Miley Cyrus - Bangerz
Album cover for "Bangerz" by Miley Cyrus. (Photo courtesy of RCA Records)

by Joseph Mastando

Rating: **1/2

From dainty Disney damsel to twerk-tastic TMZ target, Miley Cyrus has proven not only that she “can’t be tamed,” but that she also cannot and simply will not stop. And why stop when, at the age of 17, Forbes rates your annual income as the 13th highest grossing amongst celebrities in the nation?

She has evolved much from her sweetheart southern charm and departed from the naiveté of Disney stardom, but can the same be said about the mastery of her craft? Actually, I do not believe the term “craft” denotes the proper relationship many pop artists share with their music, so let me readdress the subject: has Miley Cyrus’ artistry grown as unwieldy as her recent exploits? Though the many smilers out there would be outraged to hear this, I must confess that apart from a few golden hits, Miley’s tumultuous behavior and unrestrained tongue mimic much of the music represented on her most recent studio album Bangerz.

Miley has maintained a sturdy seat in the spotlight ever since she chopped off her long brunette locks and sported a bleached pixie cut atop her newfound edge and anarchy. Her sudden and bewildering twerk sessions—her first in a furry jumpsuit to J. Dash’s “Wop” followed by her second on stage with Juicy J—carried the reviving buzz for the former Hannah Montana star. Audiences gawking behind their computers and smartphones quickly learned of the fresh pop persona and began asking the question, “What will Miley do next?”

Toward the beginning of June, Miley quenched the overwhelming thirst for all those asking such a question and released her first single “We Can’t Stop.” For her 2013 musical debut and first single since 2010, the song seemed underwhelming at first. But in time, as is the case with most pop songs, its words and melody were soon flying from the tongues of nearly everyone in the nation.

The music video increased hype for both the song and the artist, painting a vivid picture of the boisterous party scene of LA’s nightlife. The hallucinogenic and exaggerated images of events that happened in Miley’s past became clipped together in a nonsensical and staggered manner intended to capture the California chaos. Being the first video concept that Miley came up with herself, the production proved to be a hit, maintaining the interest of its viewers and stirring controversies around the sensitive subject of drugs and sex exploited in the video and lyrics. The video shattered the record for most views on YouTube in a 24-hour period.

After her even more provocative performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards, the rather frank pop star ingeniously released her next single “Wrecking Ball.” In its lyricism, melody, and production, the song stands above most songs released on the radio. The song expresses a vulnerability that was necessary for the celebrity to juxtapose her previous behavior. However, the song’s release verified yet again the dexterity of Miley’s PR team (communications majors start jotting down some notes!). While the world was blasphemed over the promiscuous performance from a week prior and while everyone took time out of their day to google Miley’s name and watch her every movement, “Wrecking Ball’s” music video hit Vevo’s website, and the video did nothing but heighten anticipation and controversy surrounding the artist, breaking the record Miley herself set for most YouTube views in a 24-hour period.

Seated atop a wrecking ball nude that has slammed into the cement walls barricading the artist, Miley spends the music video sensually addressing the audience and, well, licking a sledgehammer. Though many would argue the insularity of her action, I would confess the ingenuity of Miley and director Terry Richardson to capture the vulnerability (nudity, breaking down walls…), the eroticism, and the controversy necessary to tastefully raise Miley’s standing in the pop industry.

But I digress; let’s get back to the music.

With the world’s spotlight on her, Miley had the perfect opportunity to release beautiful music. If her songs had to ability to move people, to reach into their hearts and minds and press their emotional keys and strum their emotional strings, then all this chaotic and unruly behavior would make sense…or at least be worth the struggle. However, I must admit that the album was a bit underwhelming.

I’ve been an avid supporter of Miley since her Breakout days, but there has not been a great deal of growth as much as there has been change in her musical endeavors. Firstly, a red flag should be raised for any album that is comprised of more than one-third collaborations. Nelly, Ludacris, Future, French Montana, Britney Spears, and Big Sean are all listed under separate songs on the album, and let’s be honest, none of them are musical anomalies. Clearly, a lack of confidence in the quality of music has expressed a need for creating bridges between varied audiences. Though this also could be indicative of Miley’s desire to shift genres, I still stand by my assertion.

Many titles on the album are great, but I find myself skipping more songs then I should on an album. Miley might not be the most vocally talented, but her voice can be charming and soothing when featured in the right style of music. The album’s greatest numbers consist of Miley singing. “Adore You,” “Wrecking Ball,” “We Can’t Stop,” “Drive,” and “Someone Else” all fall within this category, the latter two arguably being the best songs on the album. However, something possessed Miley to think she can rap, and her talents fall substantially flat when she does. “SMS Bangerz” and “4×4,” the two tracks featuring Britney and Nelly respectively, both barely ring bells of interest in listeners. And, when Britney outshines you on a vocal track, there’s a problem.

Miley did dip her hand in writing many of the songs featured on the album, though I fail to believe she had an overwhelming influence considering there are five to six writers on nearly every song. Mike Will Made It should not take any of the heat for the album’s hiccups, for his production talents mostly saved them from disparity. In fact, the harmonies and instrumentals he provides for the album take its production quality toward greatness.

The deluxe version of Bangerz features 16 songs, about half of which are rather good. Miley’s innovation and bravery to challenge the status quo are surely efforts to be admired, but unfortunately the album’s quality just does not render the same respect. With a rating of 2.5/5, it might be best to purchase select songs on iTunes instead of spending your money on the entire album.

And one final note; though I find Miley to be awkwardly beautiful with her infatuating new edge and sensuality, by no means is she the “hottest woman in the world” contrary to what Maxim’s Hot 100 list believes.