Miley Cyrus – Bangerz (2013)

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It’s unsurprising that Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz, her fourth studio album, would reflect the push-and-pull of a young adult trying to break away from an image crafted for her. Her well-publicized and intensely analysed retreat from the benign confines of Hannah Montana has made grist for the mill, with innumerable finger-wagging onlookers reprimanding her from abstract pedestals of moral superiority.

The absurd clamor over every tongue-wag and every “twerk” borders on unreasonable, as though no 20-year-old woman pre-Miley has unveiled her sexuality and sense of quirky energy. Naturally, imagining her neck-deep in a country-fried pool of puritanical goo has always seemed safer.

But something about Cyrus has always wanted to break from the cage she’s been in and Bangerz makes every effort to unleash what’s within. Her self-awareness, revealed in her Rolling Stone cover story, smears these songs with the frustration, broken-heartedness and logic that so many have attempted to deprive her of because she had the nerve to appear nude in a video about vulnerability.

The record is a merging of the absurd and the pragmatic, a mishmash of mid-tempo bangers, power ballads and Dirty South hip-hop that represents everything Cyrus wants to do.

Things start with the subdued “Adore You,” a divine melody that shows off her vocal range on a bed of keys and stutter-beats. Miley is still carving out her style — “I just started living,” she sings — and she’s clearly taken pages out of Rihanna’s notebook, but the results are still potent, vivid and absorbing.

The stunning “Wrecking Ball” also functions in this vein: it’s a damn good song, but Cyrus’ singing on the early verses is a little too Lana Del Rey to set her apart. That said, the chorus sweeps in like the titular object and blasts things apart with the sweeping scope of the very best pop music. Her emotion on the bridge is unmistakable, her voice slightly shrinking, and the entire tune is lyrically astonishing.

Tracks like the anthemic “Maybe You’re Right” suggest that Hannah’s World isn’t all that much of a distant memory, while “My Darlin’” features an operational but overly hectic take on “Stand By Me.”

Much of Bangerz is intended to shake asses, of course, and Miley dives in with ease. Mid-tempo joints like the lead single “We Can’t Stop” and the bulging “Love Money Party” are club-ready hits, while the brash neo-soul spring of “FU” reveals that Miley’s been listening to Amy Winehouse and knows how to fuse the vibe into something French Montana can hop into without fuss.

Bangerz reveals a Miley who is the product of her idols, a “little creature” (to use her own words) waiting to burst out and twerk out with the reckless abandon 20-year-olds are supposed to have. These aren’t earth-shattering songs by any means, but Cyrus’ new record happily comes by its title honestly: it’s a fun, enjoyable, engaging, clever record.

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Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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