Listening to the first couple of minutes of “Adore You,” the opening track from Miley Cyrus’ much-hyped album Bangerz, you would almost forget that the last couple of months of controversy and pot-stirring had ever happened. “When you say you love me, know I love you more,” she sings, ever so sweetly. “You and me were meant to be in holy matrimony / God knew exactly what he was doing / When he led me to you.” You listen to this, scratching your head, asking yourself: Is this the same girl who bent over for Robin Thicke on national television a few weeks ago? The same girl who can’t seem to keep her clothes on in public? The same girl who caused kids around the world to have teddy bear nightmares? The same girl who briefly made us never want to touch a foam finger again?
Then the all-too-familiar single “We Can’t Stop” comes on, followed by Miley chanting “F**kin bangerz” on the tasteless title track. “They ask me how I keep a man / I keep a battery pack.”
Illusion shattered. Yep, it’s the same girl.
Seems like Cyrus had at least one more surprise up her sleeve: making us think that all the hot-mess stuff was just an act, that at the end of the day, she might actually yield an album of substance. No such luck.
The news isn’t all bad; there are a few other moments on the album like the first—mainly on the ballads—where Cyrus provides glimmers of hope that she could actually become the artist she imagines herself to be. If you can block out the disturbing imagery of the accompanying music video, “Wrecking Ball” is a pretty good song. And electro-pop infused tracks like “Drive” and “Someone Else” have their merits, too. But when you throw those tracks in with noise like “Love Money Party” and the very in-character, not-sexy-just-disgusting “#GETITRIGHT,” it’s simply impossible to take the more serious tracks seriously. “Adore You” ceases to be a moving ballad and becomes a joke in context.
As far as production value is concerned, Bangerz seems to spare no expense, leaning on heavy hitmakers like Pharrell Williams and Mike Will Made It, and drawing on guest appearances by the likes of Britney Spears, Nelly and others for additional street cred. The bad news is that the album essentially relies on this production trickery and gimmickry to pretend to a measure of substance that simply doesn’t exist. Even in the record’s better moments, there is so much production gloss and autotune added to Cyrus’ voice that we simply can’t tell whether there’s an artist underneath it. Smoke and mirrors will sell records, but they don’t add anything of value.
It’s been apparent, not just from the album but also from the antics of the preceding weeks, that Miley Cyrus doesn’t just want to shed her Hannah Montana image: she wants to nuke it into oblivion. And she has definitely accomplished that goal. The problem is that this record was also supposed to mark the birth of an artist, and unfortunately, that has not happened. There has not been a rebirth; there has only been a death. To be fair, this is a person who has grown up in the limelight, under the constant pressure of managing a public persona that may or may not represent the actual person behind it. To be truthful, Bangerz is a revelation, just not in the way Cyrus intended. Cyrus has claimed belligerently to the press that this is just who she is, but this album does not reveal a serious adult artist; instead, it reveals a persona of all hype and no depth. Instead of trying so hard to forge a new career in pop right now, Cyrus would do much better to take the money she’s made, go off the grid alone somewhere, and figure out who she really is before attempting this again.
But then again—Miley Cyrus has made it very clear she’s not open to advice. Oh, well.