Disney’s control and show the world who she wanted to become as a musician. Her 2009 EP, “The Time Of Our Lives,” saw great success with "Party in The U.S.A.," which was a fun summer hit, debuting at number two at on the Billboard 100. At the conclusion of Hannah Montana in 2010, Miley released “Can't Be Tamed,” a pop album with a more adult sound than her previous work. As of 2011, she was listed as the richest teen in Hollywood, at $120 million.

And Miley’s certainly not the only ex-Disney singer on the scene at the moment. Demi Lovato's career began with the serendipitous day in 2007 when she booked both Disney’s series “Sonny With A Chance,” and their original movie, “Camp Rock.” The popularity of both programs jettisoned Lovato into the spotlight, and into the world of music. With the help of the Jonas Brothers, Lovato released her debut album, “Don’t Forget,” topping off at number two on the Billboard 200. Since then, she dated a Jonas Brother, put out a second album, toured internationally, and came out as an anti-bullying activist, citing her own personal struggles as the reason for her involvement. In 2011, she released her third album, “Unbroken,” on which she worked with Timbaland.

It’s safe to say that these Disney stars are no longer leaning on the network to achieve success – Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus are clearly their own artists with long roads ahead.