"Miley Cyrus is the Coldplay of teen pop,” I said offhandedly to a co-worker the other day, trying to convey the level of anticipation and excitement surrounding the release of Cyrus’ “solo” debut (last year’s Meet Miley Cyrus was part of a double album by Cyrus’ TV persona, Hannah Montana). Listening to Breakout makes me think that Cyrus shares more than just a fervent fanbase with the world’s biggest rock band; she’s likewise expected to lead a movement, to do something significant with her music, even if it’s meant primarily to get 12-year-olds to squeal and beg their parents to buy them branded merchandise.
Breakout is perfectly suited to that, but it’s not at a particularly higher level than other recent teen-pop releases, and it doesn’t have any quality that indicates it’ll still be those 12-year-olds’ favorite album by the time they turn 16. Still, the strong first half of the album is full of bubbly, new-wavy tunes like the title track, lead single “7 Things” and the handclap-heavy “Fly on the Wall.” There’s even a decent, peppy cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” that just about does justice to the original.
Cyrus gets bogged down in syrupy, wan ballads that showcase the wrong qualities of her throaty voice on the album’s second half, and “Wake Up America,” her stab at social consciousness, is as embarrassingly awkward (“I don’t know what all this means, but it seems to be saying/Wake up America”) as it is catchy. It’s all good enough for her tween followers, but even co-writing all but two of the songs, Cyrus can’t assert much of a distinctive personality on the music. In keeping with Cyrus’ Cyndi Lauper fandom, file this one as She’s So Usual.
The bottom line: ***