THE top story in pop music this year is easily Miley Cyrus. She has become the focus of several different conversations since her performance at the VMAs. Conversations that go far beyond her hit songs: discussions of feminism, “slut-shaming”, sex and sexism, talent, her being the next “hot mess”, etc.
Bangerz is Miley’s fourth album although she wants to consider it her first. What better way to do that than with a complete image overhaul and new sound. Her image is definitely… different, while her sound is all over the place. But she doesn’t stray too far from her roots.
There’s a surprising element of country present in Miley’s vocal presentation. With slightly different production, Maybe You’re Right could have been a straight-up country tune, while 4×4 is a sassy hoedown with Nelly adding a southern hip-hop flair. Dare you to try not to move to this one. It doesn’t always work, however, as her country-meets-hip-hop on Love Money Party comes off sounding messy.
Hip-hop being the main element of the album, Miley also tries her hand at rapping. Again, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. SMS (Bangerz), a song featuring a short verse from Britney Spears, is pretty hot in an awkward way as Miley faux-raps through the song. Do My Thang is nearly cringeworthy as Miley declares “oh dear/I’m a southern bell” with a twangy accent.
Other musical styles show up on Bangerz with mixed results. The dubstep in Drive doesn’t work, but adding it to chamber/baroque-pop in FU does somewhat. #GETITRIGHT, written and produced by Pharrell, is breezy and casual, a la Mariah and Janet‘s flirtatious mid-90’s pop eras. The classic power-ballad Wrecking Ball is the album’s strong point, while other low-tempos don’t quite reach the desired mark.
Why the album opens with Adore You is puzzling considering how bland and lifeless it is, especially when she could have used that spot for something more immediate and reflective of the rest of the record.
Bangerz is an album that covers a lot of ground simply because it’s all over the place. Miley is ambitious in doing what she wants to do, and even if the result is sometimes embarrassing and it seems like she’s trying way too hard, it’s when it’s not that makes the album better than expected.
But, while Miley might want Bangerz to be her contribution to pop culture in 2013, it won’t be. Her image and actions have spurred conversations that have so far overshadowed her music and even if the album, which comes out next week, sells well and the singles are hits, Miley will be associated with her VMA performance, her tongue, the foam finger and twerking.
1. Adore You
2. We Can’t Stop
3. SMS (Bangerz) [featuring Britney Spears]
4. 4×4 [featuring Nelly]
5. My Darlin’ [featuring Future]
6. Wrecking Ball
7. Love Money Party [featuring Big Sean]
10. FU [featuring French Montana]
11. Do My Thang
12. Maybe You’re Right
13. Someone Else