When I’m reviewing music, I make a point to ignore the images, the gossip, or the social “coolness” of an artist. I have a lot of thoughts on Miley Cyrus, but this and will be all about the music. So forget the twerking, the tongue, and straddling a wrecking ball naked. It’s time to see if Miley’s transition to an “adult” pop artist works. And, as shocking as it is for me to say, she does it.
Bangerz is an assured piece of pop that will surprise a lot of people with its lack of…bangers. Miley opens the album with the farthest thing from a banger, the sweet ballad “Adore You”. It seems like a very calculated move to completely defy expectations with the first track. And the ballads don’t stop there. Of course, there’s the #1 hit “Wrecking Ball”, that is pretty fantastic. But beyond that, there’s the beautiful “My Darlin’” featuring The Future. Produced by Mike Will Made It (Miley’s rumoured new boyfriend), the slowjam employs a hip hop beat with an organ that sounds like something straight out of church pipes. Rihanna would have loved to have gotten her hands on this song.
Miley pours her heart out on “Drive”, “Maybe You’re Right”, and the closing “Someone Else”. While all 3 songs are solid, she pushes her voice a little too far. Miley has a decent voice, but she struggles to reach the high notes that these tracks require. I’d dread hearing her strain to sing these songs live.
When Miley is ready to pick things up, she looks to the brilliant Pharrell Williams to give her something really unique to play with for a couple tracks, instead of going the EDM club route. For “4×4” and “#GetItRight”, Miley gets to have fun over groovy basslines, with accompanying whistles, accordions and flamenco guitars. Pharrell always creates danceable songs that don’t bury the artist’s voice under heavy instrumentation. It was an extremely smart move for Miley to go with the “Blurred Lines”/”Get Lucky” creator. will.i.am lends his chaotic production to “Do My Thang” and it doesn’t amount to much of note.
But another standout, “FU”, Miley even gets bluesy. The kissoff track has the theatrics of Lady Gaga, and Miley totally makes it work.
“Bangerz” is the biggest misstep (listen to it below). It’s not the team-up of Miley with Britney Spears that’s the problem. The issue is that both stars try to rap like Nicki Minaj over an annoying beat. It’s disappointing that this mess is all we get from this much talked-about collaboration.
This is far from a perfect album, but not once did I feel that Bangerz was an uncomfortable attempt at an artist trying to be taken “seriously”. Looking at the music itself, Miley proves herself to be a worthy pop artist who has something that deserves to be heard…maybe just not seen.
Here’s the director’s cut of “Wrecking Ball”: