“Wrecking Ball,” meantime, relies completely on its video to keep Cyrus on message. It’s a simple, broken-hearted love song with an avalanching refrain that sounds like a slower, duller version of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.”
In the video, Cyrus alternates between forlorn and anguished, sometimes breaking character to lick a sledgehammer or swing from a dangling chain almost entirely in the buff. But close your eyes again. The small husk in her voice is ill-fitted to that monster hook — which makes the song more interesting, but not necessarily good.
The rest of the music on “Bangerz” is either completely forgettable or indefensibly shoddy. The album-opening “Adore You” falls in the prior camp, with Cyrus striking a surprisingly conservative pose. “We’re meant to be in holy matrimony,” she sings, her voice lightly Auto-Tuned to parallel the weepy string section. “God knew exactly what he was doing when he lead me to you.”
And even when she’s flexing more rambunctious attitudes, Cyrus consistently proves how ordinary she is. Like any other millennial her age, this is a 20-year-old who loves loud parties and louder rap music.
But she remains unable to turn those interests into interesting music. “SMS (Bangerz)” is a jumble of bad rhymes, tacky electro thumps, melodic swatches of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” and an unflattering cameo from Spears.
With “Do My Thang,” she raps so stiffly, so joylessly, both her command of rhythm and her reported love of hip-hop should be thrown into question. “I’m a southern belle / Crazier than hell,” she rhymes. “Getting wild up in here / Getting live up in here.” And then later in the song, “Oh yeah, I’m the southern belle / I told y’all once before I get crazier than hell.”
The album’s most revealing line, however, comes during “4x4,” a strange, digital barnyard stomp that curdles the moment Cyrus follows a big declaration with a bigger question: “I’m a female rebel / Can’t ya tell?”
If you have to ask, the answer is no.