The Vanessa Hudgens song “Sneakernight” is controversial at Jezebel.
For whatever reason, it’s become a trend among the youths of Jezebel (that is, those who were teenish at the time of the song’s release) to post the 2008 song, which is an absolutely deranged piece of product placement masquerading as a pop song, in Slack. Someone, usually Megan Reynolds, screams at us.
It’s true, the group Jezebel chat is no place for a “Sneakernight” discussion. So we decided to take it somewhere more discreet: a public blog, in hopes it will terrorize Megan even more.
Here Hazel Cills, Lisa Fischer, Ashley Reese, and Joan Summers talk about why this song resonates. It’s OK if you hate us by the end.
Hazel Cills: When did you first hear “Sneakernight?”
Ashley Reese: OK, I’m pretty sure I first saw it on Disney Channel. You know, how they’d play little music videos (by Disney Channel people) instead of commercial breaks? If not, then I saw it on The N.
Hazel Cills: I did not grow up with the Disney Channel and so my knowledge of Disney music is sort of limited. I came to “Sneakernight” late when I was writing some post at Buzzfeed about Disney stars (I think?) and a coworker told me that Vanessa Hudgens’s “Sneakernight” was a banger.
Lisa Fischer: I definitely saw it for the first time on TRL in 2008 when it premiered
Joan Summers: I “DJed” my 8th-grade Sadie Hawkins dance and put it on the iTunes mix I’d made because I thought it would be hilarious. I’d say that was my first time really “hearing” the song, considering the middle school gym speakers it was thumping through transformed it into something truly life-changing. As for where I learned about it? ONTD comments making fun of her when it was first released.
Hazel Cills: How would you describe this song to someone who has never heard it before?
Ashley Reese: Perfection?
Lisa Fischer: Joan to her middle school: “Basically, what we’re gonna do is dance.” I would describe “Sneakernight” as the most exciting shoe commercial ever made.
Joan Summers: Would you also be shocked to know the back half of that Sadie Hawkins dance was all JUSTICE? Anyway, I’d describe it as the anxiety dream you have about the most embarrassing thing you ever did at 12 years old. The sleep paralysis demon of the mid-2000s.
Hazel Cills: Okay, speaking of sleep paralysis, I think the thing about “Sneakernight” that keeps me up at night (night, after night, after night) is the simplicity of “basically all we’re gonna do is dance.” Why “basically” and why tell me that’s all you’re “gonna do.” Now I have more questions and am suspicious. Does anyone else feel this way?
Ashley Reese: I really wonder why “basically” is in there. Like, I mean, it ends up WORKING but not really a word used in pop songs too much? According to the IMDb for “Sneakernight” it premiered on Disney.com on June 13, 2008 and on MTV’s TRL on July 1, 2008. Was it too risqué for the regular shmegular Disney Channel? Did I create a false memory of watching it on Disney Channel?
Hazel Cills: I also like that Vanessa asks her listeners if they’ve eaten and have enough energy to dance.
Ashley Reese: I’m looking at the lyrics right now
So are you ready?
Did you eat?
Do you have the energy?
Are you reloaded?
Are you able to stay on your feet?
Hazel Cills: But she takes a bit too far, no? She’s like, “please don’t pass out.” What kind of dancing are they doing?
Ashley Reese: Proto “drink water” Twitter.
Hazel Cills: Is this... a self-care anthem?
Lisa Fischer: Literally, yes. Vanessa begging me to wear sneakers to dance instead of some psycho heel contraption and to stay hydrated.... more than I can say about the rest of my 8th-grade role models.
Joan Summers: Not to make this sinister but that feels like a threat.
Lisa Fischer: Re: “basically,” I remember people thinking that it was trying to imply that the dancing was actually sex.
Hazel Cills: So important note, Hudgens did seem to have a deal with Mark Ecko trainers at the time.
Joan Summers: We also know, considering her recent press fumbles, that she’s an anarchist. Maybe the song was her first foray into blatant accelerationism. The workers of the world speeding up production—here, illustrated as the production of dance through the grinding down of our bodies—so that the apocalypse may arrive sooner. We already know she wants the world to end.
Lisa Fischer: I don’t think Vanessa was singing about sex but I’m sure that some male critics wanted a sexual reading of the song. She was just trying to make a paycheck and sell some sneakers If there’s one thing I respect about my girl Vanessa it’s her ability to not take herself so seriously and do anything for a check.
Hazel Cills: Is there anything else in her catalog that compares?
Lisa Fischer: Vanessa has many great songs and “Sneakernight” overshadowing of them all is a tragedy. “Say OK!,” “Come Back to Me!,” the entire HSM discography.
Ashley Reese: OK, let me say this about “Come Back to Me”: It gave us “Baby V”. Let’s take this a step further and speculate that Karen O was inspired by Baby V’s “Dance All Night” message when she wrote, “DANCE DANCE DANCE TIL YOU’RE DEAD” in “Heads Will Roll.”
Joan Summers: Lisa, I’d say your rejection of populist sentimentality around “Sneakernight” blatantly ignores the subjective nature of “good” art. “Sneakernight” endures, does that not warrant its title as her best work?
Lisa Fischer: I will stan “Sneakernight” until the end of time, like I’m not about to play “Say OK” at the pregame, but you best believe I would listen to “Say OK” on my iPod mini and cry in my room after the boy I liked didn’t compliment my new shirt. The “Sneakernight” video also remains the only time I have ever not gagged immediately upon seeing someone wear a fedora.
Joan Summers: “Sneakernight” is a quandary, a gap in the popularly held belief that as a thing progresses, it moves towards actualization and perfection. Unlike her contemporaries, “Sneakernight” was a clear regression in the pop landscape, a landmine that forced you to tread carefully and examine it more closely. It’s a pop song that rejects critical analysis, and by that very nature, demands further study. Truly a philosophical mystery for our modern age.
Lisa Fischer: I feel like the video is more iconic than the song itself.
Joan Summers: I also think it’s a rare instance where the video is essential to your understanding of the song.
Hazel Cills: I agree Joan, because otherwise what the fuck is a sneakernight?
Lisa Fischer: I also can’t believe Disney has them dancing in traffic. Basically, what we’re gonna do is get hit by a car.
Joan Summers: The song is the complete opposite approach to the sort of “singer-songwriter” pop stars these girls wanted to be. Hilary Duff and Vanessa Hudgens and the like wanted to be Jewel but never could be, Disney doesn’t make Jewels, it makes “Sneakernights.” You hear it in some of her other songs, or in Hilary Duff b-sides. Even Brie Larson’s failed pop career! They all have moments of hand-holdy guitar strumminess, but you can’t make it out clearly over the industrial stench, lol.
Lisa Fischer: Vanessa never wanted to be Jewel, she didn’t even want to be a Disney star. I return to this iconic quote often:
“High School Musical was a fantastic journey, but it completely derailed me from where I originally saw my career going,” says Hudgens. “I always wanted to be the indie girl; I always wanted to be in the movies where I’m playing a drug addict or a stripper or a prostitute. That was my goal since I was like, 11.”
Hazel Cills: Why do we keep coming back to “Sneakernight?” Why are we, as some say, “like this?”
Ashley Reese: I mean, I can’t even remember how it became a meme in slack.
Lisa Fischer: I feel like Vanessa in the “Sneakernight” video is exactly how I envision my last brain cell before I finally kick the can.
Joan Summers: “Sneakernight” is a mirror. It reflects what’s pointed at it. Everything both is, and isn’t, “Sneakernight.” How can you escape something so faceless and unknown?