Style: Radio-ready teen pop; compare to Lady Gaga, Cheetah Girls, Yelle
Top tracks: "Scars," "Two More Lonely People," "Can't Be Tamed"
It was perhaps inevitable that 17-year-old Miley Cyrus would make such a drastic shift in her image and sound at this point in her still young career. She had captured a huge chunk of the family-friendly market with the squeaky clean image of her musical alter ego, Disney TV's Hannah Montana. She had also captivated much of the faith market with her outspoken Christian beliefs. But to win over a public overstuffed with news and entertainment options, apparently she believes that the only way to float to the top is to show some skin and cause some public stir.
So, she and her handlers have crafted a new sexed-up look by throwing in some provocative stage moves (her pole dancing performance at the Teen Choice Awards, the faux-lesbian kiss on Britain's Got Talent that she apparently repeats in her stage show) and a video for the album's lead single "Can't Be Tamed" featuring half-naked dancers and risquÉ bumping and grinding.
Quantifiably, the calculated move is clearly working. "Tamed" (the song) was a top 10 single, and its video has more than 23 million views on YouTube. Will the public embrace this new album as well? Possibly, but it's not all that good. The glitzy sound, pumped up with synthesizers, four-to-the-floor beats and Cyrus's well-meaning but empty platitudes, is repeated throughout to numbing effect. It's decent enough but hardly brings anything new to the table.
The repetition is mirrored in the subject matter, as well. The pop princess has said that her new songs are primarily about love. Every track here views romantic love from a variety of different angles—the devoted girlfriend pushing aside the "sexy boys" vying for her affections ("Permanent December"), the girl suffering through a long-distance relationship ("Stay"), the thrill of meeting a potential mate on the dance floor ("Who Owns My Heart"). There's even the more universal ideal of love for all, as on the album's closer "My Heart Beats for Love."
In other words, Cyrus appears to be following the pop music template very closely. It will likely pay off for her commercially, but will the folks who made her a success early on—the families, and especially tween and young teen girls, who flocked to Hannah Montana concerts and films—follow suit? Will any who have looked up to her as a paragon of safe, clean entertainment come along for this new bump-and-grind ride? And how will a faith-based audience that has appreciated Cyrus's outspokenness about her Christianity and love for Jesus—themes which are nowhere to be found on this album—react to the Miley?
She apparently made one "religious concession" on this album, as she and her record label were willing to excise the line "I can't be saved" from the radio release of her first single. But there's a good chance that she's burning too many bridges that connect her to the people that helped keep the spotlight on her with this new aesthetic and sexed-up approach.
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