Album Review: Miley Cyrus, “Bangerz” (2013)

I don’t really care about Miley Cyrus. I’ve not heard much of her music; I’m 26 years old and I pride myself in listening to mature, thoughtful music, like Radiohead and Coldplay (never mind all those Britney Spears songs on my Last.fm account). Cyrus’ recent media shenanigans have done little to pique my interest, either; her VMA performance was obnoxious, but not nearly as offensive as everyone pretended it was, and though all those open letters from Sinead O’Connor were amusing, I could really care less about Cyrus’ public persona, in general.  I suppose some of this is due, in part, because I’m nowhere near Cyrus’ target demographic- hell, I’ve never even seen a single episode of Hannah Montana. Still, curiosity got the best of me, and I found the urge to download Bangerz the day it was released.

Surprisingly enough, Bangerz is a very decent pop album. Sure, Cyrus doesn’t have the best voice (her flat alto isn’t particularly enjoyable to listen to), or the best songs (there are a few real stinkers), or even the best producers (24-year-old hip-hop producer Mike WiLL Made It is responsible for most of the tracks), but as far as pop music goes, it’s a fairly good offering, and better than I expected it to be.

The album begins with Adore You, a sentimental and wholly forgettable ballad.  Cyrus’ raspy voice is definitely an acquired taste-  one that I’ve yet to acquire. The flowery lyrics are allegedly an ode to Cyrus’ now ex-fiancé, Liam Hemsworth (“When you say you love me/Know I love you more/And when you say you need me/Know I need you more”), though Cyrus didn’t write any of the lyrics herself, instead leaving the writing and production to Oren Yoel.  For the most part, the track is just a predictable pop ballad, and an unexciting start to the album.

Thankfully, things pick up with the disc’s lead single, We Can’t Stop.  The host of writers responsible for this track (seven people, including Cyrus) did an admittedly excellent job of creating pop music perfection: sing-a-long verses, an anthem-like chorus, and plenty of lyrics about carefree partying (“Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere/Hands in the air like we don’t care/’Cause we came to have so much fun now/Bet somebody here might get some now”).  Cyrus’ vocal performance is even decent this time around, though the flashy production does a great job of overpowering most of her flimsy singing.

Real pop music gold appears as a duet between Cyrus and pop music royalty, Britney Spears on the song SMS (Bangerz). During my first listen, I actually had no clue Spears was on the song, but kept thinking, “This sounds like something Britney Spears would sing. “  I was thrilled when I heard Spears’ trademark kittenish vocals in the second verse. Spears and Cyrus go back and forth in this upbeat pop track, singing and even rapping (yes, rapping- it sounds better than you’d imagine).  The lyrics are the first of the nonsensical ones on the album (“I’m flying high upon the bird, acrophobia/My slick carder, I ain’t down my purse where the dollars at/I let them know the rings two on the first/They can call the hearse cause if there’s anybody violation I go off with that”…uh, what?!), but the catchy melody and chorus more than make up for the rest of the song’s faults.  Coincidentally, I wish Spears had gone more in this direction for her new album; so far, I like SMS a lot more than any of the tracks I’ve heard on Britney Jean.

Miley2014

There are a few other stellar tracks on the album.  I was annoyed by it at first, but I must admit that Wrecking Ball has grown on me.  The overwrought power ballad is exactly the sort of thing I don’t usually enjoy listening to, and the fact that I’m not a fan of Cyrus’ voice makes it even harder for me to stomach.  Still, there’s something charming about the song and thanks to repeated playings of it on my work’s PA system, its chorus has wheedled its way into my subconscious, and I almost always find myself singing along.

Love Money Party
is a silly number, with lyrics that aren’t the least bit thought-provoking or even interesting, really (“Money ain’t nothing but money when you get to the money it ain’t nothing but money/Love ain’t nothing but love when you learn how to love ain’t nothing but love/Party ain’t nothing but a party when you party every day it ain’t nothing but a party/Love money party”), but it’s a track I can’t help liking all the same, mostly due to the bouncy, danceable beat.  Meanwhile, pop/hip-hop producer extraordinaire, Pharell Williams, lends his production and writing talent to #Getitright, a breezy little number with sexy lyrics (“Feel a surge coming over me/I feel it all around my thighs/And chills going up my legs/This is the worst coming out of me/When I can’t tell, feel like I could die/And it sends chills up my spine”) and Cyrus’ best vocal performance; she’s toned down some of the histrionics on her other ballads, and her voice sounds light and airy- a lot better than some of the deep, throaty sounds we hear emanating from her in other tracks.

The rest of the album is a flop, though.  Rapper, Nelly, has a guest appearance on the God-awful 4X4, a twangy, southern-sounding rap/pop hybrid which features some of the worst lyrics on the album (there is actually a line that goes: “drivin’ so fast, ‘bout to piss on myself.”  Really, Miley?  Really?), and some of Cyrus’ worst warbling.  Nelly’s rap does nothing to make the song any better, though that’s not terribly surprising considering that Nelly hasn’t had a hit since 2010.  My Darlin’ is yet another terrible ballad, this time featuring a sample of “Stand By Me”, which does nothing more than drive home how horrible the track is, especially in comparison to such a classic. Songs like Do My Thang, FU, and Drive serve as nothing more than obnoxious, throw-away filler tracks, where the writing and singing are in competition to be the most terrible aspect of each song.

The album ends with another ballad, Someone Else, though this one has a bit of a dubstep/EDM flavour to it; an obvious attempt to cash in on the currently unavoidable electronic dance music trend.  Cyrus flounders through the song as she does on most of her ballads, and the album ends just as unimpressively as it began.

Bangerz won’t win any Grammys.  It probably won’t make any distinguished “best of” lists, either.  Miley Cyrus isn’t a great singer, she doesn’t write most of her own songs and despite having a few shining moments on the album, Mike WiLL Made It isn’t even a great producer.  All that considered, though, Bangerz is a mostly likeable pop album, with a handful of great pop songs.  If you’re expecting something awe-inspiring, I don’t really need to tell you to look elsewhere…but if you’re just looking for a few tracks to sing and dance along to, this is my pick.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track List
1. Adore You
2. We Can’t Stop
3. SMS (Bangerz) – (featuring Britney Spears)
4. 4×4 – (featuring Nelly)
5. My Darlin’ – (featuring Future)
6. Wrecking Ball
7. Love Money Party – (featuring Big Sean)
8. #GETITRIGHT
9. Drive
10. FU – (featuring French Montana)
11. Do My Thang
12. Maybe You’re Right
13. Someone Else

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My2FRPA3Gf8]
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