We've seen the twerking and foam finger, the tongue wagging, and the naked swinging on the wrecking ball, but the question remains: is Miley Cryus' new "adult" album, "Bangerz" banging — or just a warmed-over attempt by a former teen star to get down and dirty by hijacking black culture?
The answer, my friends, depends on who you ask.
"Bangerz" isn't officially out until Tuesday, but it's already streaming on iTunes, allowing critic types and regular joes/janes to give it a virtual spin. Miley's first album for RCA Records (after leaving Disney's Hollywood Records) features Billy Ray's daughter doing her thang with all sorts of guests; including Pharrell Williams, executive producer Mike Will Made It, Nelly, French Montana, Britney Spears, and others. And, big surprise, the critics are split, with the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Us Weekly giving it the thumbs-up; Billboard falling in the middle; and USA Today and the New York Daily News giving it the gas face.
Here's the rundown:
• Mikal Wood of the Los Angeles Times writes, "'Bangerz' reveals that Cyrus isn't just a twerk-bot programmed to titillate (though there's always a need for one of those in pop music). ... Of course, anyone who's actually listened to 'Wrecking Ball,' the chart-topping power ballad with the nudity-enhanced video, already knows that. Cyrus' singing throbs with what feels like an embarrassment of emotion."
• Billboard's Jason Lipshutz gave it a safe score of 70, noting, "Cyrus has torched her 'Hannah Montana' persona and reinvented herself as a rap-loving, profanity-embracing pop cypher, as she promised she would...and been able to present an uncompromising vision of her music and its surrounding madness without hesitation. And she has, by all metrics, succeeded more wildly than even she probably could have ever imagined.
"'Bangerz is neither the best nor worst pop album released this year, but it's inarguably the most fiercely individual. Never mind the 'z' at the end of the album title, because one thing Miley Cyrus' 'Bangerz' won't do is put you to sleep."
• Nick Catucci of Entertainment Weekly gave it an A- and is almost giddy with his praise. He writes that Bangerz is "utterly fresh, a pop blitz from a hip-hop blueprint, and proof that Miley won't settle for just shocking us," but later he warns, "Yes, Miley raps. And if you can't stand Ke$ha, you probably won't take to Cyrus' skills, either."
• Us Weekly's Ian Drew awards it four out of five stars, calling it the "the year's most titillating pop explosion."
• But the New York Daily News' Jim Farber isn't as easily impressed, giving it just two out of five stars. "There's sobering news for Miley Cyrus on her just-leaked new CD: There's no audio equivalent to twerking," he writes. "Whenever Miley goes for such raw sexual moments...it sounds nearly as forced as that MTV performance looked."
Later he calls "Get It Right" "a genuinely likable funk track which features the star's loosest and most joyful vocal. ... Passages like this suggest Miley could have come up with an album that has more of the musicality of her vocal peers, like Ariana Grande or Demi Lovato. But, it seems, she has already chosen her road. And it's one geared more to provoke that to move."
• Finally, USA Today's Elysa Gardner is on the negative side with two-out-of-four-stars rating, calling the album "a collection of competent, mostly generic tunes that juggle self-conscious sass with glimmers of earnestness."
So, what do you think?