|RIP Hannah Montana|
By the end of this year, some of the biggest women in music will have released new material, making 2013 the Hunger Games of pop music. And in this age of crowded radio airwaves, talent is not enough to win. Maybe that's why these pop princesses think if they show enough skin and cross enough lines, they're true artists. Nobody is guiltier of practicing this philosophy than Miley Cyrus, whose foam-fingering, tongue-wagging, ass-twerking debauchery has been the hottest topic on the planet for the past few months. Bangerz, her first album in three years and fourth overall, is the musical embodiment of her recent public transformation, which she has aptly labeled a "strategic hot mess."
But controversy does not equal talent, and while Bangerz is more or less unmistakably Miley, it's hard to ignore the fact that her new musical identity, which she swears is completely genuine, is a calculated cocktail made up of the best parts of Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Rihanna. At it's best, Bangerz showcases what the Disney darling has picked up from these women. At its worst, the album feels like a massive hangover. And though she fails in her efforts to be the ultra pop star and the album just might have what it takes to turn the singer into an actualized musician.
Oddly enough, the album opens with the ballad "Adore You", an undeniably romantic ode to Liam Hemsworth, "holy matrimony" and all. The song does a good job of preparing the listener for the innumerable lyrics clearly aimed at her ex-fiancé; however, it completely buries the lead. Even the second track, "We Can't Stop", is too tame sonically, although it does capture the carefree, smoked-out content that dictates the rest of the album.
The third track, "SMS (Bangerz)", a cheery rap-off with Britney Spears, sets the pace for what follows. The song is disjointed and loud, but when Britney comes in and is all, "Catwalk, slick talk, flirting with them big dogs," she instantly puts Miley's Ke$ha-wannabe speak-singing to shame. Miss Cyrus attempts unabashed rapping on "Do My Thang", on which she proclaims, "I'm a southern belle, crazier than hell." If anything, the song is a good argument that Miley should never rap again.
"#GETITRIGHT" is Miley's attempt at Daft Punk's "Get Lucky", and oddly enough, both were crafted by Pharrell. In it, the singer exudes the same confidence she did while humping a wrecking ball completely naked: "I'm dancing in the mirror/I feel like I got no panties on/I wish that I could feel ya/So hurry, hang up that damn phone."
Every once in a while, Miley tosses out dramatic ballads. While "Wrecking Ball", the singer's first domestic number one single, stands out well on its own, it becomes quickly jaded and repetitive on the album when tracks like "Adore You", "Maybe You're Right", and "My Darlin'" capture the same sound and emotions.
Only twice on the album does Miley get experimental (a generous term for deviating slightly from her peers), and it yields mixed results. The Nelly-featured "4x4" is merrily infused with country elements. The duo takes on Bonnie & Clyde personas as they let their Southern twang run as wild as the high-speed chase they sing about. On "FU", Miley attempts to emulate Adele against a French Montana-produced EDM backdrop as she belts out, "I got two, two two letters for you/One of them's F and the other one's U". It's easily the most uninspired and blood-curdling song on the album.
Every song on Bangerz is a banger: a loud, colorful, trashy depiction of how the singer lives (or at least how she wants us to think she lives). But it's in that chaos that the album works; even when it's bad, it's so bad, it's almost good. Miley isn't doing anything that hasn't been done before her, and Bangerz is hardly the artistic statement she thinks it is, but this very well may be the record that legitimizes Miley as anything but Hannah Montana gone bad.