COMMENTARY

Admit it, haters: Miley Cyrus has great pipes

Boston HeraldApril 17, 2014 

  • IF YOU GO

    Miley Cyrus, Icona Pop, Sky Ferreira

    When: 7:30 p.m. April 19

    Where: KFC Yum Center, Louisville

    Tickets: $19.50-$89.50. Available at Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

Miley Cyrus haters use a range of rants to dismiss her arena-headlining tour, which stops at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville on Saturday.

They grumble about tweens getting behind anything sparkly, pop music playing to the lowest common denominator and millions of industry dollars propping up Cyrus' career.

The one idea haters refuse to consider: She has talent.

The suggestion that Cyrus has smarts, style or substance nauseates music elitists. But her music is great.

All right, all right, let's back up a bit. Some of her music is great. She's no Bach, Beethoven or Beatle, but a handful of the songs on her album Bangerz are killer.

It's OK to admit that. Enjoying We Can't Stop doesn't have to diminish your love of the Kinks' Waterloo Sunset or R.E.M.'s Murmur.

Like everyone born before 1990, I was skeptical of the Cyrus fad. Her 2009 breakout single Party in the U.S.A. caught my ear, but I dismissed it as another fun, forgettable production from Dr. Luke (the guy behind Kelly Clarkson's, Katy Perry's and Kesha's biggest hits). Then I heard her do Bob Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.

Recorded for a Dylan tribute album in 2012, the cover features Cyrus' wounded twang over some Tennessee pickin'. Her voice digs into lyrics she might not get — hard to think the Disney gal knows much about 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud — and comes up with a sublime reading of Dylan's divorce despair.

Lesson learned: Cyrus has impressive pipes.

With this new appreciation, I went deeper into Bangerz than I might have. Between the junk, and there's a lot (the duet with Britney Spears, SMS; the dubstep rehash Do My Thang), gems shine through.

Sometimes her fierce, captivating vocals battle milquetoast melodies. On other moments, her voice and her songwriting (or songwriters) cooperate. The chatter over her foreplay-with-a-sledgehammer video for Wrecking Ball made the song an afterthought, but its mighty chorus is glorious. The album-opening Adore You hugs you like a love song should; it comes off as genuine, kind and beautiful.

And then there's We Can't Stop. It's tremendous. Yes, it's hypersexual, shamelessly commercial and hedonistic. It's also insanely infectious.

Cyrus invites criticism. Her bad behavior, whether accidental or calculated, incites people to deliver diatribes about the end of music, culture and decency. But bad behavior, overt eccentricity, over-the-top sexuality and revolting fashion do not equate to lousy music. (See David Bowie, Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga.) Complain about the circus, but admit that she has come up with some great pop.

No? OK, then, in the words of Cyrus (and her seven co-writers on We Can't Stop), "Remember only God can judge ya/ Forget the haters 'cause somebody loves ya."

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