Miley received some unfair and wholly hypocritical criticism for borrowing from hip-hop culture, as though hip-hop stood alone without exogenous influences, and as though it was only to be cloistered in a gilded cage in which only a few were allowed to enter. She was criticized for using black iconography and symbols, and for capitalizing on them to assist her commercial endeavors, a laughable criticism coming from those who do exactly the same thing day-in and day-out, selling it well beyond the African American community ... and who borrow freely from other forms. It is as silly as saying early jazz artists in New Orleans "stole" from ragtime, hillbilly music, and John Phillip Sousa and other musical forms only for crass utilitarian purposes and without due acknowledgement. Or that when they changed they thereby disrespected what they left. No, they incorporated others' art into their own, for that's what artists do. And they are not beholden to any particular form, they are entitled to change, as most great artists do over time. I have written more about this issue here: Critics
Petz is an avant-garde, highly experimental, autobiographically authentic, at times salacious, and in places, brilliantly conceived--and mark my words, it in due course will be seen as important and transformational. The best pieces were written solely by Cyrus; but she had collaborators on some, and the hand of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips is a significance presence. In a word, Petz should be considered a remarkable work from any artist, but perhaps particularly remarkable given that it came from a 22-year old. No one but Miley Cyrus could write and sing a heartfelt tearjerker about her pet blowfish, the late Pablow (along with some other tributes, thus the title). Laugh if you will; but then listen to it, for it is a wonderful piece. Then there's the vulnerable Miley of "I Get So Scared," which portrays the mixed-up honesty of a young woman trying forget a past love while playing the field. Or how about the plaintive "Slab of Butter" (get past the introductory stoner talk); the melancholy "Cyrus Skies"; the haunting "Karen Don't Be Sad"; the deep and provocative "1 Sun"; or the lyrically light "Space Boots" --- nothing in Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic repertoire was better than these, and most of it was not nearly as good. Petz is in parts a work of considerable genius.
Petz also has some very explicit and personal tracks about sex; offputting to some, no doubt--but that's Miley Cyrus, or at least she's the one willing to tell it in song, for it is not at all unexpected or uncommon for a young person to have many of the same feelings and anxieties that she evinces and manages to express so beautifully, and also often bluntly and unvarnished, which will undoubtedly make some listeners uncomfortable with the unfettered exposure to her inner emotions and desires. To be sure, there are a few throwaways (it's a double album, there are 23 tracks--and again, it was released at no initial cost to her fans), but it is a radical, extraordinary, and welcome departure from over-produced, derivative pop.
Now let’s get one thing straight: Miley Cyrus has vocal abilities which greatly exceed the capacities of the average pop or rock star. She uses her natural instrument to suit the music and the mood … she can growl, yell, croon, use falsetto, be smokey, go high or low, be smooth or sweet, devilish or coquettish, plaintive or assertive. When she rocks out, she uses her rock voice, which is incredibly powerful and capable of shaking the roof. Her natural position is mezzo-soprano, but she is comfortable just about anywhere in the tolerable listening range. But unlike many of her contemporaries, she is in no need of auto-tune (click for examples) or high-tech help, notwithstanding the fact she does like to experiment with techno-electronica. Anyone who doubts her basic rocker pipes should listen to her hair-raising cover of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” with Adam Levine, Alicia Keys, and Blake Shelton as part of the television talent show, The Voice, where she is one of the musical judges. Or if you have any doubt about her ability to do a powerful ballad that can stand-up to anything Adele or Celine can do (actually, for my own tastes, she is better, and her vocal range is certainly larger), check out the song “Hands of Love” written by Linda Perry for the movie, Freeheld. Or listen to her Happy Hippie Backyard Sessions (available on You Tube), where she illustrates her remarkably smooth and powerful lower range in a duet with soprano Arianna Grande, covering Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over;” or her cover of the emotional Dido classic, “No Freedom”, where it is visually evident that she is enveloped and transformed by the sentiment the song conveys;” and listen to the incomparable justice she gives to her godmother Dolly Parton’s plaintive masterpiece, “Jolene”. My point is, don’t think even for a moment that she can’t carry a tune. She can hold her own with the very best divas of any era.
Miley has just recently released two songs, namely, "Malibu" and "Inspired," that are expected to be part of her forthcoming album. Both are a departure from Bangerz and Petz, and not quite like anything she's done before. And both have autobiographical significance. I have written more about Malibu here: Malibu
MB 2-4-17 (amended 7-12-17)