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Take a second and rack your brain for me: when was the last time you went a day without hearing something about Miley Cyrus? Maybe you caught a song on the radio, or a classmate rehashing her music video, or even a celebrity gossip piece on the nightly news. I’m going to take a guess and say it has only been at least a month or two since a mention of Miley became an everyday occurrence.

So, why are we so collectively obsessed with the double-bunned diva? We’ve followed her rise-and-fall with the Mouse for years, and were privy to an attempted comeback (“Can’t Be Tamed”) that was neither successful nor noteworthy. After her spectacle at the VMAs, however, ‘Miley: the Movement’ became increasingly harder to overlook. Criticisms poured in from every concerned mother and hack journalist in the blogosphere: think of the CHILDREN, Miley! While we tend to fixate on her bared skin and questionable costume choices, I’m here to say that it’s time to shift the focus to what Miley’s newest endeavor is actually about: her music.

“Bangerz” is an aptly titled album packed with potential club hits that are very obviously inspired by the greatest pop divas of the last decade. While not being an entirely cohesive album, it shows our young starlet trying her hand at a variety of genres and, frankly, doing a pretty kick-ass job. Miley is eager and entirely genuine, which gives a pleasant spin to even the strangest of lyrical choices. It is a pop music fan’s dream, with generous cameos and amazingly catchy beats throughout. The superstar Hannah Montana may be no more, but Miley is still completely in tune with her audience, and delivers what could arguably be one of the best pop albums of the year.

The album opens with the mellow “Adore You,” a track with some heavy Mariah Carey undertones (and it’s not the only one; the intro to “#GETITRIGHT” has 2005 Mariah written all over it). I’m calling this one from now: in a month, amateur YouTube DJ remixes of “Adore You” will be clogging all of our Facebook feeds.

Miley finds her achy breaky Tennessee roots in “4×4,” and the ease and familiarity of her country vocals make me feel like I’m back in middle school and watching the Hannah Montana Movie on the Disney Channel. Nelly is also featured on this song, which feels a lot more natural than you would expect.

One guest performance that is ultimately disappointing is Big Sean’s, on “Love, Money, Party.” I was hoping he would save Miley from this annoyingly repetitive track, but Sean’s verse is over before it starts and does absolutely nothing to help the song.

In the MTV special “Miley: the Movement,” the starlet gushes to Britney Spears about having her on the record while Ms. Spears does her best imitation of a human being having a conversation. Britney, however, sounds less robotic than expected on the album’s title track, “SMS (Bangerz);” it is the most relevant she has been since “Circus” dropped in 2008.

Other notable tracks include “FU,” which sounds like something off an Adele album (if Adele ever decides to sample Dubstep, that is). Miley’s vocals are strongest on the smash hit “Wrecking Ball” and on “Someone Else,” an electrifying ode to heartbreak that would most definitely succeed as a standalone single.

Miley’s sources of inspiration are quite obvious to the trained ear; her love of sing-talking tells me that she’s given Ke$ha’s “Warrior” a few turns, and the backing tracks of her bluesier songs are reminiscent of a Lana Del Rey record. Miley pays homage to the greatest of modern female pop, and I think that is part of what makes “Bangerz” so ultimately endearing.

This leads me to my point: we’ve spent the last two months picking at every performance, every outfit and every bleached-blonde hair on Miley’s head. The language used to criticize her ‘distastefulness’ (and the fact that people would shame her sexuality rather than chide her for the racist overtones in “We Can’t Stop”) shows me that we don’t have a problem with Miley herself, but with the decimation of the child star we once held close to our hearts.

It’s time to let go, people. Rather than mourn the blonde-wigged, wholesome Hannah of the past, blast “Do My Thang” on your walk to class and feel the confidence of the Miley of today surge through your ear buds.

 

RECOMMENDED: We know you have been humming “We Can’t Stop” under your breath all summer, so you may as well give the rest of “Bangerz” a shot.

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