Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants. Who’s trying to pry the number one spot out of Robin Thicke’s greasy fingers this week?
Dammit, really? I thought the world was through with Miley Cyrus a few years ago; not ready to give her another big hit.
Jumping back to 2009 and 2010, Miley Cyrus was the most prominent of the Disney child actor/pop star circuit faced with the challenge of simultaneously exploiting and abandoning her childhood fanbase as she aged out of her show. Her biggest and most relevant hit, “Party In the U.S.A.”, captured unabashedly her desire to play to the tween-sweet pop rock Hannah Montana crowd one last time while slipping nods to the top 40 audience. But, all of that momentum was shot dead by “Can’t Be Tamed”, a Lady Gaga ripoff that put Miley’s career in a bedazzled coffin. Or so it would have seemed.
Instead, she’s come kicking back to life with “We Can’t Stop”, off her upcoming album called, ahem, BANGERZ. In case the title was too subtle, she wants to continue the more adult themes and include some urban sounds (what, like ambient city chatter and traffic?) in her new work, and there’s plenty of that in “We Can’t Stop”.
Weirdly enough, that doesn’t translate into the music of “We Can’t Stop”, which is more glammy electro-pop than anything else. I guess 808 beat has a hip-hop stomp to it, but the stabbing piano chords and polished synths are nothing but glitzy pop. This is from producer Mike Will Made It, who’s resume includes “Mercy”, “No Lie”, and a litany of trap-tastic beats. The only trademark from his sound is the pitch-shifted vocals, which I suppose is part of the “urban sound” Cyrus talks about.
Which, yeah, let’s talk about that urban influence. Like I said, “Can’t Be Tamed” tanked for–well, being awful, for starters–but because it was too hard a swing too fast from the Hannah Montana days. Even when you’re a teenager, you can’t go from preppy California kid to art school hipster trash without people calling your bullshit. But, spend a year or two looking unstable, keep yourself in the headlines with a few drug use stories, and you’ve suddenly given your newer “I wanna copy black people” edge more credence. And on “We Can’t Stop”, that’s basically all she’s done: the grill and the twerking in the video, the Molly and being “’bout that life” or “getting turnt up” in the lyrics, the pitch-shift vocals…it’s all grabbing generic bits from Southern hip-hop for no real reason other than it’s not her old sound. Shit, Miley, if you’re this desperate to look cool, why not feature 2 Chainz on this song?
And it turns out that slapping generic bits of rap onto a generic premise makes for an utterly boring song. Cyrus has always been a star in spite of her voice, not because of it; she never sound natural or like she’s even enjoying herself, and the extra digitized “Yeaaaah”s on the bridge are torturous in a way that makes me miss fun. The lyrics to “We Can’t Stop” include such winners as “La di do da di, we like to party” and “And we won’t stop, can’t you see it’s we who own the night?” that take as long to sing as they took to write. Andrew WK’s tweets party harder than this.
Yeah, this song’s a no-hitter with me. Despite the edgy drugs & sex lyrics, there’s no real danger or even excitement to be had here. Normally, comeback singles are larger than life, but Cyrus sounds like she’s only recording again because it’s her thing at this point, and not because she wants to. “We Can’t Stop” may mention Molly, but inspires feelings closer to a sleeping pill. It’s like looking at the Instagram of a few crumpled red Solo cups: there might be a crazy life somewhere, but all you see is mass produced plastic.