Friday, September 6th, 2013

Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball

This is what happens when Thom Yorke won’t answer your letters…


Patrick St. Michel: Even before she got America all twerked up, “We Can’t Stop” put Miley Cyrus under a spotlight she probably didn’t want to be facing. “Wrecking Ball” appeared online the night before the VMAs, almost like an advanced apology for what would go down the next night. It is a Dr. Luke–produced number that is dramatic and avoids anything controversial. It is boring, the sort of song that appears as filler on a Katy Perry album. It is remarkable only because the “bad girl” image established in her last single vanishes, a transparent stab at complexity. Yet this pales sonically in comparison to “We Can’t Stop,” at least when approached from only the angle of “does this sound good, let’s not focus on the words or video.” “Wrecking Ball” could use more moments like Cyrus shooting her voice up a notch to deliver a line like “we don’t take nothing from nobody,” instead of playing it safe at every level.

Will Adams: I cannot look past the entitlement that allows this to be the follow-up single to the year’s worst pop culture event. “Wrecking Ball” is serviceable as a power ballad but infuriating as a promise of a world that didn’t have “We Can’t Stop”: where the only appropriation happening was of Lana Del Rey, where the most offensive part was that the vocals were too high in the mix, and where a good chorus could overcome those obstacles. The line of thinking that the only way to success is by creating inflammatory shit frustrates me beyond belief, and now it’s prevented me from opening my arms to what is by far her best ballad. Face it, Miley: you meant to start a war.

Rebecca A. Gowns: This is so mediocre it’s almost captivating. Lana Del Rey verses, Katy Perry chorus, American Apparel circa 2008 album cover with a neon ironic-gangster “Bangerz.” Is there nothing about this girl and her career choices that is not played out?

Crystal Leww: At some point we started to see a crop of female pop stars that developed some sort of persona that ties into their music. It worked out spectacularly for some, notably Ke$ha, who makes the music of and acts out the reality of a snotty little don’t-give-a-fuck brat. Miley has worked this year to ensure that she comes across as the clueless and annoying little sister who loves “urban” music. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really translated into her music. “Wrecking Ball” has verses that sound like they were sung by Lana Del Ray and a chorus that sounds like Katy Perry. What’s worse is that Miley’s voice is kind of thin. That’s not always a negative; Ellie Goulding has the same problem but Starsmith did a good job producing tracks that sounded GREAT with her voice. This track wants to belt but she can’t really do that without exposing her vocal flaws. The track is produced by Dr. Luke, who worked so closely with Ke$ha so the persona thing shouldn’t be impossible. Yet, this sounds like it could be sung by literally anyone else and maybe better, which makes you wonder why she’s crafting such a horrible persona in the first place.

Jonathan Bogart: Clearly she can get her Stevie Nicks and Bonnie Tyler and Pat Benatar on whenever she cares to. If Bangerz turns out to be a gauze-filtered meditation on the last jukebox stands of ten years before her birth, it might be a critical hit. If, as I suspect is more likely, it’s a Smeezingtonian mishmash of stuff she found interesting but doesn’t have the stamina to pursue for the space of more than a verse, it’ll probably be a commercial hit.

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: An old-timey crackle of vinyl pops into the background of “Wrecking Ball”, signifying one of two things: (a) you are currently experiencing a classical power ballad or (b) the antiquated sounds of old are set to be broken by a youthful iconoclast, hence a snarling performance from Cyrus breaking through the effect. The problem with (b) is that this approach already comes with too much baggage after the past few weeks, and Cyrus isn’t realistically smashing through anything but Katy Perry’s hand-me-downs. The upside is that Cyrus is a better vocalist than Perry, able to throw more angst, more brio, more everything at the listener. “Wrecking Ball” may skew closer to (a) as a classicist move, but it’s a damn savvy one.

Jonathan Bradley: “We Can’t Stop” was a top-notch single and, better, it suggested a way forward for a Cyrus who hadn’t been able to reconcile not being tamed and partying in the USA. (That way forward may have been a trail blazed by Rihanna, but we find our way into adulthood however we can.) “Wrecking Ball” is a step back then: Miley just being Demi, or maybe Jordin. She’s a consummate vocalist who can handle the material, but nothing about a performer too restless even to keep her decisions consistently defensible suggests this type of contrition.

Andy Hutchins: As it turns out, Lana Del Ray’s garb is even more ill-fitting for Destiny Hope Cyrus than Rihanna’s castoffs. Also, “I never meant to start a war” has to be cribbed from the far superior “Battlefield,” right? (The hook earns three points; the pre-hook earns two.)

Anthony Easton: This was sort of like when Lohan did that Daddy to Father track, but with more piano melodrama and less pseudo-punk screaming. We have to be careful not to swing the pendulum in the wrong direction, but I have always had a soft spot for teenage breakdowns with Electra Complex ridden ex-child stars, and this is a good example of that.

Brad Shoup: Underplayed (good) but underwritten (not so). Cyrus handles the “let me in/let you in” contrast of the bridge like she’s unveiling A TWIST, when all she’s doing is shooing me away from the delayed explosion of that final chorus. Because, really, you can’t tell me that she’s not relishing bringing the force. “Wrecking Ball” plays like a series of discrete bits, cheap contrast for the chorus. She nearly renders that irrelevant.

Alfred Soto: Five writers created this track, including a chorus designed to out-Tedderize Ryan Tedder and it’s going to sound dreadful on Y-100 if radio programmers get over their terrible, sexist morning zoo jokes. The real tragedy of Cyrus is the release of two consecutive bad songs.

Katherine St Asaph: Is this a bad time to bring up Jessica Folcker’s career?

Reader average: [4.23] (13 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

14 Responses to “Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball”

  1. This could really use a hyper euro-dance remix.

  2. Or maybe D.H.T. should just cover it.

  3. Fun fact: The word “twerk” was used as a noun in the first ever Singles Jukebox in 2003:

  4. (Clarification: Swygart did a few Jukeboxes on his own; that was the first ever panel edition.)

  5. Further important information: The song being reviewed was from the Lizzie McGuire soundtrack.

  6. i second will’s suggestion

  7. Even further important information: The song in question was, and still is, amazing.

  8. Swygart let reviewers use decimal points?!

  9. I misinterpreted the last song there and briefly thought that wow, things had changed a lot if we once gave Pendulum a 7.21

  10. Buried lead: HOLY SHIT 10TH ANNIVERSARY


    Where’s the party at?

  12. I’m so glad TSJ dislikes this song. Whenever “I just wanted you to leeeeet me iiiiiin!” comes on I mentally substitute gotye’s “But you didn’t have to cuuuuuuut me outttttt!” and think about the cynicism the people who craft pop hooks for radio must have.

  13. For the record, this came on in the car yesterday and I was fuckin’ HOWLING that chorus.

  14. Totally Katy’s style, this one, and I don’t like hers at all, to begin with.

    Both Miley and Katy forgot about the fact that there is a big difference between singing forcefully (said Pat Benatar comes to mind) and bland mere screaming against the musical wall of (widely computerized) sound.

    Oddly enough, P!NK can belt out the same loudness but it doesn’t ever sound like she’s screaming. Probably the reason is that she CAN sing. And no, I’m NOT a P!NK fanboy, mind you.