Deep down, in some secret place through which I seldom tread, I knew I was going to buy Bangerz one day. I made jokes on my Facebook and Twitter pages about hiring a teenage girl to visit my local Best Buy and purchase a copy for me, but part of me knew it wasn't a joke, and I doubt I fooled any of the people who truly know me. To them it was less a humorous aside than a cry for help. "Don't let me do this," is what I was really saying, but not really. It was more like, "I know I shouldn't do this, but I'm going to, so, screw you, guys." And now I own Bangerz.
Look, I know Miley Cyrus is a causal drug user who doesn't care for Breaking Bad and makes little people feel bad about themselves, but I feel like an Initial Listen Report Card is warranted here. I've always had an affinity for Ms. Cyrus and I've been more than a little intrigued by her recent output. I've been hearing about Bangerz (Ugh, I hate having to type that over and over) for so long on social media, I felt there was no reason not to get swept up in the excitement and give it a chance.
Well, I've given it a chance, and here's what I thought.
1. "Adore You" -- A
Bangerz features three near-perfect pop tunes, and "Adore You" is one of them. It is a dreamy slow jam with one of the most earwormy choruses in recent memory. Need proof? This weekend, the wife and I, along with my parents and our two-year-old daughter, took to the out-of-doors for an epic front lawn clean up project. I eventually lost count of how many times my wife looked up from bundling branches and asked me, "What?" to which I sheepishly answered, "Just singin'." And what was a I "just singin'?" "Adore You."
It is strange song to open an album with, stripped down and casual as it is, but it works, easing you into the proceedings with romance and marriage talk, a theme that will mostly disappear when the twerking begins.
2. "We Can't Stop" -- A-
The second of those three nearly-perfect pop tunes I mentioned earlier. Separated from its weirdo video, "We Can't Stop" ceases to be creepy, depressing or sad. It's REAL low-key for a party anthem, but that just so happens to be the kinds of parties I prefer: quiet, laid back, plenty of Tostitos-brand Chunky Salsa jugs. "We Can't Stop" is probably the only party song that could double as a baby lullaby.
Why the minus? I don't care for this Mike Will Made It character's insistence on using a creepy, slowed-down ghoul voice to represent himself in a handful of Miley's songs. He sounds like Jigsaw from the Saw movies. I'm waiting for the track where he asks Miley if she wants to play a game and then attaches a reverse bear trap to her face.
3. "SMS (Bangerz)" -- D-
Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears together at last! And how do these twin titans of pop choose to celebrate their long awaited coupling? They rap. Poorly. About vibrators.
Look, Miley Cyrus is not Hannah Montana. I understand and accept that. But whatever name she goes by, Miley sings/raps with a twang, a twang made famous through her involvement with the long-running and beloved Disney Channel sitcom, Hannah Montana. So, I'm sorry, but I don't want to hear Hannah Montana rap about pleasuring herself with a vibe.
Also, there's Mike Will Made It at it again with that voice. What, did they record this album in that weird bathroom from the first Saw? Was Cary Elwes chained to the wall, sawing his foot off in the corner? Was there a dead guy spread out in the middle of the floor?
4. "4X4" -- C
It's official guys: Nelly will do anything.
I want to hate this song sooooo much, but I can't. I don't necessarily like it either, but it's probably the best thing I've heard from Nelly since college when my friend Nick's roommate, Lewis, made me listen to "Ride wit Me" over and over again, every single stupid day. I guess if someone is doing a country/rap mash-up, they are required to contact Nelly now.
Question: Have you ever been driving your car so fast that you've peed yourself? Me neither.
5. "My Darlin'" -- C-
Worse than that horror-movie voice he insists on using, Mike Will Made It is one of those producers that makes the singers he works with say his name somewhere in the song.
So, "My Darlin'." Let's see. Miley and a robot from the future, appropriately named Future, sing a song about making 3D movies (???). Hold on. Is this a cover of "Stand By Me." What the hell is this? I don't get this song.
6. "Wrecking Ball" - A+
One of my favorite songs of the year. Like "We Can't Stop," separated from it's video (Which I wrote about on this very blog! Remember?!?), "Wrecking Ball" is a powerful song about the dissolution of a dysfunctional relationship. Good stuff!
7. "Love Money Party" -- D
Mike Will Made It's songs don't ever go anywhere! In one sense, his decision to craft "Love Money Party" into a loop of boring bucks the current trend in EDM. Dumb.
8. "#GETITRIGHT" -- B
Again, I can't help but hear Hannah Montana when I listen to this song, which is offputting only because this is the requisite "sex song" on Bangerz. I blame that twang. That said, "#GETITRIGHT" is upbeat and I like this line: "Make my tongue just go do-dit-do." That's cute, and it's nice to hear Miley's much maligned tongue get a shout-out on the album.
9. "Drive" --B+
This thing should build, go nuts, crash, build again, go even nuttier, explode, etc. as it is aping the current dub step trend, but, predictably, Mike Will Made It (Ugh! Now I hate having to type that over and over!) doesn't do it. It's still a fairly decent song though.
10. "FU" -- D
Meh. I can barely listen to this song.
11. "Do My Thang" -- B-
Another one I want to hate, but can't. Could use roughly 100% less rapping, but the lyrics are funny ("laugh at" funny, not "laugh with"). Awww, Miley's pretending to be a bad-ass. Didja hear? She don't give a fuck. Adorable!
12. "Maybe You're Right" -- C
It's fine, but I didn't feel any connection to it. More of an "I left" song than a "I got left" song, so less appealing. I prefer songs where people are whining and sobbing about being dumped, wallowing in their sadness.
13. "Someone Else" -- B
Definitely a "banger," but by this point I was pretty drained and ready to listen to something for grown ups.
In summation: Bangerz features very few actually "bangers" (as I understand the word), but "Adore You," "We Can't Stop," and especially "Wrecking Ball" are among the best pop songs I've heard this year. Even the worst songs are saved by Miley's vocals. Say what you will about the way she conducts herself in public, the young lady can sing. I think I like Ke$ha's latest better though.