That may seem like a bold statement, but she’s got everything going for her. She’s got the voice. She’s got the controversy. She’s got the punky “I don’t give a sh*t” attitude. And as much as her music is smothered in whacky ideas, she at least has an artistic vision. She’s even got morals and opinions: as an advocate for gay rights, she launched a charity for homeless LGBT people and was joined on-stage at the VMAs at the weekend by a whole host of drag queens.
In many ways she’s the new Lady Gaga – bold, sexy, and slightly strange. She even has a similar voice. Yet there’s one key difference between them, one key element that Cyrus is missing. And ironically it’s the name of her last album.
Excluding her earlier work (Party in the USA and The Climb are certified hits), more recently Cyrus hasn’t established herself with a string of hit songs in the same way as her peers. We Can’t Stop may have hit the top of the charts in the UK, but Cyrus is capable of delivering far better material. As for Wrecking Ball, the strength of the song itself was obliterated by the meme-worthy video. The rest of ‘Bangerz’ was just too generic and far less subversive than her performances had led us to believe.
Enter ‘Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz’, a new album she “Beyoncéd” after hosting the VMAs. It’s an album that only somewhat addresses these issues.
Created in conjunction with Wayne Coyle from The Flaming Lips and produced by Mike Will Made It and Oren Yoel, it’s a wildly experimental selection of twenty three tracks. Psychedelic, kaleidoscopic and just plain weird, there are moments of brilliance as Cyrus explores a variety of genres and musical avenues. Some tracks are short snippets and focus on a single idea, like Fuckin Fucked Up, I’m so Drunk and Miley Tibetan Bowlzzz. Some of the best tracks feature other artists, from the strange and eerie Tiger Dreams featuring Ariel Pink, to the subtly hip-hop influenced Tangerine featuring Big Sean. Some tracks (as you might expect) are highly sexualised, most notably the funky, sexy pop of Bang Me Box. Others are just…odd (Pablow The Blowfish I’m looking at you).
It is, however, wildly inconsistent. The variety of styles, tones, and sounds – it simply doesn’t flow as a complete album. Where some songs are upbeat bordering on typical pop, others are influenced by R&B jams, others are melancholic ballads, and others still are elongated guitar-based songs that simply bore (Karen, whoever you are, you need to cheer the hell up). It’s as if Cyrus has experimented in the studio and just dumped them on the internet without much thought.
The biggest issue, though, is the same lack of bangerz that we had before. None of these tracks are likely to make singles, let alone top ten hits. Intriguing they may be, but without a hit Cyrus is unlikely to find herself at the top of the pop pile where she belongs.
There’s one final point with ‘Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz’, however. Its’ free. Released on her own Smiley Miley Inc company rather than RCA Records (presumably it’s a bit too experimental for a major release), this is clearly a stop-gap album that hints at what the future may bring us. And in that regard, Cyrus deserves respect for this release. She’s a pop artist who is willing to push the boundaries, not only in terms of visuals, performance and controversy, but (finally) with her music. Let’s just hope that inevitable forthcoming major label release has the bangerz she (and we) deserve.
* Space Boots
* Bang Me Box
Listen: ‘Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz’ is available now on SoundCloud.