People get the pop stars they deserve.
It surely doesn't matter to many of the gawkers who have followed former tween idol Miley Cyrus' every calculatedly provocative move that her latest album, Bangerz (** out of four), now streaming at iTunes ahead of Oct. 8's official release, is exactly what they should have expected: a collection of competent, mostly generic tunes that juggle self-conscious sass with glimmers of earnestness.
Teaming with assorted name collaborators (Cyrus and Mike Will are co-executive producers), Cyrus provides celebrity watchers plenty to sustain her ubiquity. Was the spacious but lush Adore Youwritten for Liam Hemsworth before they broke up? Is the darker FU, featuring French Montana, one of several electro-savvy tracks that flirt with industrial textures, a shot at her former fiancé? Fans and haters, debate!
"I'm a female rebel," Cyrus declares on the thumping 4x4 (featuring Nelly); she plays the good-girl-turned-wild-child on various other tracks, from the thumping Do My Thang to SMS (Bangerz), which finds her talking dirty with another former child star, Britney Spears.
But on the more reflective Someone Else, Cyrus sings, "I'm hurting myself/ I've turned into someone else." And on the spare, pulsing My Darlin' (with Future), the 20-year-old who has spent her youth in the spotlight — enabled by her parents and an increasingly prurient media — sees "the shadow of a broken-hearted girl" in a puddle.
After all this time, crying in public may come naturally to Cyrus. But in its predictable mediocrity, Bangerz gives her, and her followers, nothing to feel bad about.