Cyrus Covers New Ground in ‘Bangerz’

Miley Cyrus, her evolution, her choices and her self-portrayal have been thrown — pretty aggressively — around the Internet a lot recently. Whether we loathe her, love her or feel the need to boast how extremely apathetic we feel towards her and what she does, it seems like everyone is vehement.

But like anything deserving of such strong opinion, it’s important to be both well-informed and well-versed in addition to just being able to count how many times she’s exposed the three inches above and below her belly button in the past two months. In other words, it’s time we talked about the music she’s making.

Bangerz is Cyrus’s fourth studio album and fifth non-consecutive album to appear at number one on the Billboard 200, including previous work under her Disney-ized alias Hannah Montana.

Bangerz’s hype is derived from Cyrus herself and her excitement for the project.

After a not-so-successful film career (“The Last Song,” anyone?) and an even more unimpressive clothing line at WalMart, it seems like it’s the first time in her life that she’s been so passionate about something.

The album, which was produced by powerhouse and Atlanta native Mike WiLL Made It, is a celebration of all things Cyrus — her Nashville roots, her somewhat comical obsession with the hip-hop lifestyle and her careful attention to the stuff that challenges current pop music.

Cyrus opens the album with “Adore You,” a track with power, but not so much radio appeal: a bold move on her part.

It’s a beautiful love song that feels as authentic as an Adele number, but isn’t quite what you’d expect from the first taste of an album entitled Bangerz with a half-naked and enraged Cyrus on the cover.

It would have made more sense for the album to start with “Do My Thang,” a heated, club-worthy track about individualism and not caring and being okay.

Tracks worth a fair shot and a good listen — other than the pre-released and radio-abused singles “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” — are “Rooting for My Baby,” “Hands in the Air” (featuring Ludacris) and “4×4,” all of which boast Cyrus’s raw ability to make any kind of song she wants and make it work.

Tracks that seem more like experiments gone bad include “FU,” featuring French Montana and “On My Own,” but somehow they still seem to add something constructive to the album.

There are so many songs on the LP, good, bad and ugly alike, that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

And this is partly because Bangerz is strung together so unconventionally. Its track order follows no algorithm or formula and results in a somewhat anarchic mess of well-made songs in a poorly-made order.

For instance, we get “Love Money Party,” a house party jam featuring Big Sean, followed by the Pharrell-ized, cartoonish “#GETITRIGHT” (yes, there’s a hashtag) followed by emotionally-charged “Drive.” It makes no sense.

However, this is representative of Cyrus’s recent stylized movement. In terms of all things Cyrus, what appears to be disorder is apparently order, and what appears to be unintentional is apparently overwhelmingly intentional.

Whether or not this Cyrus Complex holds any validity is up to interpretation, but she’s definitely playing with our minds, which is something we, as listeners, need to figure out if we’re okay with or not.

Either way, what we can take from Cyrus’s industry tidal waves is that Bangerz is an indicator of where pop music is going. The genre’s direction in the next few years will stray from its traditional formula and borrow more heavily from other styles to give artists the flexibility to play around more.

Blues, folk, jazz, EDM and world music will all be blanketed by pop so much that radio stations will be tough to label. Pop’s getting roomier and expanding its limits a few iterations more to keep us invested, which is exciting.

Good for Cyrus. Bangerz may not be the album we’ll make our children listen to as a birthright, but the tracks are well-made without suffering from over-production.

She has a great voice, and she’s able to back up her questionable public image choices with a pretty strong portfolio of work.

If everything turns out right, this album should do what Cyrus wanted all along: to get everyone to just shut up and listen.

— By Ellie Kahn