‘Tuned In’ review: Miley Cyrus’ ‘Bangerz’ ignites explosions, duds

In this Sept. 21, 2013 file photo, Miley Cyrus performs at IHeartRadio Music Village in Las Vegas, Nev.

In this Sept. 21, 2013 file photo, Miley Cyrus performs at IHeartRadio Music Village in Las Vegas, Nev.

'Bangerz' by Miley Cyrus

"Bangerz" by Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus’ new album is like her image: a mess. Yet that’s not to say “Bangerz” is without merit.

As the 20-year-old makes her getaway from all things Hannah Montana and speeds into the world of the pop provocateur, she swerves and spins through a course of pop buffoonery and throwback hip-hop/soul – in both ballad and banger form.

The best that can be said of the collection is that she has “matured” individualistically, not following any predecessor too closely. However, she also has some abysmal failures along the way.

Reckless abandon has its rewards. Cyrus’ buzz-worthy videos for “Bangerz’s” first two singles helped propel them up the charts: Addled grinder “We Can’t Stop” was a song of the summer thanks to the party-out-of-bounds video, and the follow-up melodrama “Wrecking Ball” became her first No. 1 hit, thanks to the video of her swinging around naked and crying.

So brace yourself for more tricky marketing of subsequent oddball singles.

Some deserve success. The pulsating electronic hoedown “4x4,” featuring Nelly, is more fun than it has any right to be, with producer Pharrell Williams tapping Cyrus’ Tennessee/country upbringing (she claims to be “like a pit bull in heat”) and sending her on a glossy “Dukes of Hazzard”-like adventure. Meanwhile, “SMS (Bangerz)” has all the goofy (i.e. “why not?”) charm that might be expected of a robot-girls-gone-wild duet with Britney Spears where Cyrus, “be struttin’ my stuff.”

The most encouraging takeaway from “Bangerz” is that Cyrus has an effectively gritty voice pinned down in all the machinery, surfacing on rare occasions such as in the oversexed “#Getitright” (even though she dishes out lines like “I feel like I got no panties on”), the opening slow track “Adore You” and the Latin-flavored, smooth-grooving “Rooting for My Baby” (a cut only available on the album’s “deluxe” edition).

Otherwise, Cyrus bounces around like an overstimulated toddler on “Bangerz,” prodded by producers who try to mold her into a sultry pop vixen or sassy neo-R&B star when she doesn’t have the chops or conviction to pull it off.

But she sure is game for the challenge. So there’s that.

Rating: 3 stars (out of five)

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