“Bangerz” – Miley Cyrus

4 stars (out of 5)

0

BangerzAt some point over the last six months Miley Cyrus has stared the current state of Pop Culture directly in its confused and salacious eye and declared ‘it’s on!’  The combination of a short haircut (I know), high cut leotards (I know!), two very good songs, twerking and the most attention hungry VMA performance in years has managed to create the same impact, the same level of horror and disgust as Madonna did when she first rolled around an empty stage in a wedding dress singing “Like A Virgin”, also at the VMAs, in 1984. Both artists understand the rules and both appear to break many when really they know exactly how much they can get away with. Star power remains as such only when the connection is fully made and maintained and right now Miley Cyrus wants your attention all the time; “Bangerz” will go a long way in determining whether she gets it or not.

As it often the case with these kinds of post-Disney reinventions, Miley Cyrus’ juggernaut of an album (to the Cyrus uninitiated it may seem as though this is her debut when in fact it’s her third album) is steered by the r’n’b producers and song writers du jour, in this instance relative newcomer Mike Will Made It and the evergreen Pharrell Williams. In the case of Williams it features some of his most engaging work in a long time and MWMI shows a diversity to his sound not yet demonstrated on such a vast level. Importantly they understand how to push and develop the pop component and therefore, in this instance, the artist. The surprise for many will be Miley Cyrus herself, the overbearing sound of controversy (Sinead O’ Connor is on her fifth ‘open letter’ to Cyrus at the time of writing, maybe the next should be sealed) having the negative effect, along with several positives of course, of making her hard to hear. Cyrus can really sing, passionately and with humour and drama when required or she feels like it; she is extremely present throughout; something that artists such as Britney Spears or Rihanna can still struggle with.

The first half of the deceptively named “Bangerz” (it’s a fifty-fifty ballad and up-tempo split) is not the strongest. The two massive singles which both feature early on certainly stand out; the opposing ends of the Cyrus vehicle, they are two of this year’s best. Opening the album with a ballad, the “Ray of Light” drum machine skittering “Adore You” is brave but its bland fawning won’t pull you in. The Salt n Pepa-indebted title track featuring a creamy sounding Britney Spears and the twangy, doesy-doe of “4x4” (containing the bizarre lyric ‘driving so fast about to piss on myself’, one of many very odd moments) are both gimmicky and therefore disposable. Unlike the fantastic “Hollaback Girl” (Gwen Stefani) from which this genre was partly born, both songs have forgotten to include a decent chorus. “My Darling” is a mawkish mess and an, albeit imaginative, attempt to uptake Ben E Kings “Stand By Me”.

“#GETITRIGHT” just about sums up the remainder of “Bangerz”. A joyous and naive, guitar-led groove which captures what Madonna was aiming for when she worked with Pharrell but failed to achieve on her flat attempt at urban pop, “Hard Candy”. Williams here produces one of the very best, if not the most triumphant track, on the album with Cyrus sounding ecstatic and utterly contagious. “Drive” is an appropriately named juddering and in turn undulating, excellent metallic ballad. The melancholic drop at the end of the lyric ‘drive my heart into the night, you can drop the keys off in the morning’ hits hard, twerking it seems only being part of Miley’s increasingly sad story. “FU” is another deranged, “I Put A Spell On You”- riffing and swinging show tune underscored by a whomp, whomp dubstep and “Do My Thang” is “We Can’t Stop”’s trappier and more bratty cousin; ‘I’m a southern belle, crazier than hell’. Indeed.

The two tracks which end “Bangerz” are interesting in that they are ballads which I imagine could have appeared on Cyrus’ earlier releases before her ultimate rebirth, the only songs here that this may apply to. I haven’t heard any of Miley Cyrus’ material from this time as I don’t feel that it’s necessary (and I don’t think I would enjoy it) but there is a strong, country feel to them and this is after all a strong part of Cyrus’ heritage (god-daughter of Dolly Parton and daughter of “Achy-Breaky” father Billy Ray and all). “Maybe You’re Right” is more traditional in sound and song structure where “Someone Else” is an insane rave ballad with speed -sung verses and staccato stabs of vocal puncturing the chorus,  It fades on a repeated, whooshing synth noise and the album ends; it is satisfyingly odd.

There are probably two more number one songs here to follow on from the two already achieved before the album was released and means that in 2013 Miley Cyrus is a phenomenon. She can follow in the footsteps of Britney, Beyonce, Gaga and, lest we forget, Madonna. All of those artists understand and luxuriate in artifice and have perfected the other art of being worshipped. They also share a seemingly innate understanding of what constitutes the right song and how to fully inhabit it.  Right now at least, Miley Cyrus has also synced into their groove and “Bangerz” is the highly enjoyable but flawed soundtrack that will accompany her to the next instalment. Whether it will be as engrossing as this one, who knows so I would suggest that you begin to listen and start to fall in love with her, at least for now.