Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Miley Cyrus – Can’t Be Tamed

Our internet muffed up a bit yesterday, so it’s Five-Song Wednesday…


Jonathan Bogart: Oh, so that’s what this is. I’ve been catching the back end of it on the radio for weeks now. Good to know that I was correct in hearing one of those flanged lines in the chorus as “can’t be saved,” which just dances on the edge of driving her Wholesome Family Entertainment fans nuts, but then I don’t think I’m any readier than they are for a fully sexualized Hannah Montana. Luckily, the plastic, cartoon sexuality on offer here isn’t a problem.

Katherine St Asaph: Miley Cyrus once again reveals herself to be an adolescent female with a sex drive. The next few months will go like this: there’ll be hand-waving freakoutery about the “loss” of her “wholesomeness,” as if this image wasn’t built like a house of cards to eventually topple. The peanut gallery will crow about the “sluttiness” they obviously never display, ogle or consume. Parents will complain about Miley doing things their kids would never otherwise contemplate. Bottom-feeders like Perez Hilton will scrape up more titillation for shocked, SHOCKED news outlets, which in turn will get all giddy about the prospect of putting “child porn” in their heds. And where is Miley in all this? She’s just a kid, and surely she’s realized that Disney-starlet frames aren’t built for real teens. But she’s also a fairly savvy celebrity with very savvy handlers, who know that her natural teenage rebellion fits perfectly into their good-girl-gone-bad storyboard. There’s also a song. It sounds fine. I cannot condone its existence.

Hillary Brown: So you’re saying the whole commando thing wasn’t an accident but part of a strategy to rebrand yourself? Couldn’t you have picked a better song?

Michaelangelo Matos: “I can get a bit crazy”: I bet! And someday we’re going to want to hear all about it. But not on this late-model robo-ho-hum, which doesn’t make you sound any edgier than you did admitting you’d never heard a Jay-Z song.

David Moore: Told ya the “Party in the USA” follow-up would be weird. And yeah, this is pretty much the yang to the mediocre yin of “When I Look at You.” My advice for Miley, since she really wants to break out of her Disney constraints anyway, is to start smoking about four packs of cigarettes a day. Especially on stage. It’ll hasten the Disney withdrawal period and she’ll get her voice primed for bottom-of-the-bottle country blues in no time.

Al Shipley: “I wanna be a part of something I don’t know” is the perfect rallying cry for pop’s biggest star who swears “I don’t listen to pop music” and would sooooo rather be hanging out with Radiohead you guys. Maybe if she gave a shit about her vocation she’d realize her big 2010 single is hawking a sound her contemporaries all did to death in 2008.

Alfred Soto: Nothing can tame her affection for Britney circa 2001.

Martin Skidmore: This reminds me considerably of Rihanna’s “SOS”. The opening and verses are strong and very punchy, as is the stomping electro-dance music, but the odd moment of autotuning strike false notes, and the excessive emphasis on “tamed” and its rhymes irritates. Nonetheless, despite those quibbles, there’s a monster feel to this which is hard to deny or resist.

Chuck Eddy: This has a decent glammish beat, a reasonably assertive vocal, odd clanks and hollers coming in from all angles, yet basically leaves me cold. By now, I’ve sat through it too many times to care why. Maybe there’s just too much going on.

John Seroff: Try as she might, Miley isn’t a good Britney. There’s too much personality in her voice, a hint of pork cracklins and milk gravy that grounds her in the real no matter how much her producers try to autotune or Alvin it away. As a human being, that’s good; as a burbling superstartlet, it’s a dancefloor liability. “Can’t Be Saved” is still pleasant enough summer radio fare, but Miley sounds less uncaged and more ignored in the midst of a jungle of galumphing effects, a menagerie of percussion and a chorus of overlapping vocals. “I’m like a puzzle/but all of my pieces are jagged”? No, more like a spice in a soup and your flavor’s being lost.

Iain Mew: I know we’re all in GaGa’s world now, but she has seven better singles than “Lovegame” out there to copy.

Additional Scores

Anthony Easton: [4]

5 Responses to “Miley Cyrus – Can’t Be Tamed”

  1. The reason I didn’t blurb this was all I could think to say was that the sound is way too revved-up and crowded, while Miley, raw voice and all, sounds pasted-in and disengaged. Several of you made the same point better than I would have anyway. For what it’s worth I think this is a very good tune, most likely owing to reliably excellent co-writers Armato & James (though there are other names on the credits too), but the track is botched in the production – by usually excellent producers Armato & James. Miley’s last single had a few good elements in what was even more of an all-round botch, and that one was produced and co-written by John Shanks, who’s worked on a whole lot of my favorite music of the last decade. Maybe the problem is that the ascendant GaGa-Ke$ha-BEP-Rotem dance-pop mess is baffling everybody else, or maybe there’s confusion from Miley and crew about how best to use her raspy voice (though Armato & James did a terrific job on “See You Again”), or maybe it’s that talented people just sometimes create several consecutive botches. I think this’ll have better legs than “When I Look At You” did, on the quality of the tune, but after jumping top ten in its first week it’s subsequently been stumbling around in the 20s. And I know that supposedly no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American consumer, but Miley’s image shift seems really obvious and clumsy. Yes, there are unhappy people capable of being upset by the supposed transgressiveness, but I wonder who in the world would be excited and moved by it.

    By the way, I haven’t done any research on the matter, but do we know that Miley’s got “handlers” involved in the decisionmaking, or who they are, or what their previous efforts have been and who their previous clients are, etc.? Miley has enough power and wealth to call the shots herself, if she wants, and there’s no point in invoking handlers unless we’re going to analyze what they actually do. Whether it’s her or them, I wouldn’t bet on anyone being masterfully in control of events here, even when the songs hit. A lot of the biz is a crapshoot, floundering, people applying skills as best they can but never really in control of the wheel.

  2. To the extent that Miley does have “handlers” who make decisions for her, they sure don’t make very good decisions! My sense is that Disney actually has a fairly laissez faire approach to music specifically, and only really gives a shit when you appear on their TV shows. This is how Aly and AJ get away with “Blush” (say) and how acts like Jordan Pruitt or [insert Hollywood Recs non-starter] continue to put out under-the-radar pop music without much cross-promotion in other Disney venues.

    The truth of the matter is that music is a very small slice of the Disney empire, and Miley is “handled” to the extent that she carries the Disney brand. Once she lets that go (by not having a television show, say), they just kind of phase her out and look for the next one. See also: Hilary Duff, Ashley Tisdale, Vanessa Hudgens, Aly and AJ, etc. etc. etc. All of them were doing their own (relatively untouched by Disney) stuff by the time they no longer had a TV/film venue at Disney. (I dare someone to listen to Hilary’s Dignity album and tell me that someone “calculated” a song like “Gypsy Woman,” “Burned,” or “Happy.”)

  3. Oh, it’s definitely an obvious move. It was pretty much a given from the first kerfuffles about her image — probably before then, even; the whole Good Girl persona exists at least partially because of the possibility of it being corrupted. Or in other words, it’s less about what she Does but what she Doesn’t Do. If you’re a teenage girl celebrity, it’s always going to be a possibility. And this follows actually pretty well from “Party in the USA,” in kind of a Sister Carrie way.

    It’s not that I think Miley isn’t sincere; of course she is, and that’s the part people are responding to. (Don’t have empirical data, but “I wanna be a part of something I don’t know,” etc. have is showing up on enough people’s Twitters, Tumblrs, etc.) It’s the stuff around it that irritates me.

  4. On the other hand, Take Me Along is beyond amazing.

  5. I think I kind of touched on some of Katherine’s thoughts about the frustrating “inevitable” narrative of the post-teen (female pop) stars in a column once:

    Aside from the somewhat odd wishful thinking about Ashlee making an authenticity grab from a hospital bed (one from the “it’s late and I’m past deadline so let’s just end this fucking thing already” files — realistically I figured Ashlee would just fade out without much fanfare, which seems to be what happened) most of this holds up, I think.

    Britney took her kiddie exile in stride and still has a shot at another comeback this year, and, crucially, she won’t be expected to “clean up her act” like Christina Aguilera to do it.

    Yeah, Xtina can’t even copy “Blackout” less than three years behind schedule. And if Robyn had done something more interesting and called her song “Fuckbots Have Feelings Too” she would have paraphrased what Britney did on Blackout without having to say it.

    Re: Lindsay’s film career, she’s co-starring in the next Robert Rodriguez neo-grindhouse flick, tho not as a prostitute, and got an earnest mention in Tarantino’s “Death Proof.”

    Also reminds me that anyone that’s written anything about a Lady GaGa video ever should devote at least as many words to Britney’s “Everytime” video.