Miley Cyrus, one of the most talked about pop stars of the moment, is an easy target. God knows I’ve taken a few shots at her over the last few weeks after her shocking grindfest on the MTV awards. Still, I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the teen starlet. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent singing along with my daughter as we played Hannah Montana songs and early Miley Cyrus hits in the car. Sure, Miley has never been the best singer in the world but as far as teen starlets, I never objected to her much. I’d take Party in the USA over anything Hilary Duff or most of Selena Gomez’s catalog any day.

Might those days be over?

I thought it was just the adults who realized she was looking desperate and trashy rather than edgy or innovative. Yet, I’ve heard plenty of kids throwing a bit of shade at her as well, realizing this is who they do not want to idolize. Yet, her singles are highly successful and I imagine “Bangerz” is going to fly off the shelves. Why? Because underneath it all, Miley is a distinctive singer who knows how to record successful pop songs. Which makes her recent sex-crazed, tongue thrusting, Robin Thicke humping persona all the more disturbing. She probably didn’t need to do it.

The fact is, Miley Cyrus has a track record of making hits. Whether it’s the playful summery song I mentioned above, the inspirational The Climb or even the rock/pop teeny bopper tracks on the Hannah Montana soundtracks, she’s good at making songs any girl can sing along with. So it’s no surprise that her new songs are making their way up the charts.

So does “Bangerz” live up to the hype?

The album opens with a ballad surprisingly. I was expecting something really brash and in your face but instead I it’s a dreamy love song with cooing vocals and sensitivity. Adore You captivates the listener with a reliance on simple emotion and straight forward lyricism. This leads into the first single We Can’t Stop with Miley’s draggy voice declaring, “It’s our party we can do what we want.” The song is a catchy one with a laid back “kicking it with friends” vibe. The song seems fairly standard with its declaration of independence and desire to engage in some hedonistic pleasures. If this song had been by anyone but Miley Cyrus, I doubt it would have even made much of a controversy. Of course, the video definitely upped the ante as well.

On SMS (Bangerz), the current queen of controversy and youth gone wild, Miley teams up with Britney Spears, someone who went through her own wild phase. It will be hot in the strip clubs with its sample of Salt-N-Pepa’s Push It and its hip-pumping production. I don’t see much use for it outside of that realm though. The vocals are a bit grating and the song is repetitive but it will serve its purpose. 4×4 featuring rapper Nelly just might be the biggest musical bastardization I’ve ever heard. It’s a country-rap song that channels Dolly Parton. I don’t think they will be line dancing to this in Wyoming but I doubt it will be bumping in the clubs too. This song is just too weird to describe. My Darlin’ is a strange take off of Stand By Me featuring rapper/singer/wobbler Future. This song leaves a lot to be desired as well. The production is sparse, lacking any warmth. And I’ve yet to hear a song I thought was improved upon because Future was on it. Honestly, Future is just a poor man’s T-Pain as a rapper. The production is terrible with organs and distorted noise on top.

Wrecking Ball is a strong single with a lot of appeal (if you can block out the image of a naked Miley swinging on a giant wrecking ball). This track is a power-pop anthem and quite frankly, it’s a good one. Cyrus has a distinctive voice, the melody is pretty and it sticks with you; showing a vulnerability that haunts the listener. Cyrus nails the chorus coming out with a gritty, pain-driven belt that really grabs the listener. Get It Right is a fun track featuring whistling, a playful delivery, and a knockout pop melody. I wish Love, Money, Party, featuring rapper Big Sean, was even half this good. Drive is a song that could be a big hit as well. The production is distorted but there are some good things going on. Cyrus’s vocals are really good towards the end of the song and on the anthem-like chorus.

The rest of the album is a mixed bag as well. FU is one of the most interesting songs on the album. Channeling a bit of Lady Gaga’s flair for the dramatic, the song is a bombastic kiss-off. I don’t know if I would call it a good song, but I appreciate how different it is. Do My Thang is another mixture of countrified-pop with hip hop influences. Miley raps on the track. Imagine Ke$ha’s redneck cousin and you get the idea. It’s not her finest moment for sure.

Maybe You’re Right is the best moment on the tail end of the album. Miley hijacks the melody and concepts from You May Be Right from Billy Joel and turns it into a power-pop anthem for a new era. There’s undulating piano and a blossoming chorus and it’s an odd little jumble of sound. It works within her unique style.

“Bangerz” definitely has its flaws but not surprisingly, it has some definitive pop moments. I wish she had confidence in her abilities so she could just ditch the crappy desperation and stick with what she does well. Songs like Wrecking Ball are good enough that she doesn’t need to twerk or stick out her tongue like Gene Simmons’ bastard child. Just sing, work with the voice you have and keep it real. Of course, people are eating this up so the chances of her returning to sanity anytime soon are slim to none.

Of course, maybe she knows exactly what she’s doing.

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