As we start to write this review we wonder what’s left to say about Miley Cyrus in 2013. Undoubtedly she’s grabbed the most headlines out of any celebrity in recent months thanks to her outrageous behaviour and determination to break out of her former Disney princess image. Chopping off her hair, shedding most of her clothes and swearing like a trooper, this is the new grown up Miley Cyrus. Everyone has had their opinion it seems and despite claims that she’s gone off the rails, it seems to us that Cyrus knows exactly what she’s doing. New album Bangerz is a huge departure musically for the popstar but after the success of We Can’t Stop and Wrecking Ball it seems it’s given her the payoff she’s been looking for.
After listening through Bangerz several times there are two ways of looking at the album. On the one hand you can cynically say this has all been calculated to generate headlines and sell records off the back of controversy. On the other hand you can argue that Cyrus has taken control of her career for the first time and is enjoying experimenting with her sound. Don’t forget she’s only 20 years old and after years of being squeaky clean, she must be ready to spread her wings and prove herself as an artist without the Disney machine behind her.
Producer Mike Will Made It has overseen the entire record and Cyrus’ sound has departed her old country/dance/pop roots opting instead for hip-hop and urban rhythms. The pop sound is still in there and there’s no doubt this is still a commercial record. We Can’t Stop was a good indicator that the Miley Cyrus of old is gone and the ballsier feel of that track is present throughout Bangerz. What may surprise people is that the album is much more varied than the title would have you believe. Not everything is uptempo or a ‘banger’ with the first case in point being the opening track Adore You which is a ballad. It’s clear from the offset that Cyrus is trying to catch you off-guard and she manages.
When Bangerz is good, it’s really good. Wrecking Ball is one of the strongest tracks on the album as Cyrus borrows a bit of Lana Del Rey’s attitude but musically there are more interesting tracks. The country/hip-hop of 4×4 featuring Nelly is one of the album’s standout moments despite a dodgy lyric about ‘driving so fast ‘bout to piss on myself’ and shows a growlier side of Cyrus’ vocal delivery. Love Money Party moves further into hip-hop territory with Cyrus adopting a rap/sing vocal delivery, FU featuring French Montana is a surprisingly effective pop song, and the hip-hop dance of Do My Thang is one of the strongest next single contenders.
The finest moment comes on the breezy #GetItRight which combines a looped whistle, loose guitars and a softer vocal from Cyrus. The track is one that bridges her old sound with her new sound.
Not all of Bangerz works. The turgid My Darlin’ featuring Future is a dreary 4 minutes that we’d happily skip and oddly samples the classic Stand By Me. Similarly Maybe You’re Right is nothing new and actually sounds more like a lost cut from previous album Can’t Be Tamed. Most albums have a bit of filler though so we can forgive Cyrus a couple of misses.
The one track we really can’t decide if we like or not is SMS (Bangerz) featuring fellow popstar Britney Spears. On paper this sound work really well and whilst it’s certainly catchy it does sound like Britney has phoned in her vocal. The two artists never really work together instead just singing different parts of the same song without coming together at any point.
Bangerz has certainly done what Cyrus wanted it to; it’s got people paying attention to her and it’s given her the biggest hits of her career so far. How much of the sales will be based on music and how much her wildchild image we’re not entirely sure. Cyrus isn’t trying to be Rihanna but if she’s not careful she’ll suffer from the same over-exposure that the Barbadian beauty currently has. If people actually take the time to listen to Bangerz they’ll discover a solid pop record that is definitely more adult. What will she do next? We have no clue but we’re oddly curious to find out.