Today, I slept 15 hours. I don’t know if I prepared myself up properly for Miley turning into Rihanna. But here goes.
I just finished listening to the new album from modern pop provocateur Miley Cyrus, and for some reason, I feel sleepy. I’m going to be selfish for a minute and detail my mindset going into Bangerz. I feel as if I am on a codeine trip. I’ve taken prescription sleeping medicine to balance my days and nights out as of late. It hasn’t worked nearly as well as I would hope.
Bangerz is the fourth album from Cyrus, a person more well known for sexually charged things because America is still weird about play-sex to sell records. The marketing tactic worked in that Cyrus, whose work has been at best unremarkable and at worst intolerable, made a record that somehow has become one of the most anticipated pop releases of the year. Truth be told, despite the fact that Bangerz is essentially Rihanna filtered through a trap record, something about it feels more in the vein of interesting records like A$AP Rocky’s early year banger Long Live A$AP. It is this sound that makes Bangerz both interesting and flawed in the same breath.
To Cyrus’ credit, Bangerz runs at a solid pace around 45 minutes (if you didn’t purchase the Deluxe Edition) and despite its efforts, not too many of the songs overstay their welcome. It is also hard to read where Cyrus is going from track to track (this is actually a compliment), and her rapping, despite a dearth of interesting ideas or wordplay, isn’t awful when executive producer Mike Will Made It calls for it. Singles “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” are also solid, even if they expose that Bangerz doesn’t really have anything to say about its subject that we don’t already know. The now 20-year-old Miley likes to party and is also vulnerable after a breakup. She’s a crazed country rebel, something she will stop to tell you every ten seconds on the abysmal “4×4.” If not for Pharrell’s other producing effort “#GETITRIGHT” (yes, I know), “4×4” would have immediately destroyed the fantastic sheen that Pharrell has built all year with his work with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke.
So ultimately, nothing on Bangerz unleashes anything about its creator, even as its production belies a more interesting creativity. Perhaps it’s this that makes Bangerz strangely unsatisfying. Even if the music sounds at points like a codeine trip, I’m not sure Miley is a good fit for it. There’s a lot of deserved criticism for Miley taking modern hip-hop culture up, but as annoying as that is in reality, it doesn’t bother me in this record’s context in as much as the use of trap doesn’t seem to fit Miley at all. Miley plays her ballads like a lesser Rihanna, which doesn’t say a lot when Rihanna’s records have generally been a trend of diminishing returns. Her more fiery efforts are better, but also have unremarkable guest spots from artists like Big Sean and French Montana.
Bangerz is a better record than Miley’s entire output to date. It shows that Cyrus may have something to being a pop provocateur. Yet it never seems to fit it all fully.