Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bangerz (Miley Cyrus)

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Grabbing headlines for all manner of scandal or internet feud these days is Miley Cyrus, who seems to be on a personal race against time to shed her good-girl image of Hannah Montana. Critics across the field have slammed her for prostituting herself, others have said she’s actually a feminist, some have branded her a demon with a tongue that runs stray. One thing’s for sure though: I would never have given her album a second thought if it hadn’t been for the attention that VMA performance garnered her. So my suspicion is that, for all the cringe, girl knows what she’s doing.

The album itself is actually a disappointment in the gossip stakes. Music-wise, she plays it safe in terms of her collaborating partners (Ludacris, Nelly, French Montana). It is notable that the Princess of Pop herself, Britney Spears, makes an appearance on the SMS (Bangerz). Miss Spears herself has been in the public eye a fair share of the time, but one thing that Britney always excelled at throughout was the music. Miley’s got the headline-seeking down to a T, better than Britney herself. But the quality of her art still has some way to go.

The album opens with Adore You, a flat piece of schmaltz that fails to make much of an impact. It’s followed by We Can’t Stop, her smash hit single, and my pick for the highlight of the entire ensemble. With an effortless swagger, Miley advises her young following to “Remember only God can judge ya / Forget the haters 'cause somebody loves ya”, which could also been read as a prescription manual for how she is currently living her life. Unlike several of the other songs on Bangerz, the use of autotune actually suits the song and doesn’t feel excessive. It’s an easygoing, casually amoral tune that makes for fun to bop along to.

We Can’t Stop, however, doesn’t redeem the sheer volume of duds on the album. 4x4, which tries to amalgamate Cyrus’ country-music roots with her current RnB target market, plays like a hot mess of hoedown brawl with Nelly hollering “MOTHAFUCKAS” when he feels like it. I cringed throughout. Bangerz is equally sloppy. Whilst I have nothing wrong with girls bragging about their promiscuity in music (hell, men have been doing it for years), Cyrus seems so keen to ram the “I CAN STRUT. I CAN FUQ WHOEVER I WANT. I HAVE LOTSA FUQ BUDDIES ON SPEED DIAL” message down our throats, that it just sounds a bit awkward and desperate, again, hailing memories of that trffic VMA performance. And My Darlin' feating Future, samples Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, with dire consequences.

The majority of the love songs on here aren’t bad, to be fair to her. Wrecking Ball is clearly stealing from the formula Lana del Rey used in Off to the Races in how she’s singing about a destructive love with a bad man, with Lana’s version being far better, but it’s catchy and affecting enough in its own right. FU is my second favourite song on the album – you can feel vitriol and rage at an ex that I can completely sympathise with. Maybe You’re Right captures the whiney rage of breakup that I prefer in Taylor Swift songs, but it’s still listenable.

As a singer, I actually think Miley Cyrus is pretty talented. She holds her own in On My Own, a decent shout for female independence, and in Hands in the Air, an engaging RnB ditty, she exhibits her skill for warbling. The main problem with Bangerz, then, isn’t her voice. The problem is that these collection of songs – some good, some bad, some utterly horrific, doesn’t have a common thread; it all feels terribly disjointed. Does she wanna go all Destiny's Child and be an #IndependentWoman? Does she want to make a whole album about casual sex and how liberated it makes her? Or does she want to sing ballads about failed love? Like a child with ADD, Miley Cyrus seems to want to cover all bases at once. In the end, she covers none.

Personally, I prefer the songs were Cyrus tones it down and sings songs about doomed love, as I feel that plays well to her vocal range, and her background in acting suits her delivery of the more heartfelt, dramatic lines, which she belts out with excellent gusto. But she needs to pick a focus for her next outing. Bangerz currently plays as a mishmash of poorly-thought out tunes that may have sounded good in theory, but doesn’t quite work in practice. An example, perhaps, of art mirroring the artist’s life.

Grade: D

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