Miley Cyrus,“Bangerz” (RCA)
Cyrus, formerly known as Hannah Montana, spent a good portion of her adolescence playing two people on a TV show, so it makes sense that her new album has something like a split personality. But, at 20, she’s new to the experience of calling her own shots, and on her first project since exiting the Disney empire appears determined to break in that license.
“Bangerz” follows a summer of nonstop controversy for Cyrus, who stole this year’s MTV Video Music Awards with an aggressively raunchy performance of her song “We Can’t Stop.” There’s plenty more provocation on “Bangerz,” which moves away from the glossy electro-pop sound of Cyrus’ earlier records toward a grittier, hip-hop-inspired vibe.
In the track “ GETIT-RIGHT,” she sings, “I’m dancing in the mirror / I feel like I got no panties on.” “SMS (Bangerz)” is a blast of bad-girl braggadocio, in which both she and guest Britney Spears, rap about replacing a man with “a battery pack.” And “We Can’t Stop” might be the calmest, most clear-eyed rebel yell since Janet Jackson’s “Control.”
Yet for all the attitude here, “Bangerz” reveals that Cyrus isn’t just a twerk-bot programmed to titillate. “Wrecking Ball,” her chart-topping power ballad with the nudity-enhanced video, shows that her singing throbs with what feels like an embarrassment of emotion.
She goes for a similarly introspective quality in the stately “Adore You” and the breakup song “Drive.” Her vocals are equally strong in the Amy Winehouse-like “FU.” Cyrus also answers her critics directly in a few tunes that examine the reasons “you might think I’m crazy.”
In “Love Money Party” she casts a skeptical eye on the Hollywood riches she’s known since childhood, and “Someone Else” suggests that no actor escapes his or her job without experiencing some psychic damage.
Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times
Lorde, “Pure Heroine” (Virgin EMI)
“Royals” is a funny song to be ruling the singles charts. ”Royals” basically lifts a middle finger to the self-empowerment and excesses that songs by Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga celebrate. “And we’ll never be royals,” the chorus goes. “We crave a different kind of buzz.” That’s a revolutionary statement for Top 40 pop music, and it’s the breakthrough moment for Ella Yelich-O’Connor, 16, from New Zealand, who goes by Lorde.
Her debut album is a complex and stirring account of youth and its trappings. Lorde is, first and foremost, an astute songwriter, a keen observer of desolation and relationships. She cloaks her songs in a minimal strain of electro-pop and R&B, stark backdrops. This is the rare debut that’s smart and disarming and instantly catchy.
JAMES REED, Boston Globe
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