Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Miley Cyrus' Attempt To "Breakout" From Hannah Montana

Millions of die-hard fans, millions of various mass-produced memorabilia being sold, and millions of dollars - this is the empire that is Miley Cyrus. At only age 15, Cyrus has become more than a household name, but an international superstar as well known as Madonna or The Beatles. As the most profitable cog in the Disney machine, Cyrus’ past year shot her from sitcom star to A-lister. Side effects included being caught up in an infamous Annie Liebowitz shot photo-shoot for Vanity Fair (which was the magazine’s highest selling issue of the year) that parents worldwide boycotted and still complain about. She’s also been a tabloid favorite, with pictures leaking online every few weeks of what seem to be Cyrus in scantily clad or sometimes see-through and wet attire. She’s even been criticized as a horrible role model for the simple fact that she said “Sex And The City” was her favorite television show. And then people wonder why child stars are so messed up.

This Tuesday (July 22nd) saw the release of Cyrus’ new album “Breakout,” a title very fitting as it is her first full length solo release not attached to her Disney character persona, Hannah Montana (the previous “Meet Miley Cyrus” album came as part of a double CD on the second “Hannah Montana” soundtrack). At first listen, you acknowledge the cheesy, fun pop that the record is, but it doesn’t immediately click why parents are paying thousands of dollars for tickets on eBay to see her live. And then it hits you. Despite everything she’s been through, Cyrus is still trying to prove she is just an average 15-year-old girl. With everything that’s happened, she could easily pull a Britney Spears and sing songs complaining about the paparazzi and her unfair representation in the media. Instead, she opts to sing about teenage relationships and just simply growing up, becoming a much more relatable and personable image in the eyes of her core tween audience. When talking to MTV News, she said the album was “for every teenager, or any woman in general. Most of the songs are for girls who hate their current or ex-boyfriends.”

Taking a page from Hilary Duff’s self-titled album, Cyrus’ record creates an edgier, rockier, and rawer sound for the pop star. In place of dance beats, there are now electric guitars, and rather than synthesizers, drums overpower the production of most of the songs (even the final track on the album, the “Rock Mafia” remix of her previous album’s break out single “See You Again,” transforms the song from a club inspired dance floor hit to an infectious pop/rock anthem). Her lyrics, although very cliché and non-complex, show a much broader range of emotions, dealing with heartbreak, anger, excitement, fear, and sorrow.

The album opens with the title track “Breakout,” a song about being young, rebellious, and a heartbreaker who likes to have fun. It’s a curfew defying track that basically defines what it means to be a teenager with a thirst for independence, a.k.a. every parent’s nightmare. The track is followed by the album’s kickoff single, “7 Things,” an early Ashlee Simpson inspired song that practically sums up the entire teen flick “10 Things I Hate About You” in under four minutes. In it, Cyrus rocks out about all the things about her former flame (Joe Jonas perhaps?) that bother her, with the last thing being that she “loves” him. Although it comes off as a bitter breakup song, it’s actually rather sweet as the song concludes with her listing all the reasons why she does love him.

Following soon after is her cover of Cyndi Lauper’s 80’s classic “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The song blends in nicely with the themes of liberation that Cyrus’ record is trying to convey, but the song itself is hardly mediocre. In her defense, it is extremely risky to cover such a beloved and culturally renowned song, so she deserves credit for trying. That being said, however, there is no fathomable way that the song will do for Cyrus what it did for Lauper. Her way of contemporizing the track is by (surprise!) having it arranged to be a pop/rock number, which almost seems like it’s trying to negate the pure pop perfection of the original. Note to Cyrus: the candy-coated bubblegum aspect of Lauper’s version is what made the song so huge in the first place. There’s a reason it was a Cyndi Lauper and not a Blondie song. Although Cyrus’ version isn’t terrible, it’s not a cover that will by any means outweigh the original. Instead, it will just be grouped with Lindsay Lohan’s version of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge Of Seventeen” as another half-decent attempt to take a classic song and unsuccessfully re-work it for a new generation. Cyrus gets an A for effort, but not for quality.

The standout track on the record is “Wake Up America.” The song doesn’t pop out because its’ got the catchiest tune, but because of its’ lyrical content. Rather than complying with the broken-hearted and teen angst filled themes of the rest of the album, the song steers directions to talk about the environmental state of the nation. What? Miley Cyrus the environmentalist? I was shocked too. In it, she sings, “everything I read global warming going green, I don’t know what this means but it seems to be saying wake up America, we’re all in this together, it’s our home so let’s take care of it.” Now, I’m not entirely sure what she means by “global warming going green” and admittedly so neither does Cyrus. However, she sounds convincing enough, especially as she continues to sing, “everything you do matters in some way. I know that you don’t want to hear it, especially coming from someone so young, but in the back seat they want to hear it!” It’s a valiant effort, but the song has a lot more potential than it actually delivers. Although, I do applaud Cyrus for using her celebrity status to try and make a difference, even if she doesn’t really understand exactly what it is that she’s singing about.

Like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Hilary Duff before her, Miley Cyrus is a Disney star with a mission to transcend boundaries to become a pop icon. Though she is not one of the most talented singers vocally, there is no question that she knows how to market herself and release an album that compliments her voice. Songs such as “Full Circle" and “Goodbye” for instance, are guaranteed to break the Top 20. There’s no way that she could ever release anything similar to an Aguilera record, but by intelligently redirecting herself down the pop/rock route, Cyrus is a shoe-in to at least be the next Avril Lavigne, if not even bigger than that. The album overall is nothing mind-blowing or original, but it is a fun pop record that will surely have 13-year-olds all over the world singing into their hairbrushes and begging for more. I'm not going to lie, this CD definitely qualifies as a guilty pleasure that I won't skip over when my iPod plays one of its' tracks on shuffle.

Not even 16-years-old yet, Miley Cyrus is already performing at stadiums and venues that artists who have been around for decades could never dream of playing at, let alone sell out in a matter of minutes after tickets go on sale. With this new record, Cyrus has solidified herself as a name that will not be off the top of the charts (or the gossip blogs for that manner) for many, many years to come.

*** Check it out!! This story was also published on these two Miley based websites!!

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