Artist: Miley Cyrus
If there was any ambiguity about Miley Cyrus not exactly sharing much in common with her squeaky clean alter-ego Hannah Montana with 2010’s Can’t Be Tamed, well, her latest album, Bangerz officially seals the deal.
As it turns out, controversial antics still help sell albums, and everything about Miley’s recent behavior has been nothing short of calculated. From the incessant “twerking,” to that risqué performance with the very married and much older artist Robin Thicke at MTV’s Video Music Awards to all those skimpy, pantless outfits, it all accomplished exactly what Miley wanted it to.
Currently sitting at the #1 position on both the United States and United Kingdom’s music charts, Bangerz is the much-ballyhooed fourth album from the perpetually headline-grabbing 20-year-old. With a promise of offering audiences something they’ve never heard from her before, Bangerz certainly delivers on that level. But in terms of any true musical rebellion, well, her tawdry tales of sex, drugs and seeking momentary pleasures are predictably by the book.
Sadly, it takes an awful lot to truly shock anymore, so really the only controversial aspect about Miley’s work in Bangerz is that Hannah Montana fans weren’t expecting this seemingly “good girl” to go this “bad.” But a quick jaunt through pop music history indicates that practically every artist who’s had any sort of career longevity in the “here today, gone tomorrow” world of showbiz has done just that.
Case in point: Long before Madonna was sporting pointy bras and sprinkling her songs with tacky religious references and even tackier sexual bravado, she was singing fairly tame pop fare such as “Borderline” and “Lucky Star.” But in order to become more than simply a passing fad, Madonna knew she needed to crank things up a notch to stay relevant. Basically, it’s a tale as old as time.
And that’s precisely the sad-but-true trajectory that Billy Ray’s daughter is following with Bangerz. Teaming up with everyone from Pharrell to Will.i.am to Dr. Luke, the album’s multi-faceted production is tailor-made from modern pop radio. While Cyrus’s underrated voice has probably never sounded better, particularly on singles “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop,” the album still lacks a clear focus. With every possible bell and whistle at Miley’s disposal, Bangerz still has a cheap, thrift store feeling. Not surprisingly, the lack of artistic sophistication doesn’t end there. Far worse is the sloppy songwriting, which is nothing more than an unoriginal exercise in bad taste.
Whether it’s the aforementioned #1 single “We Can’t Stop” which celebrates everything from the joys of casual sex to strip clubs to snorting cocaine, Miley has a kindergartener’s rebuke for anyone who dares to critique her lifestyle, namely “We run things, things don’t run we…it’s our party we can do what we want.”
On the title track and “FU,” Miley also showcases a snore-worthy appreciation for f-bombs and being stoned, while #Getitright gives a graphic play-by-play of her sexual preferences—not that anyone asked for them.
While Miley briefly hints at the dissatisfaction that comes with the clichéd sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle in “Love, Money, Party,” there’s very little that’s personal about Bangerz. More of a generic brag book that’s meant to shock and not much else, the only moments that feel remotely real are found in the strains of “Adore You” and “My Darlin’” where Miley wistfully longs for lasting love.
Aside from that short-lived reprieve, however, Bangerz is the cheap, manufactured sort of junk one would expect from an artist who so desperately longs for the spotlight. Funny thing is, she and her “art” would be far better served by doing exactly the opposite, namely taking a giant step back.
*This Article First Published 10/15/2013