Growing Up, Part I

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but let’s talk about Miley Cyrus.

I don’t need to tell you about her career, but we can talk about her music.

Miley started out as a young singer with a young audience. This is “7 Things” from Breakout in 2008, her first album completely separated from Hannah Montana.

The song is formulaic and predictable, and Miley’s voice is a little whiney. However, she’s already demonstrating strong vocal technique – you can’t fault her there. The content is appropriate for a tween audience, but very mild. It’s not too exciting, but speaks directly to them.

In the next example, “Party in the U.S.A.” (in the 2009 EP The Time of Our Lives), Miley keeps the teeny-bopper style. She grows up in content a little bit, while still remaining within the realm of safe. Take a listen:

Do you how her voice is broadening? She has a fuller sound, and has grown in vocal dexterity since her previous album. This song is, unfortunately, very catchy… I’ve been singing it all afternoon despite my best my musical preferences. I guess that’s good news for Miley, though.

In 2010, Miley needed to stretch the boundaries a little more in order to keep up with her aging fan base. The next song we’ll listen to, “Can’t be Tamed” (featured on an album of the same name), tests the waters for a new artistic direction.

The imagery on the video is darker: less playful and more intense than her previous videos, with more explicit sexual suggestions. Miley’s voice has darkened too, and she finally looses the whiney tinge we’ve been hearing throughout her previous work. Her music has also changed: the percussive elements hit harder, and the instrumental arrangements create a sound that is more sinister than playful (such as we heard in “Party in the U.S.A”).

Miley attempted to grow up with her audience by creating an image of independence and rebellion. Considering that Can’t Be Tamed didn’t make it to #1 (although #3 isn’t bad!), this image didn’t resonate as well with audiences as it could have.

Remember the way Lecrae chose to test-drive a new strategy before committing fully? Miley is testing the waters too: trying to find an image of independence and rebellion that resonates with her growing-up fan base.

Come back in a few days to take a look at the decision Miley went with (though you already know it), and the direction I wish she’d taken!

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