Review Summary: Thank God there was no Billy Ray duet.
It’s hard to think of a more manufactured pop star nowadays than Achy-Breaky Heart’s daughter, Miley Cyrus a.k.a. Hannah Montana a.k.a. the Disney Channel’s latest moneymaking scheme. Since when did the Disney Channel become so famous? I’m not sure what kind of cultural perfect storm occurred to produce both High School Musical and Hannah Montana at the same time, but I’m sure Mickey Mouse execs could care less with the kind of money they’re now shamelessly tearing from the pockets of pre-adolescent's parents.
While the amount of cheese in productions like HSM and the girl-next-door, wholesome image that Cyrus presents, it’s not hard to figure out why these cutout stars appeal to the kids and their parents. The music is about as offensive as Cyrus’ TV show; your standard 15-year-old pop about puppy-dog love, jealousy, how darn mean parents can be, and . . . global warming? Yes, Miley is now socially conscious. I wonder whom she endorsed for president.
The album starts out with “Breakout,” the immortal lines “stuck in school, so lame / my parents say that I’m lazy / getting up at 8 is crazy” setting the rebellious attitude of the record. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off this isn’t.
The production is polished to a blinding sheen; all ringing electric guitar and crisp drums, with Miley’s voice ever clear above the mix. Single “7 Things” continues on to Miley’s ex problems, with a speedy chorus that is sure to be running off the tongues of 12-year-old girls everywhere. To be sure, the producers behind this record have gotten the alchemy of pop correct; each song has a clear, definable hook, the mixing is perfect, Miley’s voice is (usually) pitch-perfect, and nearly every one is pretty damn catchy. I’m not going to lie; Breakout is often a guilty pleasure to listen to.
But alas, Miley is young, and the young make mistakes. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is certainly an ill-advised cover, as Cyrus’ voice is nowhere near up to the task of mimicking Cyndi Lauper. Recent events also overshadow the song’s meaning, calling to mind unfortunate images of topless Miley in Vanity Fair or dripping wet in the shower.
“These Four Walls” is a poorly done ballad, mostly due to Cyrus’ vocal limitations; simply put, she is far better singing a up-tempo pop single rather than a soaring ballad that requires her to stretch her range. Much has been made of the fact that Cyrus co-wrote nearly all the songs on the record, so it’s hard to take a swipe at the lyrics once you realize they were written by a teenage girl barely into high school. Nevertheless, some are just unforgivable: the whispered love-sighs of “Bottom of the Ocean” are embarrassing and cringe inducing, to say the least.
The worst, however, is without doubt “Wake Up America,” the aforementioned stab at global warming awareness. A ham-fisted stab at urging her audience to take matters into their own hands and start doing something about global warming, it’s probably the least subtle song I have ever heard and just ends up sounding like Cyrus preaching to her millions of prepubescent fans to be green. Stick to what you know best, Miley, boys and the injustices of the school system, and hold off on the social consciousness at least until you can vote.
I can only slam Cyrus so much, however, and credit must be given to where credit is due; in this case, to the producers, who have managed to create a tone-perfect album where every note, every melody is carefully planned and arranged for maximum stick-in-your-head effect. And thank God there was no Billy Ray duet.