Sunday, March 1, 2009

Who would've thought that a girl like me would double as a superstar?

I just realized I never got around to reviewing the latest Miley Cyrus album, Breakout. Whoopsies! Since it’s way too late to be anything like a timely review, I’m going to do a retrospective instead and review the first Hannah Montana soundtrack. We shall follow in later posts with Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus and Breakout, and, eventually, the inevitable Hannah Montana 3 and the movie soundtrack (omg how excited are you?)!!!

Now, the thing I like most about Miley is her voice. She has power and range and pitch, which is, sadly, more than you can say for most of the other Disney girls churning out albums. But she also has a very distinctive voice. Most of her peers have variations on a chirpy, squeaky soprano (Vanessa Hudgens, Emily Osment, Selena Gomez, Miranda Cosgrove, Aly and AJ, and Tizz, to name a few). Some do it better than others, but it’s a very definite and omnipresent type.

But Miley doesn’t sound like that. And it's not just that her voice is richer and more mature, although it is both of those things. It’s…smoky with a metallic tang; it’s coppery. I considered likening it to scraping charred barbecue sauce off a hot grill with your teeth, but I thought “coppery” sounded nicer. (I swear, the whole barbecue sauce thing is a compliment.)

The point is, regardless of the stupidity of any particular song (and she has sung some real clunkers in her time, let me tell you), I enjoy the experience of listening to her. And though her voice wasn’t as strong on this first album as it would eventually grow to be, it’s still leaps and bounds ahead of the competitors’.

So let’s get to the music itself. First off, there’s the triumvirate of songs about her double life: “The Best of Both Worlds,” “Just Like You,” and “The Other Side of Me.” These are all, essentially, the same song: “It’s really you but no one ever discovers/ So what you see is only half the story, there’s another side of me/ I’m just like anybody else, can’t you tell?” I mean, they’re all pretty good songs, so I’ve got no beef with the repetition of the theme. The only thing worth noting is that I can’t hear “The Best of Both Worlds” without picturing the opening credits to the show. It’s barely a song to me anymore. It’s just a Pavlovian cue for poorly-acted shenanigans.

I also enjoy the Girl Power diptych, “Who Said” and “I Got Nerve.” I do prefer the former, as “I Got Nerve” kind of doesn’t make any sense (“Electrified/ I’m on a wire/ Getting together and we’re on fire…Don’t close/ Your mind/ The words I use are open.” What?). And I love the slightly bizarre choice in “Who Said” of “Who said I can’t be Superman?” instead of “Supergirl,” not to mention the presidential aspirations and “every girl has a choice.” It’s a fun, bouncy song that makes me want to dance, with a good message to boot. A+!

I’m glad that there is only one Miley-sung song that could really be classified as a love song, considering that a) Miley was tiny when she recorded these, and b) the target audience is eight. That said, “If We Were a Movie” is definitely my favorite song on the album, and one of my favorite Miley songs, period. I love the rollicking rhythm to it, but I also have a lifelong weakness for the “girl in love with best guy friend” trope. Too much Some Kind of Wonderful at a formative age, I guess. (Second favorite: “This Is The Life.” The mellow beat and delivery pleases me.)

“Pumping Up the Party” bores me to tears. And I never listen to the non-Miley songs on this album, except now that I’m reviewing it. Listening to them now, I think I made the right choice to completely ignore them, especially since one of them is by Jesse McCartney, and you know how I feel about him. And finally, “I Learned From You,” the Miley/Billy Ray duet, is deeply cheesy, but as deeply cheesy power ballads go, it’s not bad.

Final verdict? The contents of the album are decent bubblegum pop, but nothing to write home about. The only thing that makes this album extraordinary is Miley’s voice, which wouldn’t be used to its full potential for another year. Stay tuned!


Ryan W. Mead said...

Well, more words rhyme with "Superman" than do "Supergirl." Although I guess you could use "I could change the world"- rhymes about as much as "president" does with "ain't seen nothin' yet."

Although there are a lot of talented songwriters writing for Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus, including the very suprisingly prolific Antonina Armato and that fourth American Idol judge, I am convinced that Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil, due to their memorable, catchy, and instantly recognizable contributions to Hannah Montana and all three High School Musicals, are to Disney today what Richard and Robert Sherman were to Disney in the '60s. (Come to think of it, they wrote a few songs for the Miley-of-the-day Annette Funicello alongside their film and theme park work for Walt.)

Anonymous said...

My brother got this album a few years ago, and becasue we share an mp3 player sometimes, it meant that i ended up with a ton of Miley Cyrus songs on my mp3 player. I would have avoided them like the plague, but i stumbled upon Who Said and ended up loving it. Queue me listening to the rest of the album

Jessica said...

Ryan: Somehow I get the sense that Miley and her songwriters see no problem with rhyming "girl" and "world." You're right, though, of course - "man" is easier. And that is a very good point about the songwriters! Hmm. Does that make Nick Jonas Frankie Avalon?

kizna1200: Oh, I blame my little sister entirely for my Miley love. She requested a Hannah Montana DVD for Christmas one year, and a love/hate relationship was born.

MeganStacey said...

...I don't know if you recieve notifications or anything if I comment, but after reading this, I am HOTLY awaiting further reviews.

Especially because the 3rd TV soundtrack includes Let's Make This Last 4Ever by Mitchel Musso, and Lord knows how much I love Sandwich Boy.