Thankfully most people listening to today’s radio-ready music are more interested in a good beat than any sort of lyrical sense — otherwise, we’d all be going mad. Will.i.am had a tough time spelling “tasty” in Fergie’s “Fergalicious” (“To the T to the A to the S-T-E-Y / Girl, you’re tasty”). MIMS could’ve used a primer in logical reasoning and tautologies for “This Is Why I’m Hot” (“This is why I’m hot / I’m hot cause I’m fly / You ain’t cause you’re not”). Some subject-verb agreement probably wouldn’t have killed Timbaland’s “The Way I Are” either (“Can you handle me the way I are?”). Even Gwen Stefani could brush up on her use of the subjunctive tense in “Rich Girl” (“If I was a rich girl…”).
Yet, these ladies and gents have nothing on Miley Cyrus’ latest chef-d’oeuvre, Bangerz, an album that deserves its very own line-by-line analysis. Let’s not be too critical though — after all, she probably didn’t even write most of the songs herself.
“Love, Money, Party” — Tautological Reasoning
“Love ain’t nothing but love. / When you learn how to love, it ain’t nothing but love / Party ain’t nothing but a party. / When you party everyday, it ain’t nothing but a party”
Although one can accept the idea that “love ain’t nothing but love” just as one accepts the logically flawed statement “it is what it is,” it becomes more difficult to understand tautological reasoning around non-abstract ideas such as a “party.”
The type of party, the success of a party, even the longevity of a party are dictated by a variety of concrete factors that require greater explanation than Miley is able to give us in “Love, Money, Party.” Although there is much to be learned about a party from a self-professed party master like Ms. Cyrus, we’re forced to accept the cyclical reasoning that a “party ain’t nothing but a party,” even as the more inquisitive parts of us would be keen to know more. What about a baby shower party? Is that a party? How about a seven-year-old’s birthday party? With abstract notions, cyclical reasoning somewhat works because there’s no way too sufficiently explain love or the fact that the present moment is indeed the present moment (as in the case of “it is what it is”). Yet, as for parties, it’s a shame Miley couldn’t shine some expertise on what exactly is a party and why a “party ain’t nothing but a party.”
“4X4” — Inconsistent Tone
“I’m a female rebel, can’t you tell? / Banged on the dashboard, just chipped a nail / Lean out the window, it’s when I go / Driving so fast ’bout to piss on myself”
While Miley opens this lyric with a seemingly feminist angle — “I’m a female rebel” — she quickly shifts tone, perhaps revealing the song’s satirical nature when she says that she has a “chipped a nail.” Yet, within the next two lines, the listener is once again confused by her intended tone as she notes that her high speed driving is causing her to nearly pee herself, which seems neither feminist nor satirical of feminism and rebellion. By including this line, she in fact infantilizes herself, making herself out to be a little girl with minimal control over her bladder, thereby nullifying the previous shifts in tone and sufficiently confusing the listener.
“Get It Right” — Broken Rhyme Scheme
“You play my strings like my guitar / When I look in your eyes I see all the stars / Would you believe / I’m dancing in the mirror / I feel like I got no panties on / I wish that I could feel you / So hurry, hang up that damn phone”
So here it appears Miley is attempting a pretty standard ABAB rhyme scheme, which is perhaps best known as the Shakespearean sonnet scheme, although later notable poets like John Keats employed it as well, like here in Keats’ “When I have fears that I may cease to be”:
“When I have fears that I may cease to be (A) Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain, (B) Before high piled books, in charact’ry, (A) Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain; (B)
In “Get It Right” though, Miley breaks the scheme with “panties on” and ends with “damn phone,” which is both jarring for its rhyme break and therefore emphasizes both “on” and “phone,” perhaps inadvertently.
“Someone Else” — Implicit versus Explicit Redundancy
“I used to believe love conquered all / ‘Cause that’s what I’ve seen in movies / Come to find out it’s not like that at all / You see real life’s much different”
By saying, “’Cause that’s what I’ve seen in movies, come to find out it’s not like that at all,” Miley is making it implicitly clear that reality is in fact different from what she’s learned from movies. Therefore, by adding the final line of the first verse — “You see real life’s much different” — she is explicitly repeating what she’s already made implicit. If this were a vital line, then perhaps she could make the argument for her repetition and unnecessary clarification of the difference between life and film; yet, in the great scheme of meaningful philosophies, the idea that movies aren’t always indicative of reality seems unnecessary to repeat and perhaps self-aggrandizing in her perceived importance of such a faux-philosophical revelation.
SMS (Bangerz) — Nonsense
“All the way in the back, with a tree on my lap.”
I ran this through Urban Dictionary, cross-referenced an Ebonics handbook, and checked in with experts on Freud (perhaps the “tree on my lap” is merely Miley’s natural penis envy), I had trouble finding any sense in both this lyric and in “SMS (Bangerz)” as a whole. Who knows though, maybe I’m just missing something? It’s always difficult to understand a genius.