Miley Cyrus – “Bangerz”

(Photo Credit: Rolling Stone)

Grade: B

Key Tracks: “4×4,” “Wrecking Ball”

The opening track on “Bangerz,” called “Adore You,” is a very slow-crawling song about romance. It’s unexpected, but it sends a message – theatrics aside, Miley is taking her music seriously. She easily (and maybe expectedly) could’ve released an album of fun, partying Ke$ha copies, but she hasn’t. There is some of that present, but the focus is on a more mature persona. And she’s showing her maturity in countless ways; the album mixes club beats, synth and even country rhythms over songs about love and romance (sometimes). And say what you will about her VMA’s bit, anyone that still sees her as a young child star is blind to the maturity of the performance (shame on you, Robin Thicke). Maybe it wasn’t the best way to do it, but the message was sent, she watched the waves that were made, and she’s standing by it.

Although this is her fourth album as Miley Cyrus, she’s calling it a ‘debut,’ because it’s the first album she’s released since leaving behind Hannah Montana. (On last Saturday’s “SNL”, she offered a brief update on Montana: “She was murdered”). It does definitely feel like a debut, or even the debut of a new character. She’s only 20, but being a child star, going through a failed engagement and being scrutinized under the public eye since she was young have certainly given her material. Lyrically, she’s fitfully dealing with adulthood, trying to recoup by sounding seasoned but still gleefully admitting to partying, driving fast and drug use. (Yes, it is a little uncomfortable to hear a 20 year old singing about Molly, but less uncomfortable than hearing the 55 year old Madonna sing about it). “4×4″ and “We Can’t Stop” are odes to a wild life, while “Wrecking Ball” and “Adore You” show varying struggles of recovery.

The album has great diversity, not without faults. It isn’t as fun as it seems like it should be. Some songs, like “FU,” really don’t go anyway and would’ve been better off staying on the drawing board. And, as much as it’s common practice for a song to get introduced by saying a rapper/producer’s name, the number of songs that start with Miley just saying “Mike Will Made It” gets very comically repetitive/annoying. Still, the faults are predictable ones for a star attempting to re-distinguish herself.

What wasn’t expected was the guest spot contributions. Britney Spears shows up for a great spot on “SMS (Bangerz),” and Future backs up the soulful “My Darlin’.” Even Nelly sounds great on “4×4,” rapping over what I can only call electro-country on the album’s most diverse and fun song. Miley doesn’t rely on the power of her voice nearly as much as she should, but when she does, you’re reminded that she can really sing. The ballad (and big hit) “Wrecking Ball” and the surprisingly effective closer “Someone Else” are the two songs where she shines vocally. She should’ve relied on her own vocals more, and the album is certainly faulty, but “Bangerz” is still a very memorable and progressive release.

-By Andrew McNally

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