What can be said about Miley Cyrus that has not already been said since that fateful day in September? When reviewing this album, it is important to come from a place of objectivity, let the music speak for itself. Personally, I cannot really say I have any strong opinions about Miley anymore; “We Cant Stop” was a song I was obsessed with from the moment I heard it. Her apparent transformation into a mini Rihanna was something I took with a grain of salt; to be honst when I go out on the street 83% of the girls look like they have Rihanna-related fashion dreams. I found her 2013 VMA performance distasteful but not shocking. If I had to list out the distasteful things I did when I was 20… well let’s just not even go there. The REAL problem with her VMA performance was the true lack of any verifiable talent; not that she was twerking with her tongue out. That is a discussion for another time, though, and at the end of the day, she is a girl growing up in front of the world and I can appreciate her need to express herself. Overall, I feel like Miley has molded herself into a pretty “normal” girl; her clothing, manner of speech, and attitudes about everything echo so many of my peers that the fact that America continues to be “shocked” by her behavior says more about Americas disconnect from its own culture than about Miley Cyrus. So here we have Bangerz, Miley‘s fourth studio album; her first since leaving Hollywood Records and hiring Larry Rudolph as her manager. Executive produced by her “homie” Mike Will Made-It, the album is overall a solid effort but like every record – it has its ups and it has its downs.
BUY Miley Cyrus’ fourth studio album Bangerz (Deluxe Version) on iTunes NOW!
“Adore You” is the opening track on the album. My first reaction was negative. I didn’t understand it; it was so slow, a bit bland, her voice sounded so loud and drawn out… why would you start your Bangerz coming out party with a song like this? I wrote it off as a misstep and never really paid much more attention to it. After hearing others feelings about the song (much adoration for the “pretty love song”), I decided to listen to it again. And again and again. And then one more time. And somewhere half-way through the fourth time of listening to her sing “when you say you love me, no I love you more. When you say you need me, no I need you more” I couldn’t help but wonder – is she talking about her fans?
Yes, there are a few literal lyrics about a boy and holy matrimony, but considering the placement of the song on the album and the overall tone that “love” takes on in this track, I couldn’t help but feel like she had her #smilers in mind. “Baby are you listening? Wondering where you’ve been all my life. I just started living. Oh, baby are you listening?” she sings. I cannot help but feel that this life she has just started living is one where she has broken free of her failed relationship, leaving the meaning of this track up for grabs. It then effortlessly slides into the opening lines of the albums lead hit single “We Can’t Stop.” “It’s our party we can do what we want,” the song that started it all. At the point this song was released as a single we knew very little about what else was to come, and at the time I was very excited for the electro hip-hop sound that Miley seemed to be heading towards. So what else does Bangerz have to offer?
Well then we get “SMS (Bangerz),” the title track and most anticipated song on the record. Put short, the song unfortunately sounds like a mess. Produced by Mike Will Made It and Sean Garret, the track possesses a beat that sounds suspiciously like Salt n’ Pepa’s “Push It” and fails to have any real impact of substance, or excitement, or even just a catchy hook. Not even a feature from pop queen Britney Spears adds anything to the song; I am honestly not even sure if Britney knew what was going on when she recorded her short bit. If you really listen, you realize that Britney is literally saying a sentence of random words (or so it seems). I am not sure if the whole point of the song was to be an orchestrated mess featuring the queen of seemingly orchestrated messes, but I do know that it fails to impress as a song. A missed opportunity.
This track is followed by “4×4,” which I am assuming is a reference to the Jeep Model and an extensive amount of off-roading with her country boy. Lyrically the song finds Miley “driving so fast, bout to piss on myself,” as if all the excitement of a mediocre song has pushed her over the edge. The song has a twangy-electro beat and while I can understand why this would appeal to Miley‘s country roots, it falls short of being a song worth remembering. The feature from Nelly is well placed, considering his “Country Grammar” charm, albeit unnecessary. The song ends up feeling repetitive and painfully lackluster.
“My Darlin” featuring Future isn’t a terrible song, unfortunately it is a song that has already been made (see Rihanna‘s Loveeeeee Song or Ciara‘s “Where You Go,” which both feature Future). When weighed side-by-side with the aforementioned tracks, it is obvious to see that “My Darlin” was Miley getting the short end of the Future stick.
“Wrecking Ball,” the second single and her first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and rightfully so. I have to admit, I first heard the song when I watched the music video; because of the music video, I immediately didn’t like the song. It has nothing to do with slut-shaming or hating women’s bodies, just everything to do with being emotionally exhausted of the confusion between shock value and something worth paying attention to. The video is shot in typical Terry Richardson style and shows Miley swinging around on a literal wrecking ball minus all her clothes. Needless to say, I was bored. I was so bored that I could barely hear what was playing behind the “shocking” images (sarcasm). Luckily for me, my job plays the radio all day long, (-_-), so inevitably I began to hear the song endlessly without the accompanying visuals. The frank rawness of Miley proclaiming “I never meant to start a war, I just wanted you to let me in, I guess I should have let you in” and “All I wanted was to break your walls, all you ever did was break me” finally won me over. It is an emotional, power-ballad that beautifully discusses the agonies of break-ups when you’re 20-years-old (sarcasm?). This is Miley‘s voice at its best, and hearing the cracks in her vocal as she sings leads me to reminisce about my favorite 20-something-year-old breakups. It truly is a great song.
Unfortunately, after this incredible high on the album, it is followed by “Love, Money, Party” featuring Big Sean. It is a waste of a song, with a chorus that sounds tired and rehashed. Lyrically, I feel like I can almost understand what Miley says when she sing-talks “party ain’t nothing but a party, when you party everyday it ain’t nothing but a party” but ultimately, it feels uninspired and I just wish it was replaced by one of the bonus tracks.
By the time the Pharrell produced track “#GETITRIGHT” comes on it’s like a breath of fresh air, even if it is more similar to the kind of air you breathe on an airplane as opposed to the air you breathe at the top of a hill, Julie Andrews style. While it is nice to break away from the mediocre hip-pop tracks the first half of the album is flooded with, it has to be realized that “#GETITRIGHT” has the same easy, breezy sound of many of Pharrell‘s summer hits (“Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky”). Or even anything he produced for Madonna‘s underrated album Hard Candy. The real standout Pharrell track, “Rooting for my Baby,” is saved for the deluxe version of the album. Insanely catchy for no apparent reason, it is the kind of easy melodic tune that haunts your ears for days after listening.
Now halfway through the album. I found myself a bit underwhelmed with everything leading up to “Drive,” track eight. It is an extraordinary decision to basically lead your album with mediocre numbers (minus the singles) packed with shock value and save all the substance for the end, but that is what happens here.
As soon as “Drive” starts, the mood immediately switches into something different. The beat is a slow burning electro offering from the ever present Mike Will Made It and it had the same effect on my eardrums that “We Can’t Stop” had, sonically. Lyrically (this pertains to much of the rest of the album) Miley is at her best when she is singing about the hurt and confusion her relationship with Liam Hemsworth left her with. There is something about hearing her sing lines like “You told me that you wanted this. I told you it was all yours. If your done with it, then what’d you say forever for” with such genuine emotion makes you wonder why she spends so much time (literally) talking about pissing herself in a jeep in “4×4.”
This is followed by “FU,” a song you have to hear to understand. Produced by Rami Samir Afuni, it sounds like something straight out of the movie Moulin Rouge. A bit theatrical, with scathing lyrics that find Miley yelling about how she only has two letters for a former lover, this is a great pop song. The song sounds like nothing else on the album and plays to all of Miley’s strengths; the emotion, her voice, and the theatrics of the song are something that I do not feel many others could pull off. A feature from French Montana is brief and does not detract from the song as a whole. This song is also an example of how having culturally correct dialogue for a 20-year-old (“LOL’ed” and “SMH” are actual lyrics), can work when used properly and when backed up with talent. Its strange and wonderful all at once.
“Do My Thang” produced by Will.i.AM and Jean-Baptiste isn’t a ground-breaking pop song, but in expected Will.i.AM fashion, it is a upbeat catchy song that finds Miley alternating between rapping and singing her heart out. This is the only song where I can say that I do not mind Miley rapping; this probably has to do with the fact that right when I feel like I am tired of it, the chorus comes in show-casing the power in Miley’s voice.
The final two tracks “Maybe You’re Right” and “Someone Else” are the final two tracks on the album and are both produced by Mike Will Made-It. Both tracks have a very forward-thinking pop vibe to them and are quite gripping. Lyrically, “Maybe You’re Right” finds Miley lamenting that maybe she’s crazy for leaving someone behind, but that it is too late for the two of them to pretend that they’re in love. Similarly, “Someone Else” finds that love no longer lives here, and that Miley feels like she has turned into someone else. The song, and album, end with Miley roaring 1 Corinthians straight out of the bible. “Love is patient, Love is selfless, Love is hopeful, Love is Kind, Love is jealous, Love is selfish, Love is hopeless, Love is blind.”
Overall, I cannot sit here and say that Bangerz is going to shut up the critics or that the album is bad. The album has its definite shining moments, yet leaves a lot to be desired. She has a big enough fan base and enough money where she can sing-talk ridiculous lyrics over bland beats and be able to sell it. If she were just starting out as an artist, I do not think that many people would take her seriously. This is what is disappointing to me about all this Miley talk; the fact is, there is nothing wrong with Miley twerking or rapping if she wants to. The problem is that she doesn’t do it particularly well, yet is allowed to parade before us and show it off as her “talent.” She has lost sight of what her true talents are in her quest to find herself; but once again, isn’t that what part of growing up is all about? Miley can indeed sing and has shown some growth, and no amount of negative publicity will take that away from her. She needs to find a balance where she is able to “shock” and have us remember her for her actual talent, not just the shock value. Bangerz too rarely plays to Miley’s strengths, and too often highlights her weaknesses. I still can’t understand why she would spend half the album basically talking when she has vocal chords that could blow many of her peers out of the water. However, the moments she gets it right is when it all comes together beautifully. Its glorious to see how Miley truly is the product of an American upbringing; hip-hop beats with lyrics about love being sang by a girl who cannot get rid of the country twang in her voice no matter how hard she tries.
In her MTV documentary, Miley: The Movement, she heavily referred to what she was doing as a movement and going back to “Adore You,” Miley croons “I’m scared oh, so scared, But when you’re near me, I feel like I’m standing with an army.” You really develop an understanding of it all. She has pulled out every trick in the “shock value” book to grab our attention. Now that she has us all watching her every move, what does Miley really have to say?
– Amanda ‘Bergz’ Berghorn –
BUY Miley Cyrus’ fourth studio album Bangerz (Deluxe Version) on iTunes NOW!