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Miley Cyrus performs at the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto, Sunday June 20, 2010.

Adrien Veczan/Canadian Press

Can't Be Tamed

  • Miley Cyrus
  • Hollywood/Universal

On Sunday, her appearance hosting the MuchMusic Video Awards was much ballyhooed. Earlier in the week, she defended her skimpy attire to the press: "I'm not trying to be slutty." Then there was her paparazzi-friendly faux-mance last month with Justin Bieber. And let us attempt to forget the recent "was she wearing panties?" controversy involving blogger Perez Hilton.

The pop star Miley Cyrus is getting a taste of what life is like as a sought-after super-celebrity - someone like the ever-embattled Britney Spears.

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On the Spears-style dance track Robot, the woman-child Cyrus sings about being a hollow shell, about breaking free, about not being part of the big machine. Oh, she's probably dealing generically with relationships - she mostly does so on this, her third studio album, a synthetic disco-pop record marred by trite lyrics, cheap beats, bland production and grab-free hooks - but Robot might also be a cry for help. There's not a sliver of individuality on this uninspired album; the Hannah Montana star has blended in with the crowd here.

Cyrus, an emancipation-seeking 17-year-old, told Billboard she hopes Can't Be Tamed will be her final pop record. I hope so too, but that's not my point. My point is that it's possible that the too-young-to-be-dusky Cyrus may be looking at the life and career of someone like Spears as a cautionary tale - that Spears is an empty vessel for whatever pop music her high-priced producers put in front of her. Perhaps the supposedly untamable Cyrus wants none of that.

"The more I make music that doesn't truly inspire me," Cyrus said recently, "the more I feel like I'm blending in with everyone else." Brilliant! I couldn't have said it better myself. Actually, I did say it myself, a couple of paragraphs ago.

If Cyrus is looking at Spears, she should probably look harder. The Britster's last disc, Circus, was fantastic - a whole lot of innovative fun. The talking points on Can't Be Tamed are an acceptable country-flavoured cover of Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn and the silly, sexed-up H.R. Pufnstuf video for the stomping title-track lead single, which represented a clean break from her Disney-approved previous albums.

The rest is uninteresting. Cyrus can be tamed. A better title: Can Be Famed.

Or, Can Be Lame. Her nothing-special, technologically-assisted voice comes up with some extremely banal lyrics. The emotive ballad Take Me Along begins: "The city of angels is lonely tonight." This is equivalent to the novel which opens with "It was a dark and stormy night." Another ballad, Forgiveness and Love, asks "where does the time go?" You can't be serious, Miley. You're 17 years old, for goodness sakes - your time goes around and around, with hours upon hours to spare.

The upbeat, album-opening Liberty Walk (which has Cyrus rapping, if you can believe it) finds the teenaged daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus lecturing her audience to not live a lie, and to say goodbye to the people who tied you down. "People come on," she implores, "that means you." No, Cyrus, it means you.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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