When “fake it ’til you make it” goes wrong
In theory, one of hip-hop’s greatest attributes is that it is a culture that welcomes and encourages all to participate. But when a Disney star sprung from country-singing roots decides to take up twerking and rhyming all over expensive, club-ready synths and landing coveted features from French Montana, Future and Big Sean… well, maybe the open-door policy should be revisited.
Kind of an antiquated thought now, but anyone remember when dues had to be paid or talent had to wow before an artist could be cosigned by hip-hop’s premium beatmakers? Probably around the time “Achy Breaky Heart” stopped getting played at weddings.
Mike WiLL Made It (2 Chainz, Juicy J, Rihanna) made it cool to listen to Hannah Montana, now all grown up and sexual and tattooed and heartbroken and maybe poppin’ molly as you read this.
To paraphrase the new hip-hop-tinged Cyrus, she ’bout that life. And the Miley makeover has been engineered by a small army of writers, super-producers, marketers and agents to win.
“Where the dollas at?” Cyrus asks. She might want to check her pockets.
For the MTV train wreck, the timely Saturday Night Live hosting gig (she sings and acts!) and the Sinead O’Connor beef have all set up Bangerz for a box-office windfall.
So it really doesn’t matter that the 20-year-old’s cringe-inducing Bangerz—from the title’s clichéd disregard for the letter s to hearing her so comfortably use phrase like “Stay in your lane, bitch”—is scattered and bloated. Nor that it cribs its inspiration from bites of Rihanna or Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.
There are enough pop hooks designed to worm their way in your brain, enough slick beats to get repeat spins from teenage girls piloting their first car, and enough of a machine behind the New Miley that select songs from this LP should linger for months.
Written and produced by Pharrell Williams, “#getitright” could well catch on; ditto “FU,” featuring a shameless French Montana. Hopefully not “4X4,” a dosey-doe country-meets-rap duet with Nelly that sounds worse than it reads on paper, or “My Darlin,” which butchers the classic “Stand By Me” in a devastating manner.
But while many of Cyrus’s collaborators sound like they dropped by to cash a check, especially Britney Spears’ half-hearted effort on “SMS,” give Miley credit. She sounds like she’s having a blast, and she does get to experiment with different vocal techniques and the entire spectrum of modern pop rhythms throughout the hour.
The girl throws her entire body into this artistic rebirth like it was Robin Thicke’s pelvis. And it should pay off in fame and first-week sales and retweets.
But does that mean anyone whose tastes have developed beyond the FM presets will choose to listen to the songs?
Can I get a “hell no”? —Luke Fox