When she’s not twerking and licking hammers, Miley Cyrus is writing songs.
Bangerz is the latest addition to what used to be her quite innocent discography. The album is an obvious departure from the sound of her previous efforts, reflecting her desire to incorporate hip-hop into her sound. Will.i.am and Pharrell Williams were brought in to achieve this and voila! we have Bangerz.
However, it doesn’t just focus on hip-hop. It does well in drawing influences from guest producers and singers and explores many genres with the sounds of today’s popular music (including dubstep, trap, electro-house).
FU is one of the most distinct songs on the album, it has both attitude and style. It is a cabaret song with a melody – much like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s I Put a Spell on You – that spirals into darkness. It begins with piano and brass instruments that disappear into the thick and wobbling bass. The lyrics discuss a text she read on her ex-partner’s phone that proved his infidelity.
4×4 is also a highlight with its unique blend of country rock in terms of guitar and lyrical style, but the fast drumming is all electronic and hip-hop. There is a subtle addition of an accordion that breaks up the song nicely, and Nelly’s rapping fits in perfectly with the unusual tune.
Drive is a good song with a suitable name. It is driven by a bass synth much like the primary bass line in Skream and Example’s Shot Myself in the Foot Again. It is one of the best-produced tracks on the album with its flawless mix of electronic elements.
There are however, many dull moments in the album with songs like We Can’t Stop which sounds an awful lot like Jessie J’s 2011 hit, Price Tag. The lyrics just drool on about how she likes to party, and how she thinks she has the right to do what she wants. My darlin’ is a minimalist R&B track that feels like a failed attempt at sounding like Flume or Purity Ring.
Cyrus can take too much influence at times. The song SMS which features Britney Spears, quickly turns into a Britney song that, no matter how much Miley is in there, sounds like an outdated pop song from the early 2000s.
Bangerz is an ambitious experiment that is sometimes very successful. A handful of songs showcase her voice like Rooting for my baby with a Christina Aguilera-style melisma, but many tracks sound just like any other female pop song.
Musically, Cyrus has matured greatly in comparison to her previous effort Can’t Be Tamed. Lyrically, however, the album tends to be quite insipid and cliched. There is plenty still to be liked by fans with songs like Wrecking Ball. So here’s the thing, the good songs are great and very well produced. But what it comes down to is Miley still has some maturing to do. – Sion Weatherhead
Screenshot from the Wrecking Ball video.