Miley Cyrus - Bangerz Review 
Posted by David Hayter on 10.09.2013
Bangerz? More like Balladz, as Miley shines when she confronts heartbreak and flounders as wild, pill-popping, party girl.
Miley Cyrus - Bangerz
1. Adore You 2. We Can’t Stop 3. SMS (Bangerz) (Feat. Britney Spears) 4. 4×4 (Feat. Nelly) 5. My Darlin’ (Feat. Future) 6. Wrecking Ball 7. Love, Money, Party (feat. Big Sean) 8. Get it Right 9. Drive 10. FU (Feat. French Montana) 11. Do My Thang 12. Maybe You’re Right 13. Someone Else
For all the moral handwringing, Miley Cyrus’ transformation from well meaning Disney automaton to twerking, tongue-waging, molly-popping, menace to society is simply the latest incarnation of a rich pop tradition. The good girl gone bad narrative has become so ubiquitous that, in 2007, Rihanna jumped the shark entirely by naming her transitional third album, you’ve guessed it, Good Girl Gone Bad. The moment when a pop star drops the massively manipulated image of chaste virginity and embraces their sexuality is often crucial to unlocking their long term potential.
Britney Spears, who features on Bangerz, is clearly a role model for Miley Cyrus. When Britney tentatively embraced sensuality, she also dove headlong into the realm of cultural appropriation: teaming up with the then hottest producers in the world (The Neptunes) for the slippery pants and seething shimmies of “I’m A Slave 4 U”. The cynical amongst us have labeled Miley’s transition a crass plea for media attention; designed to artificially elevate her pop culture relevance and hype her latest album. The logic is undeniable in part, but it misses the wider point at both a humane and a pop superstar level.
Ask most adults what they were doing between the ages of 17-20 and a laundry list of inane jokes, bad haircuts, drunken nights and regrettable relationships will emerge, usual fuelled by sexual and narcotic experimentation. Equally, for pop stars who don’t arrive fully formed (not everyone can be Lorde after all), that tender age is a time to act out and stumble through the hedonistic ageing process in the glare of media spotlight. Over the years, we’ve seen it all: live sex shows, conical bras, cocaine confessions, getting diiirty, going goth, shaven heads and a million more crazy attempts to express a sense of the evolving self.
Bangerz, when all the trimmings are stripped away, is essential an shrewd proposition. Behind the wagging tongue and booty rolls lies the most talked about pop star in the world teaming up with the most in demand, non-pop, producer in the business – Mike Will Made It. Strikingly, Bangerz is not a “white girl wiles out over hip hop beats” record, instead Mike has entirely bent to Miley’s will. From “Adore You” to “Someone Else”, Bangerz is a scatterbrained Miley Cyrus record. This is quite the achievement, for all Mike’s brilliance his best cuts have soundtracked making it rain on strippers (“Bandz A Make Her Dance”), ego trips (“Mercy”), and the boasts of a lethargic millionaire (“Beach Is Better”).
On Bangerz he soundtracks a vulnerable but strong girl’s break-up on a series of stunning ballads. Yes ballads, for all the dirty girl hype, this record rides or dies on the strength of its romantic laments. “Drive” is a masterpiece; thudding muffled percussion and stuttering synthetics set the stage for a towering Cyrus performance. The theme is eternal, she’s hooked on a guy who is destined to stray and the narrative flickers between Miley’s figurative ache (“Drive my self into the night”) and deliciously cold literal demands (“you can drop the keys off in the morning”). For all the cries of insincerity that surrounded the album's release, I suspect a legion of young fans will embrace a battle of cry of “when I look you in the eyes, all I see is the lies”.
Following that wonderfully conflicted and typically teenage gem, comes a fantastic moment of drama queen immaturity. “FU” is Miley’s best stab at doing a Liza, as she stampedes across a theatrical Afuni beat. In a moment where other pop’s stars would tediously attempt to show their musical theatre chops, Miley simply pokes fun at the entire concept, coyly screaming “FU” and talking about how her relationship is no longer lols.
The album opener “Adore You” is another staggering choice, a chilling mood piece where pop’s wild child coos; “When you say you need me, know I need you more”. It’s a wonderfully subdued start and it points to the album’s best moments. The ballads and slowees rarely miss their mark. Even the indebted “Someone Else” proves the perfect closer reflecting on both growth and regret (Bangerz two predominant themes) over a oriental trap-lite beat.
Surprisingly, given the album’s title, the nominal bangers feel tacked on and confused compared to the narrative clarity of the ballads. “We Can’t Stop” is as addictive as ever and “SMS (Bangerz)” is neat update of “Push It” featuring all the nonsense lyrics and buzzwords you’d expect from any of the moment pop star. For two tracks at least, Bangerz feels like an absolute riot as Miley gets wasted on purple drank, celebrates her independence and delivers the album’s one fantastic punchline: “They ask me how I keep a man; I keep a battery pack”.
Unfortunately, despite Mike Will, Pharrell and Dr. Luke’s best efforts, Miley is still a young women experimenting with drugs and sexuality, and it is painfully apparent that she doesn’t quite get it yet. Bangerz is a sexualized record but not a sexy one, “Love Money Party”, “Do My Thang” and “#GETITRIGHT” are all sub Ke$ha wild girl jams. Mercifully, Miley never sounds insincere as the buzzwords come thick and fast. She maintains the energy level without ever threatening to produce a substantial cut (the guest stars rarely help matters).
Still, for all Bangerz’ flaws it remains a fantastic stab at capturing the inane period in every teenager’s existence where life gets simultaneously serious and crazy. “I Can’t Stop” aside, Miley does emotional maturity better than dirty-girl-getting-down-on-the-floor shtick. The ballads are utterly on point throughout; hitting their mark emotionally and bending minds in the production booth. Miley’s party starters are a mix between great throwaway fun and lifeless second hand shells. Thankfully, there’s more good than bad as Bangerz proves to be a surprisingly touching ode to surviving broken relationships - the mature way (with resilience and a chin up attitude) and the immature way (screaming fuck you and popping molly).
The 411: In the great pop star career arc Miley appears to be making the leap from virginal to sexual on Bangerz. However, this impetuous starlet simple won’t settle as she attempts to skip ahead couple of pages to both the crazy and mature stages of artistic development. The result is the work of a crazy-sexualized-artiste who is far too young to truly get sexy, but proves remarkably astute at penning deep, cutting ballads. Bangerz hits the emotional mark with reassuring regularity while floundering as a hard partying record. Ultimately, Miley Cyrus has made a hedonistic “can’t see the woods for the trees” album that contains surprising emotional depths, while making the world’s most in demand producer bend to her will. Not bad for brainless Disney robot, huh?