11 October 2013

bangerz || miley cyrus || 2013

Through the last several months of both mass and social media hype, I've remained largely ambivalent to Miley Cyrus. I see her as a young woman who is denigrated by a society that is not welcoming to empowered women who take charge of their own sexuality.

After her response to Sinead O'Connor's open letter, I also see her as immature and insensitive to mental health issues. Compared to everything I've seen written and heard spoken about her since her VMA performance (and, really, well before then), that's a considerably clear window through which to view her and this album.

 Drawing from what I knew about Cyrus' roots and her current interests, I expected influences of hedonist hip-hop, slack-jawed southern rock, and cringeworthy country, and my expectations were certainly met, though not in the individual ratios that I had assumed. "We Can't Stop" was a clear choice for the first single because it's by far the most radio friendly song on the album; the rest feels like something to listen to at a small but cramped house party or during a bathroom pot-smoking session.

 "Adore You" was a very pleasant way to start the album. It's a soft, personal slow jam about the feelings of insecurity and excitement when one realizes that a relationship is becoming serious. It feels wrong to point out the triteness of the lyrics considering her audience, so I'll just use this sentence as an excuse to subtly do so. Also worth noting: For some reason, this track really reminds me of Bardeux's 1988 single "When We Kiss."

"SMS (Bangerz)," which features Britney Spears, is surprisingly tame considering its clientele, but a very enjoyable track nonetheless. I expect to hear this in clubs in no time, but probably just the vocal track mixed over a more interesting beat.

 "4x4" is easily the lowest point of the album. Full disclosure: I couldn't make it all the way through the song. It reminded me of some shady honky tonks that I've been to with friends, and those excursions lasted no longer than my time with this song. Blech.

 "My Darlin'" is made interesting only by the involvement of Future, whose sampling of Ben E. King's classic "Stand By Me" makes the song (especially the outro) glow. This will be the track to spin while night driving.

 I found the next several tracks quite forgettable, until I got to "FU," which crashes out of the gate with a powerful note from Cyrus, and the emotion stays strong as Cyrus berates an ex over instrumentation that is equal parts club and Broadway musical.

 The only other worthwhile track on the album for me was "On My Own," which is noticeably more upbeat than the other tracks. Its arrangement recalls late '70s Nile-Rodgers style disco, a sound that seems to be popular on Top 40 radio this year.

 If southern or "dirty" hip-hop is your thing, you will surely enjoy this album more than I did. Not to say that I thought it was terrible; far from it -- the production is solid through and through, and Cyrus no doubt made an album that accomplished exactly what she wanted, and I'm sure she's thrilled with the final product. This album is decidedly more interesting than 2010's Can't Be Tamed, so it'll be interesting to see where this energetic woman moves next with her career.