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The time has come. I’m just about ready to tell you why we’re glad Miley Cyrus survived the Apopcalypse.
After minor roles in TV and film, our friend Destiny Hope Cyrus was cast as the sickly sweet, loveable country bumpkin Hannah Montana. The role of a lifetime many said and it was exactly the platform she needed to boost her to superstar status. She signed to Hollywood Records at the tender age of 15 and, as Hannah Montana became a worldwide sensation, she reaped the plentiful rewards. Growing up in Nashville, Miley states that her roots remain in country music, an obvious influence heard even in her voice. There’s not really much else to say because she was young and a bit boring until 3 years ago. So let’s skip ahead, shall we?
She released Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus in 2007 which spawned the secret jam “See You Again” and ended up selling over 3 million copies to unsuspecting parents all over the world. A modern day Disney puppet, Miley’s every action was closely monitored by the executives and she was moulded into a role model for impressionable children – dressed suitably, devoid of all personality, a happy go lucky gal with good morals. Her music was beige and inoffensive, co-written by herself (but with big bucks like her, maybe she paid her name onto the songs) and brimming with teen pop stories of first love, broken hearts and “girls nights out”. It was all a bit too much.
Riding the waves of fame riddled teenage years, she swiftly followed up Meet Miley Cyrus with Breakout in 2008, another contrived vanilla album created to separate Miley from Hannah as an artist. A rockier sound complimented the new material and critics seemed to lap up this “edge” whilst stating that few tracks really stood out – a realistic observation. There were, however, some absolute corkers amidst the dross, namely the mature and emotional “Bottom Of The Ocean“. It’s easy to forget that this 16 year old girl was stretched thinner than most teens, constantly filming a series, recording new music, touring and promoting so we can cut her a bit of slack in reality. Enough slack to justify the cringefest that is “7 Things”? Not sure about that one.
Late 2008, Miley lent her voice to Disney’s “Bolt” and starred in Hannah Montana: The Movie. “The Climb“, a song from the film’s soundtrack, was a) quite good and b) very marketable so our little star found fame, success and money in the entertainment business, much like her Godmother, Dolly Parton. After starring in The Last Song alongside future boyfriend Liam Hemsworth, puberty struck and post-makeover, Miley came storming back with a new EP in 2009, The Time Of Our Lives. This record had a lot more personality than her previous efforts and also contained the earth-shatteringly huge track “Party In The USA” which was, and still is, a perfect pop song. She was criticised for her new mature, sexualised image as so many Hannah Montana fans still idolised her but the music was warmly received, with critics championing her progress into adulthood (although these comments are fairly hollow as Cyrus penned an impressive zero of the seven tracks).
After some controversial photoshoots and videos, Miley continued her transition into an “adult” through Can’t Be Tamed in 2010. The album featured a dance-pop influence, different to her previous music, and was met with underwhelming reviews and sales. The title track was lifted as the first single, a middle finger to possessive boyfriends and the big dogs of music trying to clip Cyrus’ wings; ironic and forced. Miley co-wrote every track on the album, you can’t blame a girl for trying, but stated she would focus on her acting after CBT due to the “music not inspiring her like it used to”. After Hannah Montana’s fourth series, the show ended in 2011 and Cyrus reportedly hired an acting coach, evidently to no avail as she starred in a string of shockingly shit films such as “LOL” and “So Undercover”. She opted not to attend college, stating she had worked hard to get where she is and wanted to enjoy it while it lasted, but instead to turn her focus back to music. Good job too.
2012 saw Miley flourish quietly. She fixed her teeth, cut her hair, toned herself down and grew up properly, uploading videos of her covering classic songs such as “Jolene“. Fans and critics were blown away by her rendition of Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gunna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” which was, it has to be said, perfect. It felt as though she had found her feet and honed her craft. Then she got engaged, shaved her hair off and went mental. 2013 looked like a big one for Cyrus.
2013 & Her Survival:
In January, Miley announced she had left Hollywood Records in favour of a contract with RCA, stating that the new album would be her real debut as an artist. She hired a new manager who had previously worked with Britney and began recording for her October opus. After a quiet start to the year, the world wasn’t quite ready when “We Can’t Stop“, originally intended for Rihanna, dropped in the Spring, a midtempo coming of age track riddled with drugs, tongues and electric production. The video gained reams of attention, not necessarily positive, for its further sexualisation of Cyrus, lackadaisical approach to narcotics and the far cry from Hannah Montana. Nevertheless, the song reached #2 and was a breath of fresh air in a sea of pop messiness. It’s become quite the iconic track in 2013 already. She also featured on songs with Snoop Lion, will.i.am, Rock Mafia, Mike Will Make It and Justin Bieber. Spreading her wings, eh?
After “We Can’t Stop” broke Vevo and YouTube records, Cyrus received even more media attention and the world began to grow sick of our pint sized star already. Her name was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and the constant barrage of paparazzi meant we were “invited” into nearly every aspect of her life, a harsh reality for a famous 20 year old girl. Regardless, Miley soldiered on and began to reveal information about the new album. She toyed with twitter, teasing fans with hints of the title and promising to reveal it when she reached 13 million followers. Quicker than we all imagined, another million of us listened to her daily drug/dog tweets and she spelled out “BANGERZ” in what was the most upsetting moment in 2013 so far. “Every track is a banger” she said. To be fair, she wasn’t far wrong.
Who can forget her abysmal VMA performance in August? Foam fingers and wardrobe malfunctions aside, she got us talking. Any press is good press in this business and Miley/her new puppeteers knew exactly that. She released “Wrecking Ball” and its scantily clad, hammer worshipping, tearful video (directed by Terry Richardson) in August, showcasing a previously untouched vulnerable and emotional side to the artist. The song, which sounds like 2007 Rihanna, gave Cyrus her first ever #1 and broke further Vevo records, creating even more buzz for Bangerz. It was later revealed that Cyrus and Hemsworth had called off their engagement, ending their four year relationship, adding even more hurt and anguish to her promotion of “Wrecking Ball”.
Before we know it, October hit us and so did Bangerz, right between the eyes. With Miley acting like a girl gone wild, she had a hard task of following up her promises of excellent music and you’ll be pleased to know that she didn’t disappoint. With an army of reputable producers and songwriters in tow, Bangerz is a highlight of Miley’s turbulent career. Centred around pop and hip hop, Cyrus sounds comfortable on each song, showing off her versatility, talent and flair. There are trickles of excellent balladry and even a grimy country influence on a few tracks, a humble and gentle hark back to her roots and past experiences. There is an abundance of of great lyrics hidden in the album (you won’t find these on “4×4” though – “Driving so fast ’bout to piss on myself/I’m a female rebel”…) and the collection of songs feel cohesive and original, like nothing else around at the moment.
With Cyrus co-writing most songs on the album, there’s a personal feel to her music, especially during the moments of vulnerability and honesty in “Adore You” and “My Darlin’“. Her voice is better than ever, able to flit from a powerful falsetto to a pained whine, and the production does not overshadow her talents: Pharrell & Mike Will Made It have a big, undeniably positive, influence on the recording. Whilst her persona may seem ill fitting, she sounds passionate and confident in her music having made a real commitment to this album and its execution. Songs about love and heartbreak are treated carefully whilst self-aware songs of being young and partying are fun and carefree, the polar opposites working well together to ensure the album sounds fresh and exciting. It’s as much a breakup album as it is the soundtrack to Cyrus’ coming of age but, in a warped way, it ticks a lot of boxes – it’s a behind the scenes look at what goes on in her weird and wonderful head.
Roping in Britney bloody Spears to duet with her on “SMS (Bangerz)” was a very impressive feat, even if the song is criminally underwhelming. There are a host of other bodies present on the album from Big Sean to Ludacris, each adding their own individual twang to Cyrus’ toe-tapping melodies. Released at a time when bigger female pops deities are flaunting their wares, it turns out that Miley’s public meltdown/reinvention was a great idea – the album topped the charts in several countries and set records in the USA and UK. Critics commented on the excellent sheen that the production gives the album but criticised Cyrus’ desperate attempt to be provocative and controversial, something than can grate towards the end of the album, especially amidst the filler “deluxe” tracks. Regardless, Bangerz is a solid pop album crafted by experienced hands: Miley knows her voice, her style, her sound and is guided well by her team.
Miley Cyrus is all anyone has spoken about this year and has sparked a lot of controversy on her road to fame. She followed through on her promises of great new music: Bangerz is definitely a weird but impressive effort, pieced together well and not clichéd. It’ll be hard for Cyrus to shake this era off when she’s older, the damage is done now, but there’s something weirdly reassuring in watching someone else make mistakes growing up. Our generation loves to be a fly on the wall but we’ve been watching people morph and change for years – look at Xtina and Madonna. Like Hannah Montana once sung “nobody’s perfect, you live and you learn it”.
I’m Miley ’til I die and I honestly think Cyrus is acting how any impressionable 20 year old millionaire would act, but she’s making great music at the same time. The Apopcalypse saved this one for a reason, it just might take some of a while to realise it. The media tells us that gays love a fierce bitch and she’s on her way to becoming exactly that. Miley’s made her bed and now she’s laying in it. But I bet it’s bloody comfy in there. And full of money.