Has there been something missing in your life? If so, we suspect that it may have been hearing Miley Cyrus rap. Well, now your life is complete.
On “Liberty Walk,” the opening track from Cyrus’s new album, “Can’t Be Tamed,” she feels compelled to break into rap at least twice. We don’t know why, but we’ll give her this: she’s not that much worse of a rapper than Madonna on “Vogue.” You don’t mind her doing it, you just can’t figure out for the life of you why she is.
So it goes with quite a few of the songs on “Can’t Be Tamed,” including the faux-rebellious, downright irritating title track, and her plodding, completely pointless remake of Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” which makes you yearn for the shallow depths of the original. She takes Ke$ha head on with “Permanent December.” The talky-singy style doesn’t suit her any better than it does Ke$ha, although, to her credit, she’s not throwing up in anyone’s closet. Ke$ha didn’t invent this style, but she 100% owns it, for better or worse, right now and Cyrus should have respected that.
Enough complaining. As Cyrus, herself, tells us in her little electronic slice of heaven, “Liberty Walk,” don’t listen “to the people who hate.”
Indeed, part of what makes “Can’t Be Tamed” so frustrating is that she has the makings of a really strong pop album, and even with its foibles, “Can’t Be Tamed” is a marked improvement over her previous solo albums.
She gets the mix decidedly right on “Two More Lonely People,” a throbbing, irresistible pop dance confection (with great acoustic guitar accents) that hits all the right notes. It’s Kylie Minogue crossed with Jefferson Starship. Same with the lovely mid-tempo “Forgiveness and Love,” a gentle reminder that these are often the only things that matter. It’s a great message for her young fans. On penultimate track, “Robot,” she turns into Euro-dance diva. Then she ends strong with the Expose-like “My Heart Beats for Love” (although what’s with the Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” echo-chamber drums?)
That’s the weird thing here. Oddly for someone not born until 1992, the production here is decidedly retro, circa mid- ‘80s, such as on the beat-heavy Stacey Q rip-off (yet strangely adorable) “Who Owns My Heart.” Think heavy drums, lots of synths, layers upon layers of dense production. Let it breathe, dude!
As the title track none-too-subtly reminds us, Cyrus is on the verge of adulthood. Heck, she’s 17 going on 45. She’s leaping from teen to twice-divorced, chain-smoking, trailer park single mom in a single bound, if she doesn’t watch it. Lyrically here, you get the feeling she’s so desperate to be seen as an adult, yet I have to say it’s still jarring to hear Hannah Montana sing about making love in “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” It’s too soon, Miley. Trust me; you’ll get there soon enough. The songs with emotionally mature themes work best here when she’s not forcing her fake ID down our throat.
Most of the time Cyrus’s fine, but totally unremarkable vocals do the trick here and she stretches admirably on a few tracks her. But then she stops you dead with some awkward affectation via her delivery. Her pronunciation goes haywire on certain tracks and you feel like you’re walked into the worst acting class ever. It happens on “Liberty Walk,” “Who Owns My Heart” and the otherwise enjoyable “Scars.” Where’s Henry Higgins when you need him?
Cyrus has said she’s walking away from music for awhile. With “Can’t Be Tamed” she’s left us a set that will tide us over while she’s gone, but won’t make us pine for her return.
Listen for yourself below. What do you think?