Note: The following is a ranking of every ex-act studio album from the generation of Disney Stars of the late 90s to mid-2010s. Meet Miley Cyrus was excluded due to its attachment to the Hannah Montana character brand as part of a double disc album, and Nicholas Jonas was excluded due to the general dismissal of it as one of Nick’s solo albums. There is also no Hillary Duff here. I tried to cover every major Disney/Nickelodeon star, but there may be some that I forgot. Also, this all solely my personal opinion not fact.
#36. Raven-Symoné, Here’s To New Dreams
Truthfully, it’s unfair of me to include this album (and the following one on this list), Raven was just seven years old when this, her debut album, was released. The album, a hodgepodge of kiddie-rap and hip-hop, is absolutely awful. There really isn’t anything else to say here, so moving on…
#35. Raven-Symoné, Undeniable
Similarly, Raven’s sophomore album is terrible as well. The album marks a shift from kiddie rap to R&B vocal stylings, yet the shift doesn’t make the music any better. Notably, the album is incredibly rare and features two Stevie Wonder covers. I guess the cool stats make up for how awful the music is?
#34. Joe Jonas, Fastlife
This album is proof that Joe Jonas works best in bands; his work with DNCE and The Jonas Brothers is quite great, but this album is a load of uninspired trash. Like most Disney albums, the music is derivative and generic. Fastlife is a limp piece of music, thankfully one that has been forgotten.
#33. Emily Osment, Fight or Flight
Ah, Emily Osment. For her time at Disney, she was always in the shadow of Miley Cyrus. This album is much like Joe Jonas’ debut, no artistic identity and completely generic. It’s run of the mill Disney fluff with a very annoying tone.
#32. Mitchel Musso, Mitchel Musso
First things first, “The In Crowd,” the lead single of this album, is a great song. The rest of the album falls flat. It’s pop/rock without the glimmer of pop and without the edge of rock music. I guess the album is passable in a very general sense, though.
#31. Miranda Cosgrove, Sparks Fly
Yawn. More derivative preteen Disney/Nickelodeon pop. Miranda Cosgrove, the artist, is still unknown by the end of this album. Caught somewhere between Avril Lavigne and Miley Cyrus, this album is typically puppy love fare, orchestrated by grown men and women, kind of unsettling when you think about it.
#30. Raven-Symoné, Raven-Symoné
This album could be placed Top 20 just on the strength of Gen Z classic,”Double Dutch Bus.” Alas, the rest of the album isn’t nearly as strong, but it is a vast improvement on her previous musical efforts.
#29. Corbin Bleu, Speed of Light
The easiest way to describe this album is Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds without the sex and with added adolescence. Everything about the album packaging and production screams sex pop superstar, but the lyrics and vocals scream young adult imitating teenage puppy love. It’s all quite confusing and weird to be completely honest.
#28. Selena Gomez, Kiss & Tell
Kiss & Tell, A Year Without Rain, and When The Sun Goes Down are all credited to “Selena Gomez & the Scene,” but for the purposes of this list, they will be considered Selena Gomez albums. This album isn’t good by any means, but the production is quite great. The vocals are whiny and the lyrics are uninspired, but the album is 50 minutes of fun and full energy. Also, any album that houses “Falling Down” and “Naturally” is good enough in my book.
#27. Raven-Symoné, This Is My Time
With Dianne Warren and Scott Storch behind the board for this album, the music was decidedly better than her first two albums. Nevertheless, Raven’s music is still dull and her no amount of big shot writers and producers can salvage her subpar vocal ability.
#26. Corbin Bleu, Another Side
This album has “Push It to the Limit,” an inarguably stellar song so I won’t be too harsh, but this isn’t great. Corbin has surprisingly pleasant vocals and the R&B-lite tone of the album works, but it all feels phoned in and forced.
#25. Vanessa Hudgens, V
Only one track matters on here, it’s called “Say O.K.” Everything else can be half-excused because this track is an indisputable classic. Carry on.
#24. Selena Gomez, When The Sun Goes Down
This is kind of just there. I don’t really know what to say. Basic pop hooks, boring pop productions, the usual. The album maybe painfully boring, but it is home to pop gems, “Who Says” and “Love You Like A Love Song,” so I can partially excuse that.
#23. Selena Gomez, Stars Dance
This is the album where Selena really dipped into dance music and electropop and it worked fairly well. “Slow Down,” “Come & Get It,” and “Like A Champion,” are really solid tracks but the album falls apart due to its undercurrent of monotony.
#22. Demi Lovato, Unbroken
This album serves as the “pop” rebranding of Demi Lovato and it kind of works. “Skyscraper” is a gorgeous ballad and “Give Your Heart A Break” is a slice of pop perfection. The failure of this album is the four atrocious collaboration stacked back to back at the top of the album. Nevertheless, Unbroken paved the way for Tell Me You Love Me so it deserves some respect.
#21. Ashley Tisdale, Headstrong
This album severely lacked identity, but Ashley has the perfect pop star vocal. “He Said She Said,” is an undeniable classic and for every chord of basic Disney pop, there is a chord of a budding pop princess.
#20. Vanessa Hudgens, Identified
Let’s get this out of the way, “Sneakernight” is a classic. The album is decidedly more mature than V and the production values are stronger and more refined. The only weak link here is Vanessa’s thin voice. Her vocal performance is unequivocally irritating on this album, she sounds like a cat whose tail got stuck under a chair leg.
#19. Miley Cyrus, Can’t Be Tamed
This was the original “Miley Cyrus gone bad” album, and it wasn’t all bad. The album had really catchy gems like “Who Owns My Heart,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “Liberty Walk,” and the title track, but her quest for “maturity” was too on the nose. The leather, the stripper poles, the mean mugs, were all too similar to previous Disney girl gone bad expositions from Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. It helped that the aforementioned pop titans had a fully developed “come hither” voice or generally strong vocal ability to anchor their transitional albums. At this time, Miley’s voice sounded too childish and too uncomfortable at times for an album that needed to be fearless.
#18. Demi Lovato, Here We Go Again
Doubling down on the pop/rock influences of her debut album, Demi almost really sold this album. She sounded a bit too much like Kelly Clarkson sometimes, but Demi’s vocal performance of this album truly set her apart from the Selena Gomezes and the Emily Osment of her time. Interestingly, the album doesn’t sound like a typical Disney album. There is an edge in her voice and the overall production that suggests Demi had more to offer than three-minute puppy love sagas.
#17. Ashley Tisdale, Guilty Pleasure
Many people believe that Headstrong is Ashley’s best work. I argue that Guilty Pleasure, with it’s Avril Lavigne-esque pop/rock sheen, is Ashley’s best work. From “It’s Alright, It’s OK” to “Hot Mess,” nearly every track is exactly what the title suggests, a guilty pleasure. Ashley still struggles to find places for her vocals to really let loose and the majority of the production is subpar, but all of those uncertainties add to the glimmer of this record.
#16. Selena Gomez, A Year Without Rain
Selena’s vocals are still shaky throughout this album, but this record is stacked with jams. The title track, “Rock God,” “Round & Round,” “Off the Chain,” “Ghost of You,” and “Live Like There’s No Tomorrow,” are all slices of pop greatness. In essence, the album plays like a Disneyfied version of pre-Teenage Dream Katy Perry. The record is endlessly endearing with its naturally matured sound, lyrically and production-wise.
#15. Demi Lovato, DEMI
This album functions as Demi’s first album as a generally acknowledged non-Disney pop star, and it kind of falls flat. There are pieces of pop perfection, “Heart Attack,” beautiful ballads, “In Case,” and flat-out awful tracks, “Neon Lights.” Demi’s voice has finally matured and her runs are more controlled than ever. Lyrically, the album is more personal and raw and there are still snippets of old Demi. The pop/rock sounded is still there (“Heart Attack,” “Something That We’re Not”) and the gorgeous ballads from the Unbroken era are still here as well (“Nightingale,” “In Case”) the album is definitely good, but clunky production and lazy vocal comping make it less great.
#14. Demi Lovato, Don’t Forget
Imagine a teenage My December-era Kelly Clarkson… that’s Demi Lovato on this album. It’s angsty, melodramatic3, and weirdly intense but it’s so good. “Get Back,” “La La Land,” and “Don’t Forget,” showed more grit and character than any of Demi’s counterparts. This was female power pop/rock in the vein of Janis Joplin, but more in the vein of Ashlee Simpson. If the JoBros were Disney’s resident rock maestros, Demi was their female foil.
#13. Nick Jonas, Last Year Was Complicated
If anything is complicated, it’s this album. The production is stellar, Mattman & Robin, Max Martin, and Ali Payami really worked their magic on this one. Regardless of how great these beats are, Nick didn’t really break any new ground vocally. He kept the same textures and stylings as his previous album, so Last Year Was Complicated seemed redundant. That’s not to say this album doesn’t have its fair share of jams, “Bacon,” “Close,” “Under You,” and “Chainsaw” are all incredible.
#12. Miley Cyrus, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz
This was released at a time where “Miley Cyrus” was the most polarizing name in existence, so naturally no actually paid attention to the music. Is the album bizarre? Yes. There are moments of visceral emotional (“Karen Don’t Be Sad,” “Pablow the Blowfish”) and fully-realized indie pop (“1 Sun,” “Lighter,” “Dooo It!”). This record is messy, provocative, and at time borderline unlistenable. It can be a chore to get through at times, but every moment of artistic genius makes it all worth it.
#11. Selena Gomez, Revival
This is Selena’s best work yet. Revival is a nearly perfect pop album, only bogged down by the Christian pop of “Rise” and the cheap production of “Body Heat.” Selena manages to disguise her vocal shortcomings by employing a vowel-breaking style in the vein of Halsey and frequent collaborator, Julia Michaels. This is the record where Selena truly became a pop star, Revival is a glowing representation of natural maturation and growth.
#10. Miley Cyrus, Breakout
For her first record not affiliated with the Hannah Montana brand, Miley stuck to similar teen-pop lyrical themes, but with more guitar and belts. The album is everything that is right about teen-pop. The sheen of Hannah Montana isn’t on this record, it’s been scuffed up ever so slightly by the real Miley Cyrus. Whether it’s ballads like “Bottom of the Ocean” or “These Four Walls,” or pop/rock gems like “Fly on the Wall” or “7 Things,” Miley sounds more confident than ever of this record, and it’s a welcome sight to see.
Key Tracks: “Breakout,” “These Four Walls,” “The Driveway”
#9. Demi Lovato, Confident
Demi sounds so sure of herself and so full of pride on this album that the corny title can be excused. Demi lets her vocals rip on this album, and when her tone isn’t whiny the combination of Xtina, Kelly Clarkson, and Sia works well. Whether it’s the sexy glam-rock influenced “Cool for the Summer,” or the Motown blue-eyed-soul ballad, “Stone Cold,” Demi puts her all into every song. The album does lack surefire hits, but it works well as a whole. Confident is a massive leap forward towards the full extent of Demi’s artistic abilities. Did I mention this album also gifted Demi her very first Grammy nomination?
Key Tracks: “Father,” “Wildfire,” “Lionheart”
#8. Bridgit Mendler, Hello My Name Is…
This is Bridgit’s only official album, but she showed more character and artistic integrity on here that 90% of her Disney counterparts. Bridgit’s lyricism is more mature than any Disney debut album of her generation. What makes Hello My Name Is… so great is the authenticity of its sound. It’s indie pop with undertones of reggae and soul. Mendler co-wrote every track on the album and from uptempos like “Hurricane” and emotional ballads like “5:15,” Mendler’s surprisingly capable vocals anchor the album into her own path.
Key Tracks: “5:15,” “Ready Or Not,” “Hurricane,”
#7. Miley Cyrus, Younger Now
I really don’t understand the hate this album got and still does get. Yes, it was a complete 180 from the imagery of Bangerz and her comments about rap/hip-hop music were nothing less than insensitive, but the music on Younger Now is some of Miley’s best. The title track is an Elvis-esque paean for youth, and the album jumps from indie rock to country-influenced pop and more. The album contains Miley’s best vocal performances; she is earnest, desperate, nostalgic, hopeful, and confident all at once. Read our full review of Younger Now here.
Key Tracks: “She’s Not Him,” “Bad Mood,” “Love Someone”
#6. Ariana Grande, Yours Truly
Maybe it’s because Ariana scrapped her original debut album in favor of this one, but Yours Truly is fantastic. Inspired by 90s R&B and 50s doo-wop, Ariana flexes her vocal prowess throughout the album. The lyrics are more coy than sexy, and the production is solid. Yours Truly is incredibly impressive for a debut album, it makes a statement that Ariana Grande is the next big pop star. The album successfully set her apart from her Nickelodeon character and above her contemporaries.
Key Tracks: “Honeymoon Avenue,” “Tattooed Heart,” “You’ll Never Know”
#5. Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas
This album is all kinds of sexy. Stacked with pristine productions and sensuous vocals, Nick Jonas is a tamer FutureSex/LoveSounds for the new generation. Michael Jackson and Prince influences are all over this album, and it works in Nick’s favor. “Jealous” was the big hit of the album and it’s not even near the best song. Nick, for a minuscule portion of time, filled the void left by Justin Timberlake’s off years. It’s Nick’s best work, and a clear indicator of the direction he should head in.
Key Tracks: “Wilderness,” “Chains,” “Push”
#4. Miley Cyrus, Bangerz
Arguably one of the most iconic pop albums of this decade, Bangerz was stacked with hits and a naturally confident Miley Cyrus. Bangerz excels where Can’t Be Tamed failed, Miley sounds self-assured and sanguine on throughout the record. Whether she’s jamming out with Pharrell on “#GETITRIGHT,” or partying with Mike WiLL Made-It on “We Can’t Stop,” Miley is having the time of her life. Let’s not forget about the gorgeous ballads, elevated by Miley’s new darker and raspier tone. Bangerz is a terrific pop record, and Miley’s best album yet.
Key Tracks: “Rooting For My Baby,” “Do My Thang,” “#GETITRIGHT”
#3. Ariana Grande, My Everything
My Everything is the album where Ariana became one of the main pop stars over our time. The album was tailor-made for commercial success, and it certainly overachieved in that area, but somehow it didn’t lose that Grande charm. From the swaggering “Problem” to the heart-wrenching “One Last Time,” Ariana held her own despite the countless features and bombastic production. Whatever innocence Yours Truly had was instantly cremated with the sizzling vocal performances on this album. Grande’s evolution was still in progress on this record, so her artistic identity never wavered, it merely grew as she did.
Key Tracks: “One Last Time,” “Best Mistake,” “Break Your Heart Right Back”
#2. Demi Lovato, Tell Me You Love Me
Tell Me You Love Me is an impressive record. Demi sounds more natural than ever before and she effortlessly exudes sensuality and conviviality. Steeped in R&B and soul music with elements of hip-hop and trap, Tell Me You Love Me is a masterful culmination of every previous iteration of Demi’s musicality. Her vocals are still pristine and emotive (“You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore,” “Cry Baby,”), yet she plays with her tone more masterfully than ever before (“Sorry Not Sorry,” “Games”). The only gripe I have with this album that every song has the same climax and a can get a bit tiring, but Demi’s voice never fails to provide a thrill. Read our full review of Tell Me You Love Me here.
Key Tracks: “Daddy Issues,” “Ruin The Friendship,” “Only Forever”
#1. Ariana Grande, Dangerous Woman
Aaaah! She snapped on this one. Easily her most mature and best work, Ariana Grande lays down the law on her third record and lets it be known that she knows who she is as an artist and as a woman and no one can co-opt that or take it from her. There are undertones of Aaliyah in Grande’s timbre and Brandy and Beyoncé in her runs; Grande really taps into her vast capabilities in the alternative-R&B realm. She dabbles in soft rock with the title track and deep house with “Be Alright.” The four collaboration are all from the “urban” realm of today’s music landscape and Grande has impeccable chemistry with them. She explores new textures and vocal depths on “Let Me Love You,” and insane belts and whistle notes on “Thinking Bout You” and “Touch It.” Dangerous Woman is the rare pop album that doesn’t fall victim into the general umbrella genre; the album covers every facet of what can be considered pop while still culminating in a beautifully cohesive piece of work.
Key Tracks: all of them.