Have you heard Bridgit Mendler's "Ready or Not" yet?
If not, you really, really should. We wouldn't have expected Mendler, star of Disney's Good Luck Charlie and last year's TV movie Lemonade Mouth, to make the pop song we've been utterly obsessed with the last few weeks—but then again, in a year where the biggest and best pop singles have belonged to the likes of Gotye, fun. and Carly Rae Jepsen, it's hard to still be all that surprised by it, either. In any event, it's here now, and it's on all of us to make sure the song becomes the smash it deserves to be.
The song is a playful, swinging and just impossibly catchy—the catchiest we've heard since Our Girl Carly Rae—pop number, and the kind of introductory song (it's the lead single and first track from Bridgit's debut Hello My Name Is..., and she actually says the album title in the song's lyrics) that any burgeoning pop talent would (or at least should) kill for. It makes Bridgit seem charismatic and likeable, cocky without being obnoxious, and most importantly, it makes her seem like her own person—always the critical Step One in trying to expand a Disney star to mainstream pop success tonight.
The appeal of "Ready Or Not" stems from the fact that it does a lot of the little things right, and also a lot of the big things. Every detail is where it should be, from the multi-tracked vocals on the chorus to the synth sound effects that provide punctuation and punchlines to the verses, to some of the more clever rhymes in the lyrics—which include pairing "Oprah" with "Boca" and "I'm like a crook tonight" with "I could be your kryptonite." It's a song that sparkles more and more as it goes, and you pick up new delightful little flourishes about the songwriting and production that you never noticed before with each successive listen.
But like 99% of great pop songs, it's all about that chorus. More specifically, it's about the transition into the chorus—the verses are kind of sparse, just the beat and a bass line underneath Bridgit's strutting vocals, but the second that it hits the chorus, the production goes into maximalist overdrive, with layers of synths and backing vocals adding a musical and emotional intensity totally absent from the carefree verses. The chorus proper is instantly memorable, the "Ready or not / Here I come" invoking fond memories of pop songs from the Fugees to the Delfonics, and as if that's not enough, the song adds two wordless hooks—a "ba da ba da ba" and an "ooh ooh ooh-oooh"—to seal the deal. It's a stunner, and if you hear it once, you'll have to listen to it at least ten more times before you can possibly be satisfied.
Part of the song's charm comes from an almost retro feel, a sense of it being out of place and time. For one thing, the DC-born Bridgit comes off exceedingly British on the song—she sounds like she's perpetually an inflection away from bursting into a full-on cockney accent during the "Ready or not, here I come, here I come / You're like a breath of fresh air in my lungs" bridge, and the two previous hits the song most reminds of are Cher Lloyd's "Want U Back" and Natasha Bedingfield's "These Words," both by Brits. (Not to mention the "You be my William, I'll be your Kate" lyric.) But it also has a sort of turn-of-the-century pop innocence and sunniness to it, right down to the use of cheap scratching noises (a la LFO's "Summer Girls")—you'd never believe this song came out by an American pop artist at the height of the Dr. Luke/RedOne/Calvin Harris era. It's fairly refreshing.
Will that out-of-placeness hurt the chances of "Ready or Not" becoming the smash it deserves to be, though? Well, it didn't seem to hurt "Want U Back" any, so we're hoping that people can see that this song is basically a smarter, more interesting and infinitely catchier version of that already-quite-good Cher Lloyd song. But it's on all of us to spread the world that that song scraping the bottom of the iTunes chart isn't just another kiddie-pop anthem from the latest made-for-Disney movie—it's one of the best songs of the year, and one you'd have to be a pretty sullen sort of person to not love at least a little bit.