Headstrong is the debut studio album by American singer-songwriter Ashley Tisdale, released on February 6, 2007, by Warner Bros. Records. Tisdale began working on the project after the first installment of High School Musical (2006), and after she had achieved the feat of being the first female artist to debut with two songs on the Billboard Hot 100. The singer worked with a variety of established writers and producers on the album, including Diane Warren, J.R. Rotem, Ryan Tedder, Evan "Kidd" Bogart, and Kara DioGuardi, among others. Commenting that the album garnered its title from her personality, Tisdale said she wanted to use her first album to formally introduce herself personally, and as not one of the characters she portrays.
The album's lead single, "Be Good to Me," charted moderately in the United States and select European markets. Tisdale's breakthrough hit, "He Said She Said" peaked at 58 in the US, and appeared on several international charts, peaking in the top 20 in Germany and Austria. The last two singles were released in certain countries in Europe exclusively. The third single, "Not Like That" charted in the top half of several European charts, while "Suddenly" charted in Germany. Tisdale supported the album with promotional appearances, High School Musical: The Concert, and her tour, Headstrong Tour Across America. The album was voted as the sixth best album of 2007 by the readers of Billboard.
Tisdale got her first start on Billboard when she became the first female artist in history to debut with two songs on the Billboard Hot 100, from the soundtrack of High School Musical. Tisdale called the feat "crazy," stating, "When I think about artists like Madonna and Beyoncé...it’s surreal. I seriously can’t comprehend it." Soon after the completion of High School Musical, Tisdale began work on her debut album. In December 2006, producer J.R. Rotem confirmed he was producing and writing with Tisdale for the album.
"I want people to know that I’m a real person, and that I’ve been through normal situations, like crushes and heartbreaks. I think hearing my stories will help the audience relate better to me."
Tisdale said that the album was an opportunity for her fans to get to know her better, commenting, "People know my characters, but they don’t know me." Noting that she never spills much information about her life in interviews, she also said that the album talks about life and things personal to her. Regarding the previous statement, the singer said she wanted people to understand that she was normal, and how they could relate to her. Tisdale titled the album Headstrong, because she calls her self a "headstrong" type of person, commenting that she was the term in the sense of knowing how she wants to look, sing, and come across. In addition to wanting to record songs that "touched" her and those that she could personally identify with, she co-wrote three songs on the album, "Over It," "Not Like That," and "Suddenly."
Headstrong derives mainly from the genres of dance-pop, electropop, and R&B while incorporating teen pop themes and hip hop and dancehall elements. It carries many elements of hip pop itself, and has been compared to the music of Gwen Stefani. The titular track, "Headstrong" mixes "slinky" verses with cheerleader chants like Stefani's "Hollaback Girl." The album begins with a "futuristic" introduction which contains excerpts of other songs on the set. "So Much For You" is a dance song about a confident girl who wants true love. "He Said She Said" has been described as "steamy dancefloor seduction." "Be Good to Me" contains an urban beat. "Not Like That," which contains influences of Middle Eastern music, covers the topic of the "familiar misunderstood-celebrity," but was referred to as more "worked up" than "whiny." Containing rap interludes by Tisdale and clap along beats, according to Gary Graff of Billboard, the song is also liking to Stefani. "Positivity" makes use of syncopated beats and "old-school" synths. "Over It" has "boingy" effects. "Goin' Crazy" has similarities to Britney Spears' "(You Drive Me) Crazy," while "Suddenly" seems to cover Tisdale discovering her stardom. Jon Dolan of Blender coined the song "The Little Mermaid-worthy." Spears is also said to be an influence of Tisdale's "husky, alto" voice in "Over It," and "So Much For You." The dance song "Don't Touch (The Zoom Song)" has an '80's style beat.
Heather Phares of Allmusic rated the album 3 out of 5 stars and commented, "her voice is pleasant enough, but it's not especially distinctive, and she's not helped by a batch of songs that aren't nearly as charming as High School Musical's tunes." Phares also said that although the album wasn't winning considering the high-profile songwriters and producers involved, "it's fine for anyone who just wants to hear more of Ashley Tisdale's -- and not Sharpay Evans' -- singing." Jon Dolan of Blender said Tisdale did not import her "spunky" High School Musical character in the album, and that even with the quality of producers, "no stylistic slipper fits right." Gary Graff of Billboard said Tisdale went, "the contemporary CHR school of fellow Mouse products Britney Spears and first-album Christina Aguilera—lots of synthesizer-laden, beat-heavy, layered-vocal dance tracks" that varied between "come-hithers" and "self-affirming anthems." Graff commented, "she'll have to develop a more defined identity before she can truly win our affections." James Ross of The Arizona Daily Wildcat commended the album's uptempo songs but critiqued the ballads, commenting she hits the right notes on uptempo numbers, while on ballads, "Any 'Musical' fan knows that Tisdale can belt one out, but this is not apparent on the album." Overall, Ross said, "Although the album fails in places, it is ll [sic] a worthy attempt by an up-and-coming pop artist to please her audience."
The album's lead single, "Be Good to Me" was released to mainstream airplay as the album's lead single on March 6, 2007. It was originally released as a B-side for the promo release of "He Said She Said." The single peaked at number 80 on the Billboard Hot 100, while reaching 67 in Austria and 57 in Germany. The second single, "He Said She Said," originally released as a promo single for the album, was sent to mainstream radio on November 6, 2007. The single peaked at 58 in the United States, 21 in Austria, 17 in Germany, and 62 in Canada. It was later certified Gold in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America for shipments of over 500,000 copies. "Not Like That" served as the third single in several European countries, first released on January 25, 2008. It peaked in the top 20 of Germany, top 30 in Switzterland, and at number 31 in Austria. The fourth and final single from Headstrong was "Suddenly," which select European markets also received. It was released on May 2, 2008, and peaked at 45 in Germany.
Guitar – Adam Anders, Emanuel Kiriakou and Joacim Persson
Executive Producers: Lori Feldman and Tom Whalley
Vocal Producers: Adam Anders and Nikki Hassman
Mastering: Chris Gehringer
Mastering Assistant: Will Quinnell
Engineers: Adam Anders, Rasmus Billie Bähncke, Dushyant Bhakta, Stuart Brawley, Steve Churchyard, Joe Corcoran, Dave Dillbeck, Kara DioGuardi, Chris Holmes, Emanuel Kiriakou, Alan Mason, The Matrix, Greg Ogan and Twin