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Miley Cyrus - Bangerz Album Cover

Miley Cyrus - Bangerz

Reviewed by
5.8
Miley CyrusBangerz
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Record Label: RCA
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
I’ll be the first one to tell that I think what Miley Cyrus has been doing for the last six months or so is among the most “punk” action undertaken by a straight-up pop artist in some time. In a world dominated by Dr. Luke and Max Martin’s generally abominable songwriting and production methods, Miley instead turned to rising star Mike WiLL Made It for “something that sounds black” for the lead single off of her new album, Bangerz. And that is awesome. Miley is, for better or worse, putting aside the blandly “empowering” massive choruses that everyone seems to fawn over in favor of something controversial and provocative and subversive. Miley Cyrus, of all people, is subverting and challenging sexual and racial norms, provoking rage on both the parts of the right and left wing until they are apoplectic.

All of this without, contrary to Sinead O’Connor’s beliefs, a hint of her forfeiting her personal agency to become a corporate-music shill. She’s the avatar of tumblr: a mashing of grating provocation and empty “cool” images of topless girls smoking in grey-scale. Studs and pigtails, tongue out, co-opting and re-purposing images of childhood innocence in the most crass, unoriginal way possible - and everyone in the goddamn country took the bait. Miley’s coup is such that it seems the only person to understand what she’s doing is the only similarly maligned artist who also happens to have recently been exploring the political and social entanglements of black sexuality. I don’t think anyone would have expected this turn of professional trolling from the girl who sang “the Jay Z song was on” without ever having heard a Jay Z song just four years ago.

The spectacularly inspired use of Miley’s image has ultimately distracted from the fact that the ludicrously titled Bangerz had two of the best pop singles of 2013. “We Can’t Stop” dispenses with the cliche girl-power anthem trope of “you’re beautiful the way you are” in favor of openly claiming “it’s my body/I’ll do what I want to” - a brazenly sex-positive message in a seemingly insipid song about popping molly. Follow up “Wrecking Ball” is a wrenching ballad in the grandest of pop traditions, and for the first time, many of us see a side of Miley Cyrus that feels like a dynamic human being instead of an extension of Hannah Montana via Tumblr. Miley shows off pipes that most people never even gave a chance before hand, evoking a sense of being wounded and damage from an unlikely source. Come for the spectacle, stay for the powerful voice with the cleverly hidden positive messaging seems to be the approach Miley's taken here. “Wrecking Ball” is produced by the previously maligned Dr. Luke, but the man has risen to international prominence for a reason: he knows damn well what to do with a huge hook like this, and he does it proper justice, without twisting it into some kind of clone of Taylor Swift’s similar “Trouble.”

What of the rest of Bangerz? Despite it’s title, the album is not chock full of party-ready tracks like “We Can’t Stop.” No, instead, Miley continues to subvert expectations once again - opening with another ballad “Adore You,” that features genuine, unironic orchestration and emotion. It might not be the most complex sentiment, or the most fascinating arrangement, but Miley delivers in a way I never expected her to, even after the emotional success of “Wrecking Ball.” Elsewhere, Miley’s collaborations or attempts at recreating the party success of “We Can’t Stop” find her floundering. The instantly forgettable Britney appearance might have had a shot at genuine greatness, but instead settles for poorly-planned interjections of “Bangers! Bangers!” that are the first signs the record might be going off the rails. Failure to resuscitate Nelly’s career on the tub-thumping unmistakably midwestern “4x4” is accompanied by Miley continuing to declare her own independence in what is becoming eye-roll worthy bluntness. The only good guest feature here is the cracked, syrup-addled autotune of Future, who joins Miley for a post-party reminiscing session about love that was “supposed to be,” a surprisingly vulnerable and heartwarming effort. Lyrics are never the strong suit of any pop record, so it’s best to just take this at face value and let the two of them supplement their lovelorn abandonment of hollow vice through the exposed tenderness of their autotuned vocals. Miley lashes out on “Drive” with a snappy “I always knew I never wanted this” and paired with a complementary jagged electro beat to really drive the point home when she ends the first verse with a dead eyed, furious wail that she’ll “ignore when you call.”

Bangerz is for large swathes totally unlistenable. The lightweight haunted house spook of “Love Money Party” does nothing to rescue Miley or Big Sean’s abysmal attempts at rapping. Bringing the nondescriptly French Montana along for her Cruella Deville stylized excursion on “FU” is as bad and shapeless as it sounds. “Do My Thang” is Miley at her snarkiest, “23” worst - unconcerned with making herself sound appealing at all for sizable portions of the song but still retaining a sizable hook and a chasm of a beat that feels like the inevitable dilution of TNGHT in the mainstream. The album is littered with tracks that piss on whatever good will she’s established from the highlights, but she seems to take a particular glee in doing just that.

And considering how much attention has been focused on Miley’s use of her tongue in performances and photo shoots, her reference to it on “#GETITRIGHT” seems unwise, especially on a track where she plays with sexual activity over whistling production. But then it hits: is Miley being subversive here or is this just dumb? I’m actually inclined to the former - all signs point to her being totally, wholly conscious of what she’s doing by being confusing and drawing attention to lines about her tongue and panties. This kind of deliberate confusion is emblematic of the record as a whole, a wildly inconsistent listen that fills you with consternation.

But when Bangerz - and by extension Miley - shines, it ranks competitively among some of the best pop released this year. She owes no small debt to Mike WiLL for this, but to deny Miley the proper credit for so openly approaching him for what she wanted in the first place is to do everybody involved a disservice. This is Miley’s moment and she’s doing exactly what she wants with the opportunity. The problem is that what she wants involves displaying a flagrant disregard for the way her fascinatingly stupid antics translate so poorly to record most of the time. Bangerz is at times touching and at others a blast - but for a disappointingly large portion it’s as annoying as her detractors had hoped.

5.75
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 124
09:04 PM on 10/09/13
#2
kianacarly
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Nice review, although I really like FU.

I think she knows exactly what she's doing since she's pretty much admitted in interviews that she wants attention and to cause a reaction, but I don't know if she's really considering the long-term? Her album is projected to sell more than her last and she has everyone talking about her, but what I hear is largely negative, and I was really hoping she'd at least have an awesome pop album to back it all up with. It's not totally awful and I appreciate that she went for something different, but it could've been a lot better and more consistent.


Also, her songs are forever underrated imo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwicyvUGNE8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wxOVn99FTE
10:11 PM on 10/09/13
#3
Ryan Gardner
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I think "Adore You," "Wrecking Ball," "FU," and "Maybe You're Right" are great. The rest of the album is pretty "meh."

Her voice on "FU" is phenomenal. Girl can really sing. "Adore You" comes across as incredibly depressing and poignant due to the situation with Liam and assuming she wrote it when they were still in love. Makes it even more emotive.
06:11 AM on 10/10/13
#4
jasonmeowz
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did AP really need a review of this... *can't wait fro the reviews for ARTPOP and prisms*
06:12 AM on 10/10/13
#5
incognitojones
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FU is dope, the last song was dope, #Getitright was dope, first song and Wrecking Ball are dope, rest is average to baddd. When she raps it just sounds funny.

But yeah, you right, she's def doin some punk shit with this album. 23 Shoulda been on it :/
06:13 AM on 10/10/13
#6
Craig Manning
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Interesting fact: I hate Dr. Luke more than anyone else in the music industry.
06:14 AM on 10/10/13
#7
Craig Manning
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did AP really need a review of this... *can't wait fro the reviews for ARTPOP and prisms*
We review whatever the hell we want.
06:22 AM on 10/10/13
#8
phaynes1
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Fantastic review, bud.

Agree completely about the "punk" aspect. Can't think of a person, outside of kanye, since Kurt Cobain that has completely done what they wanted with their mainstream success.
06:24 AM on 10/10/13
#9
jasonmeowz
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We review whatever the hell we want.
you guys need to have an elitist thing like p4k have. atleast review k-pop instead... g-dragons ew album is the best pop/rap album of 2013.
06:33 AM on 10/10/13
Ryan Dennehy
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Nice review, although I really like FU.

I think she knows exactly what she's doing since she's pretty much admitted in interviews that she wants attention and to cause a reaction, but I don't know if she's really considering the long-term? Her album is projected to sell more than her last and she has everyone talking about her, but what I hear is largely negative, and I was really hoping she'd at least have an awesome pop album to back it all up with. It's not totally awful and I appreciate that she went for something different, but it could've been a lot better and more consistent.


Also, her songs are forever underrated imo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwicyvUGNE8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wxOVn99FTE
Thanks. I think her interviews and the way she's been so honest about allof it is really what sells a lot of this. It's super disappointing to have her release an album that's not packed full of successful ventures.I hope her next one does it better.
I think "Adore You," "Wrecking Ball," "FU," and "Maybe You're Right" are great. The rest of the album is pretty "meh."

Her voice on "FU" is phenomenal. Girl can really sing. "Adore You" comes across as incredibly depressing and poignant due to the situation with Liam and assuming she wrote it when they were still in love. Makes it even more emotive.
Her voice on FU is one of the only things i like about it haha. It's impressive but I wish it was in service to a different delivery/not on a song with French Montana.
did AP really need a review of this... *can't wait fro the reviews for ARTPOP and prisms*
Chances are I'm reviewing at least one of those so be on the look out bud!!!
FU is dope, the last song was dope, #Getitright was dope, first song and Wrecking Ball are dope, rest is average to baddd. When she raps it just sounds funny.

But yeah, you right, she's def doin some punk shit with this album. 23 Shoulda been on it :/
Really surprised at how many of you like FU, I thought it was dumb as hell
Interesting fact: I hate Dr. Luke more than anyone else in the music industry.
Haha I think I'm with you even if it isn't for the same reasons
Fantastic review, bud.

Agree completely about the "punk" aspect. Can't think of a person, outside of kanye, since Kurt Cobain that has completely done what they wanted with their mainstream success.
TY dude <3
you guys need to have an elitist thing like p4k have. atleast review k-pop instead... g-dragons ew album is the best pop/rap album of 2013.
We review lots of the same stuff as pitchfork. Pitchfork has reviews of mainstream pop albums all the time.
06:42 AM on 10/10/13
incognitojones
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Thanks. I think her interviews and the way she's been so honest about allof it is really what sells a lot of this. It's super disappointing to have her release an album that's not packed full of successful ventures.I hope her next one does it better.

Her voice on FU is one of the only things i like about it haha. It's impressive but I wish it was in service to a different delivery/not on a song with French Montana.

Chances are I'm reviewing at least one of those so be on the look out bud!!!

Really surprised at how many of you like FU, I thought it was dumb as hell

Haha I think I'm with you even if it isn't for the same reasons

TY dude <3

We review lots of the same stuff as pitchfork. Pitchfork has reviews of mainstream pop albums all the time.
It really benefitted from barely having French Montana at all, and while dumb that beat was dope. That song with Big Sean was also dumb, but the beat was not the dopest. Contexts man.
06:44 AM on 10/10/13
swagofthe90s
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i'm sorry you actually had to listen to this
06:52 AM on 10/10/13
phaynes1
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i'm sorry you actually had to listen to this
No one has to listen to anything. Grow up.
06:52 AM on 10/10/13
thispartysux128
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I love this review man. I am not a fan at all and this made me feel like I needed to check this out...

And I probably would have if I had not watched Miley: The Movement on MTV. The way she acts on that show suggests to me that none of what she is doing is planned for artistic or "punk" merit to subvert anything, but rather she is acting out as a spoiled little brat/rebellious teenager who cries and screams when she doesn't get her way.

I love your argument that she is challenging gender and racial norms, and while you have me convinced of the former, I am thoroughly not convinced on the latter. It is truly frustrating to me that she wanted something that "sounds black" when she obviously has no real understanding or respect of the culture and that is shown by her comment. Its just about as lame as the mainstream embrace of the "Harlem Shake" which had no real understanding of the actual "Harlem Shake" in black culture.

I hate this type of music, but I am fascinated by it because of the way that it is shaping our culture. I really hope on her next record that Miley sees the positives about Bangerz and runs in the "punk" direction rather than the "whiny little brat" direction. Seeing as she is only 20 I am hoping she hits that rebellious and artistic period in her young adulthood but I am not going to hold my breath.

Regardless, Great review and great writing!
07:05 AM on 10/10/13
Ryan Dennehy
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It really benefitted from barely having French Montana at all, and while dumb that beat was dope. That song with Big Sean was also dumb, but the beat was not the dopest. Contexts man.
Haha true enough. I was surprised at some of the failures of the production on here. I expected to enjoy every single beat based solely on the names but it didn't end up happening.
I love this review man. I am not a fan at all and this made me feel like I needed to check this out...

I'm glad you liked it so much! I have a lot I want to say about Miley as a cultural transgressor that I don't have the time to get into right now because I have an exam in a couple of hours, but I'm happy that someone took something from the review like this. Thanks so much for reading and I hope to get into a long winded explanation of why I think she's doing a good job re: racial norms. I just couldn't fit it in the review without going on for wayyy too long and losing sight of the music haha

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