Cyrus' album reveals desire for fun, rest

CD review

July 22, 2008|By Mikael Wood

Miley Cyrus Breakout Sun grade: B-

On the second studio album she's released under her own name (as opposed to that of Hannah Montana, her Disney Channel alter ego), 15-year-old Miley Cyrus offers up a rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" that says more about Cyrus' real-world existence as an overworked young media star than she (or her handlers) probably intended.

On its surface, the song describes the simple desire to let loose with one's friends; in the first verse, the singer "come[s] home in the morning light," presumably after a long night spent pillow-fighting, hair-braiding or popcorn-microwaving.

Yet in the version here - an oddly ominous bubble-grunge production by Matthew Wilder, who also helmed No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom - Cyrus doesn't sound like she's ever taken part in any of those activities; there's exhaustion in her voice, not exhilaration. In the next verse, her "phone rings in the middle of the night" - it's Daddy, demanding to know what she's gonna do with her life - and she's as unimpressed as a 911 dispatcher.

Cyrus finally shows a flicker of experience in the chorus: "When the working day is done / Oh, girls, they wanna have fun." The ragged intensity of her delivery makes it clear that this song isn't about having a good time - it's about not having a good time.

That's Cyrus' theme throughout Breakout, which sports a slightly tougher, more guitar-based sound than last year's Meet Miley Cyrus.

"It feels so good to let go," she sings in the title track, "Wish it would never end." In "Simple Song," she "can't tell which way is up, which way is down / It's all up in my face, need to push it away." "Goodbye" finds her remembering the "simple things ... until I cry."

In the CD's best cut, "Fly on the Wall" - a stomping electro-metal jam produced by Disney-pop regulars Antonina Armato and Tim James - Cyrus mocks a prying boyfriend (or a prying public) desperate to know all of her "precious secrets." It's unlikely you've ever heard a 15-year-old this concerned with her privacy before.

The result is a true-blue bummer by Mouse House standards. Even the love songs - such as "The Driveway," which could be late-era Blink-182, and "Bottom of the Ocean," a ballad Cyrus sings like a budding Bonnie Raitt - are feel-bad downers about how "nothing hurts like losing when you know it's really gone."

In that respect, Breakout is unlikely fodder for the razzle-dazzle road shows and 3-D concert films to come. As a portrait of the artist as a young malcontent, though, it's rarely less than fascinating.

Download this: "Fly on the Wall"

Also anticipated

Zack de la Rocha, formerly of Rage Against the Machine, and ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore team up as One Day as Lion, whose debut EP includes five songs. Nineties grunge band Candlebox returns with Into the Sun, its first studio album in more than 10 years.

Mikael Wood wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.

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