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July 9, 2020
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Do You Have the Energy to Appreciate the Absurdity of Vanessa Hudgens’ “Sneakernight”?

“Are you ready? Did you eat? Do you have the energy?”

If you know these questions then you know what night it is: Sneakernight.

Vanessa Hudgens’ iconic-to-a-very-specific-subset-of-millennials single off of her second album came out 12 years ago on May 27, 2008 going on to…well, not light up the charts, but it did burn itself into the memory portion of every High School Musical fans’ brain. 

Nonsensical and commercial, with the video ending up being an Ecko Unlimited commercial, Sneakernight was Baby V’s valiant attempt at releasing a bop to define her generation, calling on all of her peers to “put your sneakers on” because they “were going dancin’ all night long.”

J.R. Rotem, who had worked with Hudgen’s BFF Ashley Tisdale, The Cheetah Girls, Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline (Has there ever been a more 2008 listing of famous people?), produced the song, and co-wrote the jazz-pop-R&B hybrid with S. Nymoen and L. Solf.

It would go on to be the only single off of Identified, Hudgens’ second album, the one defining relic of the now 31-year-old’s last attempt at a career as a pop star. 

“It’s just a fun song, you know, about going out with your girlfriends, having fun and not having to wear feels to be sexy,” she told Good Morning America at the time of the song. “It’s a blast, you know, it’s just a fun, upbeat song.”

Fun and upbeat it was, with the lyrics also proving to be surprisingly responsible and kid-friendly, asking listeners if they ate and have the energy before dancing the night away. because she “doesn’t want you passing out after a couple o’ hours of beats.”

Sneakernight would go on to peak at only No. on the Billboard Hot 100, and hit No. 8 on the US Dance Club Songs chart, but the official music video, directed by R. Malcolm Jones and features Hudgens putting on her Ecko Unltd. dancing shoes, has amassed over 86 million views. 

But one look at the comments section provides an interesting insight into the song’s weird hold, with one commenter earning 12,000 likes with this: “I can imagine Vanessa in like her bed at 3 am struggling to sleep because she thinks of this.”

Another wrote, “I remember begging my mom to buy me those shoes and then I told her to return them when I realized the laces didn’t light up.” (False advertising, Ecko!)

One fan lamented, “I remember being personally offended that Zac Efron wasn’t in this music video.”

Ah yes, the Zanessa of it all: Zac Efron, Hudgens’ then-beau and High School Musical co-star, had previously starred in her music video for “Say Anything.”

Still, “Sneakernight”‘s video did have a HSM connection.

“What’s funny is that a whole bunch of the girls that were my girlfriends in the music video are in High School Musical,” she told The Insider at the time, “so they really are my girlfriends!”

“Sneakernight” seemed like part of then 19-year-old Hudgens’ strategy to make the transition from Disney Channel fare to more adult roles, with the star filming the music video just as production on High School Musical 3 wrapped.

Many of the reviews seemed to point to Hudgens going for more of Kidz Bop-esque take on a Christina Aguilera track. 

“Less successful [is] ‘Sneakernight,’ an attempt to match Christina Aguilera in pipes and attitude that falls on its face,” Variety wrote in the review of her album, with Digital Spy saying the single sounded “like an outtake” from the singer’s Back to Basics album.

But the album was Hudgens’ first professional venture that required her doing interviews after her infamous nude photo scandal in September 2007, when naked photos of the Disney star, who was under age at the time the photo was taken, were leaked online leading to a tabloid frenzy and rumors of Disney firing her from HSM, which Hudgens recently told Cosmopolitan UK admitted was “a really traumatizing” time for her.

While promoting the album back in 2008, Hudgens was asked by GMA how she got through the scandal.

“My fans are amazing, because they have stood by my side,” she said. “They really are my core group.”

And 12 years and 86 million YouTube views later, they are still by Baby V’s side. 

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