Miley Cyrus is no longer the wild naked girl on the wrecking ball
The last time we encountered Miley Cyrus, the pop provocateur was flying high above the floor while using a giant hotdog as means of transportation. Or maybe she was stark naked, swinging back and forth while licking her chain on her “Wrecking Ball” video. Or she could have been waving a foam finger while grinding her hips into the crotch of creepy Robin Thicke at the MTV VMAs. Or was that all just a dream? “Feels like I just woke up, like all this time I’ve been asleep,” the 24year-old showbiz vet sings at the start of the title cut and opening track of her new album, “Younger Now.” “Even though it’s not who I am, I’m not afraid of who I used to be.”
It’s a pop star’s prerogative — if not a prerequisite of the job — to project a fresh image and a new narrative from project to project.
With “Younger Now,” Cyrus is in the business of retreating to the innocent Miley of her Hannah Montana beginnings, and expressing second thoughts about the buttonpushing of her 2013 “Bangerz” and more truly outlandish 2015 collaboration with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz.”
In May, when rolling out the new, tamer Miley on “Younger Now’s” lead single, “Malibu,” she told interviewers, “I’m always going to be the naked girl on the wrecking ball ... I should have thought about how long that was going to follow me around,” and announced she’s putting hip-hop behind her.
But once the genie’s out, can you put bad girl Miley back in the bottle? After taking hip-hop to the bank (and being accused of cultural appropriation) with the Mike WiLL Made-It-produced earworm “We Can’t Stop,” are Cyrus fans going to be satisfied with tamer “Younger Now” ballads such as “Miss You So Much” and “She’s Not Him”?
That remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: The “Younger Now” Cyrus is not as much fun as her irresponsible, tongue-wagging predecessor. The new album, produced by Oren Yoel, makes a selfconsciously grown-up move to reconnect with her mainstream pop roots, as well as her birthright as the first born of “Achy Breaky Heart” country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
“Younger Now” is by no means a country record, however. It’s more of a buttoned-up pop collection that’s rarely thrilling.
Like Lady Gaga, Cyrus is a boldfaced pop star known for over-thetop showmanship and playing with sexual identity who is also an oldschool professional. In other words, she really can sing, and she’s pretty good at writing pop songs.
She does both of those things effectively enough throughout Younger Now, whether leaning toward dance beats on “Thinkin’,” or rocking out on “Love Someone.” But what’s distressing about Younger Now is not that’s it bad, but something worse for a used-to-be outrageous pop star: It’s kind of boring.