Disclaimer: I don’t review things because they are new or old. I only review when I am called to.
In my Pop post, I talked about how corporate interests, mainly to make a profit, squeeze out and aesthetic interests, artistic freedom and creative growth. This isn’t new, many people know this. Corporations will always focus, regarding music, on exploiting trends that exists, deploying old and tried tricks and the science of making music that it’s best feature is the ability to sell as easily as possible. This means it has to be easily accessible (catchy, repetitive, cliché, simple song structures etc.). Artistic brilliance requires a lot more freedom and virtuosity than corporate interest allow and it is admittedly a lot riskier. This way corporations rarely set trends in music. Often trends make infiltrate from the indie fringes and then corporations exploit the trends which are quickly becoming popular to profit as much as possible, usually sucking the market dry and oversaturating it with the same-sounding content eventually leading to the form being trite. In my post Pop, I talked about how corporations and artists can work together to produce content that is good while at the same time making money. I called it the balance between corporate and aesthetic interests (I might not have used the exact wording); my reasons was that society needs good music, artists gotta eat and corporation also need to make money (pay employees and shit, I don’t think big profits are necessary if they don’t create more jobs and shit).
Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz was the perfect example of what happens when corporate interests take over. Manufactured beats, catchy lyrics, repetition, processed vocals, electronic permeated (not in a genius way); I mean it suffered most of the criticisms I raised in my Pop post. To be honest, I had hopes that Miley Cyrus would be different because I had a bit of a history with her since she released “7 Things” (I did not listen to Breakout I but it scored better than Bangers on Metacritic). I saw her being in a band like Paramore (Paramore before the self-titled album) with a tinge of country and an Avril Lavigne-edge. She did not become all of that. And I was fine with that as long as Miley artistically did well in what she chose, but she didn’t. She fell on her face creatively and I couldn’t recognize her. The album had over 80 people contribute, and no it’s not because they hired an orchestra – if they did I did not hear it. I can’t imagine having much artistic freedom in that situation – and I’m guessing here – especially when you did not hire those folks and your record company did. I know that this is typical in the pop music industry, but damn, how can something that many people were involved in suck so bad (in artistic terms)? To put that into perspective, one of the best albums I have ever heard in my life had about eight people work on it, considering it is a band they did most of the work themselves (this album is The Crux by HURT, highly underrated album). So you can imagine how shocked I was when I discovered this.
Then MTV Unplugged happened (years ago but I watched it recently). While the album sucked, and I hated all songs from the album except one, the MTV Unplugged session was magical and I enjoyed every bit of it and I know why. Of course, these were still the same songs, but they were stripped down of the electronics, effects and vocals were raw. That makes a huge difference. The piano, violins, cellos and live drums were accentuated, so was the guitars. When these instruments are left alone and not tinkered with or drowned in electronics/effects what you have is powerful emotion manipulators. These instruments have depth and range of emotions because of their sheer tone, timbre, mood, dynamism and range. Miley Cyrus’s voice is great, and now you could hear her really sing. She is a good singer, and the emotion in her voice was left bare and brazen. It was a refreshing experience, we are constantly bombarded with music heavily burned with unnecessary noise and this was just crisp and beautiful. Adore You, which was my most hated track on the album, now had appeal, I was moved to tears by it and Miley ripped it up by showcasing her range and emotion. I never knew that such emotion could be embedded in Miley’s voice, it was beautiful. Seriously. 4×4 was even better, it is a rebellious song and it’s country elements left bare gave a taunting comic edge. And then Miley performed Jolene, damn tears again!
Long story short, the performance was brilliant. It got me wondering why didn’t they just give Miley a band and make her do an album like that, no unnecessary programming and electronics and effects. Imagine how refreshing that would have been in this day and age, and imagine how good the album could have been. I don’t want to comment on the lyrics that much. All I can say is that this could have been a killer album artistically and they missed that mark and the MTV Unplugged session shows this. One can also say they have redeemed themselves with this production.
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Now to leave you with a song lyric that may or may not have anything to do with this post:
“When you say you love
Know I love you more
And when you say you need me,
Know, I need you more
Boy, I adore you” – Miley Cyrus ‘Adore You’