Miley’s “Bangerz”: even more distance from Disney innocence

A&E reviews the fourth studio album from Hannah Montana, America’s new love/hate favorite.

Spencer Doar

Miley Cyrus’ soft-core performance at the Video Music Awards destroyed America — at least, that’s the joke “Saturday Night Live” writers made when Cyrus hosted the most recent show.

But the sudden hubbub is unwarranted given that Cyrus’ trajectory through the annals of celebrity has been predictable.

Seven years ago, she emerged from the shadow of her celebrity father, Billy Ray Cyrus, after landing what would become a tween Disney mega-hit, “Hannah Montana.”

She was 13.

The umbilical cord now severed, the once clean-cut schoolgirl with a secret pop star life garners criticism for her evolving aesthetic and sexually charged performances, all while changing the tenor of her music at the same time.

The most recent entry into the Miley mythos is “Bangerz,” an album that gushes its love of hip-hop, featuring her trademark soaring vocals punctuated with anthemic hooks.

As she tweeted when she announced the album’s title, “If you don’t know why my record is called BANGERZ you’ll know as soon as you hear it. Nothin but #BANGERZ.”

That isn’t entirely true for the whole album, though it is for the two singles off the new release, “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop.” Both the singles’ videos fall right in line with the direction Cyrus is heading — you’ve no doubt seen her naked on a wrecking ball by now.

But her twerking, grinding and lack of clothing shouldn’t be such a surprise to pundits who were up in arms after the VMAs and her ongoing Internet beef with Sinead O’Connor, who, in an open letter, offered patronizing advice about the perils of being pimped out by an uncaring industry.

All the way back in 2008, then-15-year-old Cyrus wreaked havoc on the sensitive-minded when she stripped down for a Vanity Fair photo shoot.

A still long-haired Cyrus continued her image evolution with a pole dance at the Teen Choice Awards in 2009.

In her single the next year, “Can’t Be Tamed,” Cyrus expressed her desire to break free from her perceived artistic restrictions.

“Bangerz” just keeps on building off this foundation — one that’s met with continued resistance due to her innocent teen-star origins and over-the-top sexuality.    

But as “Saturday Night Live” proved, Cyrus is good at laughing off the haters, a quality necessary for someone whose every move is a lightning rod for controversy. If the Britney Spears dots aren’t connecting yet, Cyrus signed with Spears’ former manager Larry Rudolph in March, shortly before revamping her look.  

While Cyrus is busy pushing the envelope, though, moments of “Bangerz” fall flat. Her poorly executed “Love Money Party” is a rip-off of Weezy’s “Pussy Money Weed.” “Adore You” and “Do My Thang” are derivative and boring — they fall into the album’s biggest fault.

Most of the lyrics are rote pop platitudes about loving people intensely and “doing you” — a problem mostly saved by the nature of her “banging” production, done by Mike WiLL Made-It. The third track, “SMS (Bangerz),” mostly works for this reason, except for its use of half the catchy instrumental from Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It,” leaving an only partly sated eardrum. (Oh, and more Britney dots: She’s featured on that track.)

Oddly enough, it’s songs like the rockabilly-inspired “4×4” (in which Nelly gets a verse) that channel Cyrus’ rebellious energy in the most honest way, paying homage to her Nashville roots while throbbing through up-tempo measures.

Similarly, the tight, funky “#GETITRIGHT” brings home the magic with a Prince-worthy guitar riff, while mostly shedding the club nature of many of the songs on “Bangerz.”  

If one thing is certain, Cyrus won’t stop partyin’ in the USA anytime soon — probably with the friends mentioned on “Bangerz,” Sticky and Molly.

 

Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz”

3 out of 5 stars