Contrary to what the media might show, Miley Cyrus doesn’t just wag her tongue and twerk around with a platinum pixie cut and teddy bears strapped to her back — she actually does make music. And her highly anticipated album, Bangerz, which drops Tuesday, proves it.
Bangerz is Cyrus’ fourth studio album, but given its content, it might as well be her first. It would not only be foolish but also irrelevant to compare it to the work of her last album three years ago, Can’t Be Tamed, which served as her first attempt to unshackle herself from Disney’s chains. Nor does it make sense to compare it to Breakout, which solidified her presence as a household name. Nor — cringingly — to Meet Miley Cyrus, her 2007 solo debut.
Leading up to Bangerz, Cyrus’ two singles, “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” blew up YouTube with provocative, high-budget music videos (one shot by renowned celebrity photographer Terry Richardson). They have garnered more than 400 million views on YouTube combined and the two singles continue to shine as some of the best of Bangerz.
The former is an urban-inspired pop song that shows Cyrus could care less about what you think of her. For many, the song is regarded as the party tune of the summer.
Though many have already heard “Wrecking Ball” — if for no other reason than to watch the music video — it deserves to be discussed, because it is Cyrus at her best. This is her niche and the standard to measure the rest of the record against.
Cyrus’ raw vocals overpower the simple electric piano for most of the song, but the strong bass is where the song really kills it. For Cyrus, it’s the right pop ballad with the right tempo, and it’s no wonder that “Wrecking Ball” is her first and only song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts in the United States so far.
The first track on the album, “Adore You,” is another standout ballad. Its deep, drawn out notes allows Cyrus’ voice to precariously balance between love and longing. The lyrics, though not revolutionary, effectively depict a soft vulnerability in Cyrus. This especially comes through in the chorus: “When you say you love me / No, I love you more.” The symphony of strings and short bursts of violin on the track make it all the more powerful.
One of the ways in which Cyrus makes herself incomparable to her former self is her ability to use influences from various genres: from country to hip hop to pop to R&B. One of the best songs that exemplifies this is “FU (feat. French Montana).” The track jumps right in, with the screeching line, “Oh you broke my heart.” The song captures the spurned love that Johnny Cash or Dolly Parton would sing about. It’s sassy and spunky. As Cyrus croons, “And now I’m cryin’, cryin’,” the artist seems to embrace her country roots. If anything is going to separate Cyrus from the rest of pop music artists right now, this is the track that will do it.
The fusion of country and hip hop continues with “4×4 (feat. Nelly).” In a sentence, the song is best described as a chain-smoking, whiskey-drinking, rough-around-the-edges version of Hannah Montana’s “Hoedown Throwdown.” Cyrus sings about riding around town, being thrown in jail and just acting like a “female rebel.” The addition of Nelly’s R&B-styled contribution to this track makes one imagine cowgirls square dancing in a barnyard in downtown Detroit with gold grills and shredded overalls.
Bangerz isn’t always a good time, though. In Cyrus’ “SMS” collaboration with Britney Spears, Cyrus unsuccessfully attempts to channel Salt-N-Pepa with her tongue-in-cheek verses (Note the line, “They ask me how I keep a man / I keep a battery pack”). “SMS” feels forced and manufactured. Spears, however, delivers with a highly synthetic whisper on vocal tracks layered on top of each other.
Another miss comes in the almost so-bad-it’s-good track, “#GETITRIGHT.” The track combines an upbeat, almost kid-like whistle of a tune with cheesy lines of seduction, such as, “Don’t you think it’s time to get it on?” Perhaps best summed up as baby-making music gone wrong, it at least might make one crack a smile.
In a recent interview with entertainmentwise.com, Cyrus said she wanted to set a new standard for pop music. Though Bangerz might not be that groundbreaking, it does add a dirty, Southern flair to current bubblegum pop music, and speaks, in the words of Cyrus, “on behalf of the country girls who are turnt up.”
If nothing else, Bangerz has to be one of the best reinventions of a pigeonholed artist in a long time. Through it, Cyrus proves she is much more than a Disney queen — she’s someone that has the potential to not only stay in this industry for a long time, but also to thrive in it.
Follow Grace on Twitter @gracegdrch