Call me perv-y, call me creepy, call me a lawyer. But I can’t look at the androgynous, chop-haired Miley Cyrus without thinking of the baby-faced Justin Bieber. Beyond their shared looks and taste for outlandish exploits, these two popsters both put out new music recently, each in a different marketing form. Who wins? Wiley Miley, by a mile.
Bieber has chosen to slowly roll out 10 singles, week by week, as part of a Music Monday series. I like that idea, but only if he has the material to keep us interested. Thing is, the first tune, Heartbreaker, is a sad-sap Weeknd-Usher knockoff jam. If that’s the best the kid has to offer, there’s no need for Monday Night Football worrying about any competition for front-of the-week attention.
Cyrus’s competition will come in the form of albums from Katy Perry (Prism, Oct. 18) and Lady Gaga (Artpop, Nov. 8). Cyrus, the provocatrice du jour whose recent shenanigans have been well analyzed, is getting the jump. The album is now out, and though it could have been anticlimactic after the outrageous prerelease publicity Bangerz actually is quite good. It’s fun, genre-hopping, stylish and occasionally catchy and twerkable, with more streaming potential than a Bieber mop bucket.
Cyrus, soon to be 21, is a little bit country and little bit cray-cray. Oddly, Bangerz does not begin with a bang, but a dud. Adore You, a string-laced weeper of emotional one-upmanship – “When you say you love me, know that I love you more” – could be the weakest of the 13 tracks. “Are you listening,” Cyrus pleads, her Auto-Tuned voice dripping with tears and tone both equally programmed. I’m listening, but please, let’s pick it up.
And she does pick it up, with We Can’t Stop, the hit summer single produced by the self-advertising hip-hop hitmaker Mike Will Made It. He made this one with pitched-down vocal phrases – “It’s our party we can do what we want to” – echoed by Cyrus. It’s a simple, hell-yeah pop song about defiance, with a touch of country to it.
Maybe You’re Right comes with a little more Nashville-pop; new country has never sounded newer. The daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus (the crooner-rube whose heart was “achy-breaky” even if his mullet was smiling) is reflective and even contrite, with the titled refrain answering her own “You might think I’m crazy” admission.
Crazy like a fox. Love Money Party is a moody, freaky party-crasher with a mantra that the Dalai Lama would not be cool with, and a philosophy – “money ain’t nothing but money” – that would blow Warren Buffett’s mind. Quickly following is #GETITRIGHT, a sexy summer-breezy number produced by Pharrell Williams, who, apparently, is not against whistling and a dream pairing of Jack Johnson-Robin Thicke.
On FU, featuring the rapper French Montana and a naughty acronym, Cyrus is adventurous with a cabaret-style that seems to modernize and channel Screamin Jay Hawkins: “SMH, I brushed a sin on you,” possibly nodding to I Put a Spell on You. Cyrus, almost convincingly and absolutely hilariously, goes all urban on Do My Thang. Full points for a country-gal twerp warning someone to “stay in your lane, bitch,” while misappropriating a street-wise persona well beyond her own cultural zone.
But sure, do your own thing, Miley Cyrus. Raise your tongue in the air like you just don’t care. On the mature and sultry bonus track Rooting For My Baby, she sings about pressure and moments that will pass. The track itself, unlike the mostly disposable (if likable) bulk of Bangerz, shows potential and makes Cyrus more rootable than I would have thought possible.
The week in music
Top selling albums in Canada for the week ending Oct. 6: We’re getting the full Justin Timberlake experience this year, what with the release of The 20/20 Experience, 2 of 2, a sequel album that arrives atop the album chart 28 weeks after the blockbuster The 20/20 Experience debuted at No.1 this summer. The two albums are available separately or in a combo package, The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience. (Sales of 2 of 2 and the compilation are linked.) Rounding out the Top five are Lorde’s Pure Heroine, Drake’s Nothing Was the Same, Kings of Leon’s Mechanical Bull and Jack Johnson’s From Here to Now to You.
Top single: For the second consecutive week, Lorde’s Royals rules the Billboard Hot 100, passing the two-million mark in download sales since its release (2.16 million).
Also released this week: Amos Lee’s Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song, Anna Calvi’s One Breath, Cage the Elephant’s Melophobia, Lindi Ortega Tin Star, Of Montreal’s Lousy with Sylvianbriar, Panic! At The Disco’s Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!, Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name, Sleigh Bells’ Bitter Rivals, Stone Temple Pilots’ High Rise, Tony Dekker’s Prayer of the Woods, U.S. Girls’ Free Advice Column and Pup’s self-titled debut.