wed 26/04/2017

CD: Miley Cyrus - Bangerz | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Miley Cyrus - Bangerz

CD: Miley Cyrus - Bangerz

What could possibly live up to the hype?

It is in appearance a fairly standardly incoherent major American pop record
Miley Cyrus with some clothes on

I am increasingly finding it almost impossible to express just how bored I am by Miley Cyrus. I mean, seriously, are we really in such a fix that this guff is a serious talking point? A second-generation celebrity and former child star seems to be going off the rails a bit? OH REALLY, GOSH, THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE, PLEASE TELL ME MORE. A young female celebrity is flashing her parts? SWEET BABY JESUS ON A BORIS BIKE THIS IS AMAZING. A white pop star is crassly adopting the tropes of black culture? WOW NO WAY, YOU'RE LITERALLY SHITTING ME. An American TV awards show has indulged in tacky linkbait stunts? WELL BLOW ME DOWN WITH A FEATHER. Terry Richardson is digusting? PLEASE, I BEG YOU STOP, MY HEART CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE OF THESE EARTH-SHATTERING SURPRISES.

The only vaguely new thing thing about her shenanigans – oh, OK, apart from snogging a sledgehammer, I'll give her that one (see video overleaf) – is how cynical she seems to be about it all. She acts tough and savvy, even describing her VMAs larking as “a strategic hot mess”. There's no Britney Spears sense that she's caught in the hurricane of hyper-fame, tumbling towards the meltdown waiting on the horizon, nor Lady Gaga artistic manifesto about what she's doing; if anything she comes over as battle-hardened, even jaded in interviews, a bit more like a tough, hard-drinking auntie trying hard to be down with the kids than a 20-year-old buzzing about the thrilling possibilities of sex, drugs and pop culture.

What IS boggling is that this record is the most interesting thing in the whole bloody circus. It is in appearance and general form a standardly incoherent major American pop record, where shrill rock ballads collide with R&B beats and bussed-in rap verses, while Cyrus's voice, like e.g. Rihanna's, has that jagged, blaring quality that is perfectly designed to cut through the babble of shopping malls: vital microtones off key, and full of those teeth-twisting catches and hiccups that have infected pop culture ever since (arggh, why, God, why?) the Cranberries. But in among all that there is fantastic madness to be found.

There's a foot-stamping trucker country song where Cyrus sings, “Drivin' so fast, 'bout to piss on myself” and plays Bonnie and Clyde with Kentucky rapper Nelly. There's a vast, blowsy Broadway showstopper based around the hook line, “I got two letters for you: F and U”, that erupts with spurts of dubstep bass and features Moroccan-born gangsta rapper French Montana. There's a deranged bit of autotune R&B featuring cult singer/producer Future that completely mangles “Stand by Me”. And aside from all that, there are quite a few bouncy dance tunes that have enough funk and space to them to give a hopeful sense that maybe we're emerging from the suffocating density of the era recently dominated by David Guetta/Calvin Harris.

There's a lot that's awful too. Oddly, the album's singles are among the worst tracks here, with “We Can't Stop” being particularly rotten, managing the impressive feat of making dancing on ecstasy sound dreary – and really overall it's only about a third good. But that third is packed with delirious brilliance, and even the middling bits of the album have enough badass ambition and solid chugging MOR pop-rock to suggest that at worst she could be the new P!nk. And given that P!nk has now been having hits for 50 years or something, that's no bad pop ambition. But blimey, if Miley Cyrus can make a whole album as mental as the good bits of this one, one day she might actually be as interesting as the world seems to think she is.

Overleaf: 'Wrecking Ball' on video

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