By FEMI ABORISADE
Most college-aged adults grew up with Miley Cyrus – whether by listening to her country pop tunes under the stage name Hannah Montana or watching the supplementary Disney Channel TV show of the same name. Many have noted her contributions to youth culture during the late 2000’s as substantial and endearing.
Her recent string of actions, however, have given enough evidence that Cyrus does not hold that same assumption about her teen years. Afraid of being pigeonholed as a past relic, she lashed out with a terrifying campaign: Cyrus released a video for her single “We Can’t Stop” June 19 that is as irreverent as it is suggestive, only to outdo herself with a video for the literal and figurative smash hit “Wrecking Ball” Sept. 9, which features jarring visuals of Cyrus riding a wrecking ball in the nude and fellating a sledgehammer.
Coupled with a lewd performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and a sprawling hosting gig on SNL Oct. 5, Cyrus has turned her past self from icon to effigy, rising from the smoldering ashes as a new creation of her own defiant making. Yet, with all the public charading, she has fantastically pulled off to reinvent her image in promotion of her latest album. In the hip hop-infused “Bangerz,” listeners receive a collection of resoundingly decent songs that are nowhere near as groundbreaking or animated as she and her media team suggest.
For one, the lyrical content finds itself stuck on the age-old topic of love lost, found and demolished, with the occasional break for the crash course in partying. Songs like “Maybe You’re Right” read like Taylor Swift’s diary: “Chapter one we started happy/the second that you said you loved me/started questioning us/Are we really in love,” which should not surprise anyone, and the flagship single, “We Can’t Stop,” marries the same meager songwriting with “urban” imagery: “to my homegirls with the big butts/shaking it like we at a strip club.”
Songs like this, “SMS (Bangerz)” and “Do My Thang” are laughable at best for the lack of believability in the nonchalant party girl persona she molds on these songs by throwing slang terms and profanities in a rhyme scheme. They truly sound like songs from a long-lost Hannah Montana parody album. In lieu of her out-of-water symphonies, tracks like the rich album opener “Adore You” and “My Darlin’,” featuring the anti-talented wunderkind Future, cultivate the soft melodies Cyrus has succeeded at creating in the past.
Cyrus’ voice, a sharp tenor masking her Tennessee accent, usually sounds fine over rising hip hop producer Mike Will Made It’s varied production even if her guest features flop. The combination works because she mainly crafts sturdy pop ballads with acoustic instrumentation or modern dance production. On occasion, “Bangerz” takes a left turn a la the amusing stomp n’ clap tune “4×4,” but rigid adherence to form keeps the album entertaining: slowly building ballads (“Adore You,” “Maybe You’re Right”), instantly engaging dance numbers (“#GETITRIGHT”) and the genre-defying club banger (“Do My Thang”) round out the lean buffet the album offers.
Granted, this does not equate to overall contentment with “Bangerz” Perhaps the only aspect that will truly grate nerves watching Cyrus’ grand rebellion is her actual lack of creativity. This is not an artist breaking out of her shell to realize a newer canvas upon which to spill fresh paint, this is her boldly autographing portraits in an art gallery with neon crayons. She appropriates the sounds of R&B, hip hop, modern dance pop and the soulful crooner without bringing much to the table but her name and willingness to defile her former accomplishments.
I do not know if that truly merits this as a true musical endeavor, especially since it has been married to a shock-focused promotional campaign that puts the concept of hyperbole to shame.
Despite what the situation may truly be, the music contained on “Bangerz” will benefit those who seek it. It might have seemed unheard of to listen to songs so poppy and club-oriented from the former princess of country music, but Cyrus has clearly broken down the walls that bound her, and she will not stop for anything.