Bangerz: More Than Just Mindless Funk?

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By Celeste Chia

Miley Cyrus is my guilty pleasure. I have stood by her despite her controversies over the years, from her first topless picture for Vanity Fair and her risqué Can’t Be Tamed music video to her saucy appearances in Terry Richardson photoshoots. I laud her tenacity in risk-taking, such as that drastic haircut (arguably one of the most memorable haircuts in pop culture today) and wacky costumes. Many keenly compare her with fellow ex-Disney star Selena Gomez. My opinion: Selena will always play catch-up to Miley. I watch the music videos by Selena today, and go, “Hey, didn’t Miley do this years ago?”

We love to hate Miley Cyrus, yet we can’t help but read all her deets and track the latest media she is featured in. (Did you watch (I Wanna) Channing All Over Your Tatum? That was hilarious.) She’s such a trendsetter that she opened a whole new market for Halloween this year – many shops in the US sold mock-ups of the spandex bra-and-panties set she wore for her now-iconic VMAs performance, and even heiress Paris Hilton dressed up as her for the 2013 Playboy Mansion party.

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So I was thrilled when iTunes streamed her fourth studio album Bangerz for free, one week before its official release. I wanted to see if the album lived up to her reputation, and if her publicity antics merited the quality of her songs. By the way, in case you were wondering what Bangerz means, “bangers” is a slang term for dance music.

Miley has stressed countless times that this album is a fresh start from her Hannah Montana days, the genre mainly revolving around hip-hop. However, songs like “4×4” make an effort to infuse country music tunes with a catchy beat, making them more palatable for listeners who are not fans of country music. I find these reminiscent of Miley’s country girl roots in Nashville, similar to her old hit “Hoedown Throwdown”. Apart from that, while she does otherwise explore vastly different genres from Southern hip-hop to country music, it’s also clear which direction her album goes towards from its roster of featured artists, who are mostly rappers like Nelly and Big Sean.

Unfortunately, most of the songs on Bangerz are characterised by repetitive tunes and meaningless lyrics, relying heavily on background beats to spice it up. After listening to her whole album on iTunes, I ended up only buying a few songs, deciding that the rest was really just mindless funk. Apart from “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball”, here are four other songs you should keep on your radar:

  • “Adore You” is the perfect first song to introduce Bangerz to the audience. Track #1 is soulful and slow, and Miley’s voice blends melodically into the R&B instrumentation with modest lyrics (“You and me were meant to be In holy matrimony/ God knew exactly what He was doing when He led me to you“). This first impression gives you the hope that maybe, just maybe, the rest of her album isn’t just predictable party animal tunes. This minimalistic ballad is Miley’s third album single. Good call on her part.
  • “My Darlin’” nicely showcases Miley’s and featured artist Future’s complementary voices. The harmony in the chorus is this song’s redeeming feature, a distraction from its bland lyrics (“Cause we gonna make a movie/ And it’s gonna be in 3D“) with references to ‘molly’, a drug also known as MDMA. FYI, if you’re a fan of this collaboration, another single was recently released featuring both of their vocals, titled “Real and True”. Do check it out.
  • The style of “Drive” is similar to the aforementioned songs with regards to the tune, but it stands out because of its lyrics. Unlike the other songs in the album which seem halfheartedly written, this is one of the few songs in Bangerz written by Miley herself. A tabloid quotes the context in which she wrote the song, “Emotionally it was such a hard time. It is about needing to leave someone but not really wanting to completely cut yourself off from the relationship.” The lyrics are testament to it (“You promised you would be there when I go/ But all broken promises I won’t miss“). And when a singer writes her own songs, you can tell – she sounds a lot more passionate, personal and raw in this song.
  • “FU” is executed with surprising taste, despite an angsty chorus and the inclusion of our favourite acronyms, SMH and LOL. No prizes for guessing what ‘FU’ means, by the way, with the first part of the chorus going “I got two letters for you/ One of them is F/ And the other one is U/ Cause what you gotta do is go get yourself a clue“. Childish antics aside, I was impressed by her vocal range in this song. This girl can hit notes which would make Adele proud.

With a few exceptions, Miley’s album centres around 3 main themes: Love, Money, Party – this is also the title of the seventh song in the deluxe version. These are shallow themes echoed throughout the music industry today, and you don’t need to listen to the whole album to make the final verdict – after listening to the first half, you can expect the next to follow suit. Her songs are, regrettably, run of the mill.