I think that’s how many times Miley sticks her tongue out in the video.

single: “23”

artist: Mike WILL Made-It featuring Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J

Mike WILL Made-It (hereinafter “Mike”) is the It producer of the moment, following in the footsteps of Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, and the like. Smartly, he has capitalized on the buzz by releasing his own single, complete with immaculate, crisp hip-hop flourishes.

Much like DJ Khaled, he has maximized his own lack of innate star power by enlisting members of the current A-List in hip-hop: Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J.

The wildcard (with emphasis on “wild”) is Miley Cyrus, who was added to the single late. Mike is the production wizard behind Miley’s breakout coming-out jam “We Can’t Stop.” After recording Miley’s song, she offered to record a verse for MIke’s song.

And wonder of wonders, it works. Miley is not a rapper or a rap hook singer by nature, but what she is… is talented. She bites off exactly as much as she can chew, channelling Trina and Ke$ha to lay down a simple but effective verse, then deliver a killer hook with aplomb, without reaching to sound “hood.”

Miley, Wiz, and J are rapping about some standard-issue recreational nonsense, with a general Michael Jordan motif (Jordans sneakers and his jersey number, the inspiration for the song title). It’s cool nonsense, delivered just as crisply as Mike’s arrangement.

But that’s really the point of this record: Mike’s in charge, and his production skills are on full display.

And so are his music connections.


Good MusicNote 4.1 wrecking ball MILEY CYRUS

Heard any good similes lately?

single: “Wrecking Ball”

artist: Miley Cyrus

It’s almost unbearable. The levels on which we can take the central simile (strictly speaking, not a metaphor, because she uses the word “like”) of our nation’s new number one single are more numerous than any record I can recall.

Of course, there’s the literal level of the song’s narrator, apologizing to her lover for coming on too strong. Then there’s the real-life level, since the song appears to be parallel to Miley’s romance with Liam Hemsworth. Hot on the heels of her VMA twerkfest, it could be seen as a self-reflection on the outrageousness of that performance. (One would have to presume she had planned that performance well in advance for that to be a purposeful meaning.)

Finally, and most striking to me, is the idea that Miley (as she looks directly into the camera and cries in the music video) is talking to us, the public, saying (and I paraphrase): “I didn’t want to have to cause such a stir, but by being known as Hannah Montana for my entire public life, I had to shatter any preconceived idea that you had about me in order to show you who I am beyond that Disney character.”

All conjecture aside, this second single off her upcoming Bangerz is an abrupt U-turn from the languid R&B vibe of “We Can’t Stop.” Here, she is intense, intimate, and decidedly pop-rock–sonically, closer to the Miley we know, but still much more adult than she left off with her last project two years ago.

In what appears to be yet another homage to the 80s (please see just about every review I’ve written so far), “Wrecking Ball” leaves the listener scrambling for a lighter to wave; its arena-rock ambitions are as bare as Miley in the aforementioned music video.

Direct and well-executed and perfectly placed, “Wrecking Ball” accomplishes quite a bit in its four-minute span. Just when the Miley buzz is both deafening and about everything except music, she shows she has talent, not just scandalously-garnered attention.

Week in Review 9-7-2013

It’s been a fun first week of reviews. Here’s a recap of where we’ve been. I’ll also add a scale of 1 to 10 rating.

1.1 blurred lines ROBIN THICKE Feat. T.I. + PHARRELL rating: 9.0

Although it could be argued it had an unfair head start due to its Marvin Gaye source material, this record is an instant classic, an irresistible slab of rhythm with dynamic, effortless production by Pharrell.

1.2 roar KATY PERRY rating 7.5

Endlessly agreeable and admirably spunky, Katy’s lead-off single for Prism solidifies her status as the mainstream diva of the moment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it reads a bit bait-and-switch-y after her more edgy introduction to the world at large five years ago.

1.3 we can’t stop MILEY CYRUS rating 9.5

And I can’t stop hearing this song in my head. Miley comes dangerously close to out Rihanna-ing Rihanna in this startlingly self-assured foray into adult R&B/pop.

1.4 applause LADY GAGA rating 8.0

Gaga once again dons her evil genius getup for another goth-dance-pop statement piece. It’s short of mind-blowing, but it’s expertly constructed.

Let’s do it all over again next week.