In 2002, Disney Channel’s Even Stevens aired its highly-acclaimed musical outing Influenza: The Musical.
In 2018, Cardi B. sang “We Went to the Moon” from Influenza: The Musical on Instagram, reminding casual viewers that the show existed and bringing a wave of nostalgia to the social media sphere.
Now, I’m not knocking Cardi’s choice (I would never) or saying “We Went to the Moon” isn’t a good song. It’s a fine song in a musical episode chock-full of fine songs.
But it’s not the best song of the episode either. It’s not even in the top half. Musically and lyrically, Influenza: the Musical served up far better fare.
Here’s our countdown of the songs from the classic Even Stevens musical episode, from least to most satisfying.
6. “Masters of the Gym”
Louis Stevens’ obstacle to overcome in Influenza: the Musical is Coach Tugnut’s physical endurance test. Masters of the Gym takes place during this physical endurance test, with two verses sung by Coach Tugnut and one by his tormented students.
The song has its moments, but it’s not all that memorable. And while we have to give props to Jim Wise, the actor who played Coach Tugnut, for writing all the lyrics for the episode, it’s hard not to feel like there were a lot of secondary characters who deserved a solo more.
It does get a little more inspired when the students start singing and choral action comes into play. But it also made literally no sense, because the entire episode is Ren’s fever dream – her reactions to everyone’s spontaneous outbursts of song are some of the best parts – and this was the only song where she wasn’t physically present at any point.
5. “I Always Find a Way”
True fact: This was the first song from Influenza: the Musical I ever heard, and it was what got me hooked on the show. That’s So Raven was my go-to Disney staple at the time.
But then one day I flipped over and saw these adorable middle schoolers singing on some stairs. What was this magic?, I thought.
So, this song holds a special place in my heart for introducing me to a show that I ended up loving, but it’s also just a list of excuses that rhyme. Funny, but I doubt you’ll be humming it to yourself later.
4. “We Went to the Moon” / “Ren Got an F!” / “There’ll Be No Award (You Missed a Day of School)” / “I’ve Got Hot Soup”
Ah, the one made famous.
These songs are all listed together, because they’re set to the same tune. “We Went to the Moon” comes first, while “Ren Got an F!,” “There’ll Be No Award” and “I’ve Got Hot Soup” are reprises.
(There’s technically an earlier lyrical version than “We Went to the Moon,” but since it doesn’t fit into the episode the way the others do, we’re leaving it on the VHS tape it rode in on.)
I suspect this song was the show’s main musical takeaway because Christy Carlson Romano was the best singer of Even Stevens regular cast members. You’ll understand why she went onto portray Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and appeared as a pop star in the 2019 Kim Possible movie.
This song is snappy, catchy, and deserved to be sung by Cardi B. It’s just that the other songs from Influenza: the Musical are better.
3. “Morning Announcements”
What a fun little toe-tapper of a ditty this is! It’s the first song sung when Ren shows up at school at the beginning of Influenza: the Musical, and lyrically and musically it’s just a swinging good time.
Sixties style back-up vocals, provided in-episode by office support staff, elevate it to one of the best songs of the showcase.
2. “Sixth Period”
All musical lovers know that going to intermission (or commercial) at just the right moment is an essential element of any fine production. You want to get your audience’s butts back to their seats.
But what you come back to the stage (screen) with matters even more. You’ve got to pull your audience back into the story quickly and persuasively – think RENT’s “525,600 Minutes” or Phantom of the Opera’s “Masquerade” – and the Even Stevens musical episode does it with gusto with “Sixth Period.”
It’s my personal favorite.
Plus, it pays homage to Donna Pescow’s (Eileen Stevens) Saturday Night Fever days with a disco interlude and the lyrics “Let’s Hustle.” Okay, so technically Ren shouldn’t have known her parents were dancing it out at home either, but, since it’s a tribute, we’ll let it slide.
1. “What’s the Matter with Ren?”
Even Stevens had a lot of young talent in its cast – not just in its leading roles (Hello, Shia LaBeouf), but in its cast of recurring characters.
This included Lauren Frost, who played Ren’s friend Ruby on the show and toured with Barbra Streisand the year before Even Stevens hit the air as the voice of young Barbra. While Frost takes the lead on this song, it’s not what puts it at the top of the list.
This song simply has the best performance of the episode (it made good sense to put it at the end of the first act), and it’s an ensemble piece through and through.
Complete with a rap by Larry (Ty Hodges) and a pretty impressive burst of contrapuntal singing at the end that puts it a notch above all the other songs in the episode.
Of course, we all know music is subjective, so if you want to decide for yourself, the full episode is on YouTube. Or watch the whole series when it launches with Disney+ on November 12th.