Miley Cyrus’ ‘Breakout’: A long way from Montana

JUST WANNA HAVE FUN: Is that exhaustion in Miley Cyrus' voice?
JUST WANNA HAVE FUN: Is that exhaustion in Miley Cyrus’ voice?
(Peter Kramer / Associated Press)
Special to the Times

Miley Cyrus “Breakout” (Hollywood)


On the second studio album she’s released under her own name (as opposed to that of Hannah Montana, her Disney Channel alter ego) 15-year-old Miley Cyrus offers up a rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” that says more about Cyrus’ real-world existence as an overworked young media star than she (or her handlers) probably intended.

On its surface, the song describes the simple desire to let loose with one’s friends; in the first verse, the singer “come[s] home in the morning light,” presumably after a long night spent pillow-fighting, hair-braiding or popcorn-microwaving.

Growing up fast


Yet in the version here -- an oddly ominous bubble-grunge production by Matthew Wilder, who also helmed No Doubt’s “Tragic Kingdom” -- Cyrus doesn’t sound like she’s ever taken part in any of those activities; there’s exhaustion in her voice, not exhilaration. In the next verse, her “phone rings in the middle of the night” -- it’s Daddy, demanding to know what she’s gonna do with her life -- and she’s as unimpressed as a 911 dispatcher.

Cyrus finally shows a flicker of experience in the chorus: “When the working day is done / Oh, girls, they wanna have fun.” The ragged intensity of her delivery makes it clear that this song isn’t about having a good time -- it’s about not having a good time.

That’s Cyrus’ theme throughout “Breakout,” which sports a slightly tougher, more guitar-based sound than last year’s “Meet Miley Cyrus.”

“It feels so good to let go,” she sings in the title track, “Wish it would never end.” In “Simple Song” she “can’t tell which way is up, which way is down / It’s all up in my face, need to push it away.” “Goodbye” finds her remembering the “simple things . . . until I cry.”

Leave her alone

In the CD’s best cut, “Fly on the Wall” -- a stomping electro-metal jam produced by Disney-pop regulars Antonina Armato and Tim James -- Cyrus mocks a prying boyfriend (or a prying public) desperate to know all of her “precious secrets.” It’s unlikely you’ve ever heard a 15-year-old this concerned with her privacy before.

The result is a true-blue bummer by Mouse House standards. Even the love songs -- such as “The Driveway,” which could be late-era Blink-182, and “Bottom of the Ocean,” a ballad Cyrus sings like a budding Bonnie Raitt -- are feel-bad downers about how “nothing hurts like losing when you know it’s really gone.”

In that respect, “Breakout” is unlikely fodder for the razzle-dazzle road shows and 3-D concert films to come. As a portrait of the artist as a young malcontent, though, it’s rarely less than fascinating.