Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz” Is Actually A Daring Attempt

miley-1Courtesy of RCA
If you are a person with eyes, ears, and a penchant for the Internet, you may have thoughts on Miss Destiny Hope Cyrus. She has this new album out, you see, and in order to promote it, she's gone on a media bender that has been the subject of much discussion. Of course, she's earned her recent celebrity through unabashed behavior, near-nudity, and bringing "twerking" into the national lexicon. She's been called both a racist and a game-changer, and has even managed to offend The Stroke Association. But, she's making music, yo. And, whether or not you choose to engage in the messy, adolescent, and admittedly catchy discussion she's conducting — it's happening. Think about it. The other musician-turned-sideshow, Mr. Kanye West, has also captivated us with his endless antics, but then turned around a frustratingly visionary album this summer. Does Miley have the same capacity, with her "Wrecking Balls" and those Dirty South beats?
The short answer: kind of. Bangerz is catchy as all hell, with some seriously sing-along-worthy tunes that will find themselves nesting comfortably in the Top 40 charts. Cyrus does a good job reminding listeners that she is the daughter of a country star, with her twangy-Southern accent that, if you aren't a fan, isn't very ingratiating. Fortunately, Cyrus sticks to her range, and knows that she can enhance her sometimes-thin voice with raspy breathing, vocal fry, and a good sense of pacing. But, she can't lose that, well, Miley Cyrus-ness, even on trap-style beats. Her fast-paced "rapping" (if that is even the right word) sounds more like a fast-paced C-and-W chorus — something that she acknowledges in the Nelly-accompanied track, "4x4," which is a questionable hybrid of a country song send-up to a car with a club song...maybe. Another example would be "Do It Right," her most trap offering, where she doesn't sound at home, and it shows...and is an awkward listening experience. These are perhaps the album's darkest points. (In fact, it's when the she really pushes her limits that the tracks fail to work.)
Yet, when the performer really turns up the drama — the electronics, the hysterics, the inherent Miley-ness — well, those tracks sound pretty darn good. The tried-and-true pop anthem, "Maybe You're Right," has an anthemic feel that will give Katy Perry a serious run for her money. And, critics are already drooling over the sultry French Montana song, "FU," which is angry, pounding, and wobbling. (Though, it does have the lyrics, "I'm not as stupid as you sound, and you sound really dumb right now." Guess we can't have it all.) Interestingly, the one song that she doesn't have writing credits on feels very Hannah Montana — the easy-breezy, radio-ready "#GETITRIGHT" by Pharrell. Miley, it appears, feels most fresh during the slow jams.
The bottom line is that Miley wants it all. She wants pop drama and vocals, she wants urban authenticity, and she wants to remain true to her country roots. Similarly, she wants to be independent, shocking, and sexually realized — yet always plying her vulnerability, heartbreak, and the shaky reality that comes with leaving your teens behind. Like any 20-year-old, she wants everything, but can't commit to any thing. But, when she gives a little and takes a little (a good example is the straightforward track, "Someone Else"), that's when the album becomes a success. There is a vision here, which is to go hard, but not everywhere, and not all at once.

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