In the past four months, it has been impossible to avoid Miley Cyrus. After releasing her video for “We Can’t Stop” in June, the media has been following her every move. There have been some positive moments (her hilarious hosting gig on SNL) and some scandals (too many to count), but it’s not her public persona that matters most; it’s the music. On Bangerz, her first release since 2010’s Can’t Be Tamed, Miley finally has the freedom to show the world who she truly is as an artist.
In true Miley fashion, Bangerz would be nothing without a little bit of controversy. The former Hannah Montana star throws around subtle drug references (“We Can’t Stop”) and excessive profanities (the will.i.am-produced “Do My Thang”) like it’s her job, but this only seems scandalous because of her Disney past. However, Hannah Montana is dead, and Miley is growing up, so topics such as these are inevitable.
Despite the never-ending party vibe that tracks like “We Can’t Stop” and “SMS Bangerz” (featuring pop icon, Britney Spears) give off, Bangerz is surprisingly more heartfelt than one would imagine. Miley may be playing it cool in public, but after her recent split from fiancé, Liam Hemsworth, it is no doubt that some of her new tracks (and by some, I mean the majority) deal with love and heartbreak. When separated from its questionable video, “Wrecking Ball” is the most impressive track on Bangerz, showcasing Miley’s vulnerability and power. None of the other ballads on the album (“Adore You” and “Someone Else”) come close to the pure emotion of “Wrecking Ball,” but they still give Bangerz some much-needed honesty.
Love may be the heart of Bangerz, but the guest appearances are the real spirit of the album. While some appearances are questionable (Future ruins one of Miley’s best vocals on “My Darlin’”), some are completely undeniable. Miley goes back to Tennessee with some help from Pharrell and Nelly on “4×4,” and it almost feels like a mature response to Hannah Montana’s “Hoedown Throwdown.” On the other hand, “#GetItRight” is not even remotely reminiscent of Miley’s older work, but Pharrell’s production makes the flirty track worthy of multiple listens. Mike Will Made It may be responsible for most of the tracks on Bangerz, but after repeatedly hearing his name over and over again, it’s refreshing to hear the influence of a true music veteran like Pharrell.
Bangerz is not the most cohesive pop album made this year, but it was made by a young woman who now knows exactly who she is. The influences are all over the place (pop, hip-hop, country, etc.), but Miley has finally made the album that she wanted to make with no help from the network that dictated how she spent her teenage years. Despite constant negative comments from the public and the media, Miley is at her strongest (listen to “FU” if you don’t believe me) on this album. Bangerz is a declaration of Miley’s independence, and not one negative comment can take that away from her.
Lauren Mahaffy is a Syracuse, NY native and a recent graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in music business. As much as she would love to be in LA eating burgers at In-N-Out and working at a record label, she is currently spending some time at home with her dog, Princess Sparkle. When she is not job hunting, she can be found binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, posting funny gifs on Tumblr, and singing Miley Cyrus songs in the car. Read her embarrassing tweets @laurenmahaffy