A Disney Star's 'Breakout,' Minus the Blast

Cyrus, still in the shadow of her Disney alter ego on
Cyrus, still in the shadow of her Disney alter ego on "Breakout." (By Damian Dovarganes -- Associated Press)
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By Chris Richards
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tabloids and gossip blogs and Annie Leibovitz, oh my! It's a big, bad 21st-century mediascape out there, but Miley Cyrus seems poised to dominate it, Vanity Fair photo shoots and all. And while the title of her new album, "Breakout," might make parents a touch nervous, it's fans of Cyrus's high-fructose hooks who have the most to worry about. Completely shedding her Disney-branded "Hannah Montana" persona, the 15-year-old megastar sidesteps one pitfall (growing up too fast) only to trip into another (these songs aren't much fun).

"Breakout" peaks early with its title track, a power-pop bauble that sticks to the kid stuff: "Every week's the same/Stuck in school, so lame . . . Tired of being told what to do /So unfair, so uncool." Such sentiments might sound disingenuous from a girl who spends her days raking in gazillions of dollars as her very own franchise, but it still makes for fine mouse-pop. And whether you're a young Miley devotee or a 20-something music journalist looking for a new sugar rush (ahem), it's the best our girl has to offer.

The rest of the album reneges on its title, failing to dart off in any one direction. Politely distorted guitars, jelly-sweet synthesizers and humdrum acoustic strums materialize everywhere, and are quickly, gratuitously multi-tracked into a sonic mush that does little to highlight Cyrus's twangy, tangy voice. Instead of cranking it up to 11, this is a brand of pop music that turns it down to one, then adds 10 more of them.

This overproduction is apparent on the chorus of the album's first single, "7 Things," an avalanche of guitars and rushed syllables. Cyrus sprints through it, rattling off the things she hates about some unlucky boy, but has a change of heart in time for the finale, tweaking the refrain into, "Seven things I like about you." Awww. Too bad the video, currently streaming on her MySpace page, is such a surreal bummer: Cyrus, both sassy and cherubic, is joined by a cast of tweenagers bawling their eyes out, presumably bereft over their unrequited crushes. Yeesh.

Cyrus tries to cheer things up with an overcooked cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," an Ibiza-for-tots dance remix of "See You Again" and "Fly on the Wall" -- a song that evokes the Pussycat Dolls doing the "Monster Mash." All of these fail to match the saccharine thrills that the singer -- and her alter ego, Hannah Montana -- mustered with previous efforts.

Perhaps Cyrus should have titled the album "Vague Glimpses Into My Future as a Country Superstar." CMT-friendly album cuts, including "Goodbye" and "These Four Walls," hint at life after Disney and evoke images of Hannah putting Nashville in a formidable headlock someday very soon. Sure, country stardom might not eclipse life as a multi-platform entertainment juggernaut, but it's gotta beat seeing your face on Perez Hilton's Web site every day.

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Breakout," "These Four Walls"

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