Since bludgeoning her way into the public consciousness this year with a sledgehammer still damp with her own spit, it’s a surprise that ‘Bangerz’ begins with the downbeat Adore You. With its sombre piano and slowly shuffling beat, it allows Cyrus’ voice to take the fore in a rare moment of subtlety. In fact, it’s the ballads that are the better songs: twerk-less antitheses to her newfound sense of ‘maturity’.
As a whole, ‘Bangerz’ sees Cyrus riffing on popular black culture in an attempt to capture a sense of cool – not only her now infamous twerking, but in the hip-hop influenced production, her faux rapping and inclusion of featured artists like Nelly, Big Sean and Future. This would be fine if she brought something new to the party, but instead it feels more like Cyrus is playing catch up and simply trying too hard. Her reason for choosing hip-hop as her main point of reference is obvious: controversy. Hip-hop is a genre that lyrically pushes boundaries, tying in with her desperate desire to shake her teen image – “I’m a female rebel, can’t you tell” she sings on 4x4. Yet the most controversial she gets is on that same song with lyrics like “driving so fast ‘bout to piss on myself”, proving she’s still just a child at heart.
For the most part ‘Bangerz’ is musically staid, not only settling easily in EDM mode, but copying other artists in a generic concoction of Rihanna, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. That Cyrus duets with Britney Spears on the third track is an obvious parallel with the original good girl gone bad, yet SMS (BANGERZ) simply sounds like a modern Britney track – by no means a compliment. FU features an opening refrain that’s pure Gaga, whilst its kitchen-sink, dramatic production and womping bass lines create a frenzy of musical noise. Love Money Party is just a Rihanna cast-off. And surely Wrecking Ball would sound better with Katy Perry singing? On the slightly more positive side, My Darlin’ (which quotes Ben E King’s Stand By Me) is the most progressive track with its futuristic production, whilst #GETITRIGHT recaptures the sense of fun we heard on lead single We Can’t Stop and the pulsating Drive is a solid dance-pop effort. The already released singles We Can’t Stop and Wrecking Ball are the obvious highlights, however.
In all, ‘Bangerz’ is nowhere near as musically subversive as her performances. Cyrus may be trying to position herself as a boundary pushing artist, but musically she is simply conforming to current trends. Do you know what really shows maturity as an artist? Originality.
* Adore You
* We Can’t Stop
* Wrecking Ball
Listen: 'Bangerz' is released on October 5th.