It’s fairly obvious what Miley Cyrus is trying to achieve on her new studio album, Bangerz. The record, along with a score of other publicity stunts and ‘shocking’ performances that have been well-documented by the international media, is a whole-hearted attempt by Cyrus to unshackle herself from Hannah Montana and re-brand as something more interesting, and more grown-up. The trouble is, while Bangerz may certainly sound different from previous Miley Cyrus (or Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana) offerings, it doesn’t achieve what it sets out to. Far from being edgy, the resulting album echoes the rest of the Top 40 R&B/hip-hop/pop mash-ups that have dominated over the past decade, without really bringing anything new to the table.
What’s easy to forget when it comes to Miley Cyrus, is that behind all the twerking, tweeting and media hype, she’s a pretty decent singer. She also has a towering stage presence and no small amount of charisma, so the foundations of a good record are all there in Bangerz. The first single from the album, ‘We Can’t Stop’ is a catchy, radio-friendly hit that established Miley’s break from her Disney roots with references to MDMA and a distinctly Rihanna-like sound. The follow up single, ‘Wrecking Ball’ is actually a good track despite the controversy surrounding the admittedly bizarre and inappropriate music video, with strong vocals and a great hook. Much of the album, however, falls flat. The hyper-sexualized lyrics feel desperate and unnecessary, while songs like ‘SMS (Bangerz)’ and ‘Love Money Party’ are mostly dull and over-produced. When Miley sings about heartbreak and shows a little vulnerability the effect is far more impressive, and in fact more raw than the cartoonish mock-Rihanna feel that most of Bangerz aims for. Getting in some guest hip-hop artists like Nelly and Ludacris don’t make things feel any edgier; they have quite the opposite effect, giving the listener more a sense of déjà-vu than of being offered anything new.