Category: Pop

21 Songs You Hear on a Retail Store’s Playlist

Hi, I’m Trey Buzzfeed presenting you video gifs of Jennifer Lawrence going “good job” or whatever. I feel like listing things has gotten to be the sad land of the uncreative but whatever, I have a job. That clearly excuses not trying. So anyway, I do my best thinking in the more aimless moments of retail, namely the times when you stand at the register and can’t leave because a customer is really close (but so far away from actually wanting to check out). That is what this comes out of. Also, I’m going to number these things because my new last name of Buzzfeed forces me to adopt everything in their site’s model.

1. Switchfoot – “Dare You to Move”

My worst nightmares are all about faux-motivational songs that because they have a positive message, every white person has to listen to it incessantly. Switchfoot tows the line between secular horseshit and Needtobreathe-like bullshit. Neither are good things to tow the line on. Also, the song has the lyric “I dare you to move like today never happened before.” Well, no shit, of course it’s never happened before because you can’t fully predict how a day will go, numbnuts.

2. One Direction – “What Makes You Beautiful”

I don’t hate One Direction, actually. I don’t really like them too much, but they tow the line of being innocuous enough to not hate and they don’t delve into the line of kind of gross double entendres like their contemporaries The Wanted (more on that later). This is probably their weakest single, though. It also does that annoying thing were music is a personal neg to its listeners. You don’t need a band of faceless pop stars to tell you that you’re beautiful. That never ends well.

3. Real McCoy – “Another Night”

Very rarely, store playlists will remind us of the period in pop where Ace of Base were the kings and Eurodance was some great shit. Also, I’m going to steal this from the Wiki for the video: “O-Jay is Real McCoy, the DJ of a pirate radio station which is powered by four men with handcycle-mounted generators.” 1994 was an epic time where Tron was a logical means to power a pirate radio station which presumably only played house music and graduated to Cibo Matto by 1997.

4. Jordin Sparks – “Battlefield”

I guess this song is supposed to be a takeoff on Pat Benatar’s famous “Love is a Battlefield” by asking “Why does love always feel like a battlefield?” But the big trouble is that it’s Jordin Sparks’ milquetoast ass asking this question. Why does love always feel like a battlefield? Because you found out your boyfriend likes video games and you freaked out that there was one outlier to your bland coupling. Or something. I think I’m projecting too much into this.

5. Bastille – “Pompeii”

Random note: I hate James Blake. I feel bad for not enjoying a guy that a lot of smart people I know do enjoy, but I can’t stand his “let’s make dubstep into a quiet genre with vague soul undertones, also I’m a British white dude” thing. That said, he’s way fucking better than Bastille. Bastille’s vocalist Dan Smith sounds like how I’d poorly impersonate James Blake’s vocals. And instead of some weird form of dub or whatever, it’s listless indie rock behind these vocals that truly claw at my face and ears.

6. OneRepublic – “Stop and Stare”

This has a parallel to the Switchfoot song, but with even less of the “oh, this is about Jesus” theme to make it mean something to the listener in a way that’s deeper than “oh, just be yourself or whatever.”

7. Bodeans – “Closer to Free”

This is the part of the playlist where 90s alt rock nostalgia hits. Well, 90s alt rock bullshit nostalgia, anyway. Also, this was the theme for Party of Five. So, umm, that’s about all I can say. The Bodeans are from Wisconsin so, umm, go Packers?

8. Muse – “Madness”

For the longest time, I was obsessed with Muse. My belief was that their 2003 record Absolution was one of the best records I’ve ever heard and despite what I’m about to say, I do still like the three or four albums that opened up their mainstream career. But I guess I grew up. And I admit, it’s not like Muse were this great artistic endeavor. They have gotten slagged for either sounding like Radiohead (in their earlier stuff) or Queen (in their far later stuff). They made absurd rock operas about the apocalypse. Still, this Muse is not very good. It’s only a little better than the one that “wants to reconcile the violence in your heart.” Alas, we just grow older and more absurd, I guess.

9. Bruno Mars – “Just the Way You Are”

I feel like the cottage cheese industry that brought us One Direction has a hand in Bruno Mars songs as well. Just a hunch. Literally everything I said about One Direction applies here. Other than a few missteps, like not figuring out that gorillas have really short sex sessions or being a massive whiner on “Grenade” or the existence of “The Lazy Song,” Bruno’s pretty good. This song really isn’t, though. It’s the type of hollow falsehood that it takes a man like Bruno Mars to say a person is beautiful. But whatever. Pop music and all that horseshit.

10. Tonic – “You Wanted More”

In high school, I had the biggest damn crush on a girl who said her favorite band was Tonic. For context, that was several years after this song was released. Also, the Tonic thing was unrelated. I just liked brunettes who looked like Devin from Friday Night Lights (which explains why I’ve been single for three years, since most of those crushes tend to end like Landry’s attempt at romance with Devin; at the very least Crucifictorius never had to break up and they kept the band together because the music means the most). Oh, Tonic? Meh.

11. Lorde – “Team”

I feel like I’ve been way too critical of Lorde. I can’t expect much of the audience Lorde has managed to court to have heard The Knife, so this 17 year old Australian girl is their first taste of the minimalist approach that has permeated the indie scene over the past decade. I don’t know if she has anything to say other than that pop music sucks in how it addresses an actual reality. (Ironically, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” is basically the closest to a song a lower to middle-class person can aspire to do, because we’ve all been to thrift shops. We’ve never been 2 Chainz.) That said, I don’t know if she has to do that yet. “Team” is about exasperation as much as its hook, and sometimes that’s great to see in the pop arena.

12. Owl City – “Fireflies”

This isn’t bad because it’s a complete takeoff of The Postal Service. It’s bad because it’s a fucking song about fireflies.

13. Sugar Ray – “Fly”

This isn’t bad because it’s white people trying to do reggae–wait, that is why it’s bad.

14. Haim – “The Wire”

I retroactively apologize for making fun of Haim so much, because they are so damn good. “The Wire” sounds like all the influences you expect, but it’s also just so damn clean. I can’t think of a song that can thrash a bit but get to its hook efficiently. God, I hope this gets popular. Rock needs badass chicks from Cali again.

15. The Lumineers – “Ho Hey”

Jennifer-Lawrence-ok-thumbs-up

16. Blessid Union of Souls – “Hey Leonardo”

Boy, speaking of Buzzfeed, this is what happens when Buzzfeed travels back to 1999 and becomes a song. There’s absurd references to Tyson Beckford, the title of the song is referencing teen idol Leo DiCaprio before he becomes acting’s MVP, and it’s also dumb and adds nothing to the conversation other than a thousand references. So, the past 1300 words you’ve read in a nutshell.

17. Ellie Goulding – “Fire”

Ellie Goulding’s got just a weird enough voice that it strikes me when I hear it. She’s like the mainstream Joanna Newsom in that regard in how just incredibly strange her voice sounds in comparison to everything around her. That also pushes “Fire” to be a song I enjoy quite a bit when I hear it. It’s not better than “Lights” but what is?

18. No Doubt – “Just a Girl”

#FEMINISM

19. The Cardigans – “Lovefool”

“Lovefool” is fucking amazing and I will tell you why. The other great thing about the 1990s was the amount of insipid pop that had darker implications. Third Eye Blind’s “Semi Charmed Life” hid heroin abuse behind its doo-doo-doos. Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” was super obnoxious and also a glorious mocking of the submissive plastic world drawn from the Barbie archetype. But none were a greater bite than “Lovefool,” a song that is actually about a woman so obsessed with her lover that she is being driven insane by that obsession as well as by the likelihood that he doesn’t really love her back. It is placed in a saccharine rhythm inspired by love songs, but is really a pisstake on them all.

20. Christina Perri – “A Thousand Years”

This song annoys me. The main takeoff on the song is Perri saying “I have loved you for a thousand years.” But of course, that’s fucking impossible. I hate to destroy the mood of Jennifer Lawrence gifs, but every single human on earth has died before reaching the age of 1000. Admittedly, this is a song from the Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 soundtrack, so I guess we’re supposed to see it from the perspective of the vampires who live forever? But they don’t live to 1000 in the film, either. The romance between Edward and Bella happens when Bella is 18 and Edward is less than 1000. When Perri says “a thousand years,” does she mean forever? Is there a better, less impossible way to say that? There has to be.

21. Panic at the Disco – “Nine in the Afternoon”

I guess I could whine about this one, too, but this is about unusual circumstances that aren’t impossible and also trying to sound like The Beatles. It’s way better than it has any right to be.

Oh hey, didn’t you plan more of this?

Jennifer-Lawrence-ok-thumbs-up

Oh.

No Genre, No Problem: A Conversation with Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms

(The Front Bottoms will be at WorkPlay with Manchester Orchestra and O’Brother on Sunday, November 24th.  The show is reportedly SOLD OUT.)

Banner photo credit: Mark Jaworski

 A quick scouring of The Front Bottoms’ Facebook page reveals the usual information: manager, iTunes links, current location (Jersey, by the way), record label, so on.  However, the band’s choice of “genre” is perhaps more accurate and compelling than even the two-piece band, currently on tour with Manchester Orchestra, even realizes.

Genre: “What’s a genre?”

This description, both wildly vague and dangerously specific, has arisen more and more frequently among artists of the millennial age.  The Front Bottoms are certainly a product of an increasingly ambiguous generation, though not at the expense of carving their own unique niche in the noise of pop culture.

Take, for example, the lyrics to one of their most beloved songs “Skeleton,” from their most recent album Talon of the Hawk (Bar/None Records).  Vocalist/guitarist Brian Sella playfully sings of getting “so stoned” that he “fell asleep in the front seat,” though he “never sleeps in the front seat.”  Much like millennial icon Tyler the Creator, Sella says that The Front Bottoms, collectively, do not engage in stoning activities.  “It’s just not something we do as a band,” says Sella.  Dealing with lyrics-inspired invitations to smoke with fans and fellow musicians is an “easy fix,” says Sella, laughing.  “I just say no thanks.”

The aforementioned album Talon of the Hawk is a satisfying blend of punk, folk, and – yes – even some distinctly pop sensibilities, mostly stemming from Sella’s lyrics and his almost Tom DeLonge-esque delivery.  Not surprisingly, Sella says he grew up on what he calls “Top 40 pop punk,” citing Sum 41 and DeLonge’s Blink-182 as important early influences.  “I distinctly remember my older sister having [the Blink-182 mega-smash] Enema of the State,” says Sella.  As for more recent influences, Sella – without pause – is quick to praise Pusha T’s most recent album, the Kanye West-produced My Name is My Name.

“Genre” is, as clearly perpetuated by the Front Bottoms themselves (rounded out by drummer Matt Uychich), an absolutely inconsequential element of music (and art, in general).  Identity, however, is more important than ever.  The Front Bottoms, as evidenced on Talon of the Hawk standout “Twin Size Mattress” (Sella’s personal favorite), are acutely aware of their evolving role in pop culture.

I wanna contribute to the chaos, I don’t wanna watch and then complain

‘Cause I am through finding blame. That is the decision that I have made.

On Lily Allen (and feminism, genitalia balloons and other things we’ve never thought about)

Lily Allen released her first single in four years this week. And go figure, none of us are talking about that particular part of her backstory and what her new single “Hard Out Here” means in the grand scale of her musical career. I suppose that makes sense. Most of the backlash behind “Hard Out Here” may be apocryphal in its nature. Allen’s intent is to satirize the objectification of mainstream culture (although she mostly accuses hip-hop of it, if the video is to be the judge). Naturally, the response generated is more because she’s willing to use the idea of women of color to play with that satire. Also, because the satire and the song aren’t very good.

Of course, this is a very thin line in satire as is. It’s hard to make something that is funny, pointed, and topical all at once. It’s a wonder it can be done at all. “Hard Out Here” tries its best to use Allen’s instinct for biting humor, but is not remotely close to her predecessors. I don’t see often in the debate of whether or not the video is racist that Allen has tried this before, albeit more generalized in songs from her still very good 2009 album It’s Not Me, It’s You. She’s made a very strong case in the past for attacking the Hollywood complex of stars over the rest of us and seems to use the pop form to best attach that motif to millions. Of course, most looked past Allen and she’s more noted for this one incident, it seems, than ever before.

That is not to say that I blame those who immediately praise or dismiss the song. I don’t think it’s very good, and the satirical images are still a bit goofy. (Wahey, here’s someone pouring champagne on a nearly exposed ass. Satire!) But I’m more disappointed that the music isn’t there. For as awful as it sounds, I can forgive a lot of failed intent, casual sexism and misogyny, etc. in popular music because even problematic works tend to have interesting ideas. It is awful that Kanye West is obsessed with sexualizing women while attacking materialism. But at the same time, music (like other media) is often about confronting non-ideal depictions in life. We want media to change and be more inclusive, because it makes it better for all of us. I’d love to see a Le Tigre out there all of the time or feminist video game makers or stories about undermined cultures. But sometimes, the bigger difficulty is in realizing what is and isn’t worth dismissing.

lilyallenbody

Certainly, Allen’s white privilege makes her an easy target in this matter. The parody Twitter account White Feminist quipped that “Hard Out Here” is her new empowerment anthem, exposing the bigger rift between those popular in mainstream culture for feminism (Lena Dunham, Jezebel, Allen herself, etc.) and those who feel those names fail to incorporate intersectionality in their feminism. I don’t know where I fall on all of these ideas, but it is worth exploring by someone who could rightfully discuss intersectional feminisms in music. I think this is the beacon call for Ann Powers.

TWiSM is the Intergalactic Batman this city deserves

SMP COVER

  • Video:  Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” vocal tracks
  • Date:  September 27
  • Source:  Youtube

I find myself, intermittently, still in a state of mourning over the end of the Beastie Boys, especially its cause, the death of the brilliant MCA, who in addition to being the axis of the Beasties was also a great director, curator, and activist.  No amount of praise and diligent love will do his loss any justice or bring back one of the greatest hip hop groups of all time.  Think about what (among other things) was left in his wake:  two sad Beastie Boys.  Imagine a sad Beastie Boy.  Imagine Ad-Rock crying.  It’s simply unjust.

While I’m certain that there are so many Beastie Boy songs we’ve yet to hear, there’s still some exploring to do with the wealth of music and videos they gave us.  Case in point:  the isolated vocal tracks from perhaps their most popular single, “Intergalactic.”  This isn’t some exercise in novelty, like David Lee Roth’s vocals from “Runnin With The Devil,”  which was just as impressive as it was a masterpiece of unintentional hilarity.

There’s nothing unintentional about how awesome that is.  It’s funny, sure, because the lyrics include so many inside-rap jokes and Strek Trek punchlines, but what’s immediately apparent is the musicality, the chemistry, and the everlasting cool of three of the oldest of old school spitters.  And now that the acapella tracks are out there, can we please get some ridiculous-ass remixes of this? Please?  It’s only a matter of time.

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  • Video:  King Krule performing “A Lizard State” on Conan
  • Date: November 5
  • Source:  TeamCoco.com

Whitney (aka “The Boss”) has already had her say about King Krule back in September,  but that’s not gonna stop me from putting in my two shiny cents.  King Krule first blipped on my radar back when he first changed his name from Zoo Kid and released the “Out Getting Ribs” single.  His marriage of indie R&B and cockney’d geezer is pure cinema in sound.  He’s a fantastic character who has so far written a decent handful of fantastic songs.  And I mustn’t rest without mentioning that he looks like Ron Weasley, because he’s a lanky, ruddy, youngster.  Match that with his booming voice and you’ve got quite the arresting sight.

That, my new bham friends, is a goddamn legendary musical performance.  Any of the old-ass rockist haters who think that music is somehow inferior nowadays because kids don’t play instruments can eat dicks bigger than their SUVs.  The horns, courtesy of Conan’s “Basic Cable Band,” are pretty faithful to the arrangement on record, and the band, a bunch of kids, mind you, hit the groove like jazz vets from a mad science accident.  There’s a drum fill before the second bridge that has brought me back to this video a few times now.  And who has time for re-watching all but the most exceptional things these days, right?  That’s why it’s on my shit list, in a good way.

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  • Comic:   Batman: The Deal fanfic masterpiece
  • Date:  November 6
  • Source:  Artist’s Blog

Now, I don’t think I ever said that music was the only thing that makes me recoil in ecstasy, did I?  I’m just as likely to devote an entire month to an X-Men cartoon as I am to doing important things, like eating at regular intervals.  A.V. Club is my newspaper.  And sometimes things bubble up from the depths of the tumblrverse that are happy accidents worth celebrating because of their inexplicable brilliance.  I can’t help but think, I could have missed this, but I didn’t.  It’s a miracle that things get found at all.

This comic landed on my Facebook desk earlier today (time of writing, 11am 11/11) hot off of the Internet presses.  And it’s a doozy.

There’s gonna be some spoilers in here, so just go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.  

BAM!  Motherfucker, did you read that shit?  What the actual fuck?!  First of all, the illustrations are brilliant.  With a feral art style similar to the excellent Batman: Year 100  [Editor’s Note: That’s Paul Pope, and he is a badass] and a poignant death story where both Batman and The Joker meet their doom together, as it most definitely should be, those elements alone, done well, are enough to give pause, but that’s not all.  Woven into this tragic end to the Batman Myth is one of the most touching monologues from one of our most tragic cultural losses:  the late, great Bill Hicks.  Not just any monologue either, but his poignant, provocative “Life Is A Ride” bit from his special Revelations from 1993, delivered by a man who was himself dying of cancer.

It captures the duality of a singular Batman-Joker entity and its demise, what it means to be on either side of that extreme, and how both are destined to exist and vanish as one.  All of this done for free, by fans.  Can we talk DC comics into shoving money at them so that we can make this canon?  Can we all really just stop trying to make good Batman stories after that one?  If The Dark Knight had ended this way, people would have stopped making comic book movies.

* * *

Anyway, that’s my rant.  Until next time.  

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Josh Beech has got to boogie-oogie-oogie til he just can’t boogie no more.  Get at him on twitter @joshbeechyall

 

ARIGATO TOKYO!

shibuya

I just got back from an adventure in one of the biggest cities in the world, Tokyo, Japan. It’s gargantuan, but Tokyo is an incredible city. I spent about a week there with my wife for vacation. We did our very best to experience all that the city has to offer, walking and riding on the train to all the different neighborhoods. Each neighborhood is different from the other. Japan is a unique country, and not just because of the architecture or the industry or the neighborhoods, it’s the demographics. Japan is one of the “oldest” cities in the world. “Oldest” because more then 20% of the population is over the age of 65, which is a huge number when you think about it. The country will have a massive drop in population over the next 30 or so years. The younger lot aren’t getting married nor are they having children, and the older ones will eventually pass on, leaving a large void in the population. But there are still many young people there… I digress, I’m not here to give you a lesson on the demographics of Japan. The reason for the statistics in this post is how they relate to the local music of Tokyo.

There’s a proverb the Japanese have: 出る杭は打たれる。It translates roughly to, “The stake that sticks out gets hammered.” You won’t walk into a restaurant in Japan and hear a bunch of people talking over each other or calling attention to themselves in any way. The Japanese are fairly quiet, and other than their advanced fashion senses, they don’t try to draw attention to themselves very much. Because of this, one might think that all the music would be similar but it’s not. You walk into a cafe run by an older lady, and you might hear American jazz music, but you walk into Tower Records in Shibuya, and you might hear an eclectic mix of J-Pop, K-Pop, and C-Pop.

We ventured out to Shibuya (think Times Square x 1,000) to the last of a dying breed of big box record stores, Tower Records. It stands tall amongst the office buildings and high-end fashion stores. Prominently displayed out front, just below the main sign, is another sign that says simply, “No Music. No Life” (in English by the way). My thoughts exactly. The building houses 9 total floors with 6 floors of shelves and shelves of music and music listening stations. Remember those? The first thing we did was explore the first floor which held all of the featured music. Your Justin Beibers, Lady Gagas, Pearl Jams, and so forth. There were also some of the more popular European artists and Japanese artists as well. The 2nd floor was books, magazines, and a cafe. The 3rd floor was my favorite, and where we found the music I’d like to share with you today.

There we found aisles and aisles of J-Pop and J-Indie. It was there that I spent most of my time going from listening station to listening station, checking out as much cool Japanese music as I could with the time that I had. I could have bought about 10 CDs (yes, CDs), but I narrowed it down to 2 discs and 17-inch record. My wife picked one of the CDs.

The first band I listened to was Galileo Galilei. Their newest album “Alarms” was featured at one of the listening stations. I walked up, pressed what I thought was the play button (the CD station buttons are in Kanji but the sideways triangle is kind of a dead giveaway), and immediately, I liked this band. Their sound is best described as indie pop but you can tell they are steeped in classic ’80s new wave. The very first track, also called “Alarms”, is probably my favorite song on the disc. Since the rest of the tracks listed on the back are in Japanese, and I’m not yet able to translate, suffice it to say I also like track 4 as well. Unfortunately, we have limited access to this band in America, but I was able to find one example of Galileo Galilei’s music on YouTube. Here’s a track called “Lonely Boy” from the album.

I meandered around a bit more on this floor of Tower Records and found one of the only displays with vinyl. I saw what looked like a hand drawn illustration on the cover of a 45. Below it was the listening station for who, I found out, is Sokabe Keiichi, who has actually been writing songs for quite a while. Best way to describe Sokabe is singer/songwriter, but this particular record has the feel of a smooth, 1970s AM radio hit. Of course, he does sing in all Japanese, but that’s what makes it so cool. And by the looks of his website, Sokabe really likes noodles.

 Finally, my wife ran up to me at some point during our exploration and dragged me by the arm over to a listening station to check out what she described as “sort of like Purity Ring”. The artist she was describing is called Cuushe. Cuushe is the project of Mayuko Hitotsuyanagi, and her album, “Butterfly Case”, has been spinning in our car CD player ever since we got back from Japan. The tracks on “Butterfly Case” swirl around you like clouds with washy synths and pulsating bass lines. I guess you could use the word “chillwave” to describe the music but that would be too easy, right? Mayuko’s barely-there vocals are sweet and airy. She mostly sings in English on the record, but the vocals blend so well with the music, it’s hard for the listener to discern what she’s trying to convey. But no matter, Cuushe’s music makes for great tunes to listen to when you want to relax. I’ve posted a link to a piece from one of my all time favorite music blogs, Gorilla vs Bear. They are always on top of the new stuff. Check it out here.

My time in Japan was well spent eating and exploring, but spending a few hours wandering around Tower Records was one of the best parts. It’s fun to go into a small Indie record store and search out that rare find, but to be quite honest, I occasionally miss the classic big box stores like Tower. Tokyo is one of the coolest cities on the planet, and spending time there was life changing. The places we walked and the people we met were so different, and to find some music I may not have ever found here at home was just icing on the cake. If you ever get the chance, please visit. Arigato Tokyo.

ALBUM REVIEW: Miley Cyrus – Bangerz

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.