Miley Cyrus’s new album, and the first under her real name (her last “split” release was shared with her nom de plume, Hannah Montana), is called Breakout, but for all the relationship discontent it spreads, Breakup fits better. Though she’s only 15, Miley’s voice is rich and expressive as she dumps the same guy a dozen songs in a row. She might lack subtlety, but that’ll come with maturity; Britney, who recorded “… Baby One More Time” when she was 17, never had a voice this warm this young. Nor are vocal discrepancies the only point of contrast here: While Britney traded on the contradictions of sex and innocence inherent in her persona, Miley is much more Ya-Ya Sisterhood—guys are generally jerks (and sometimes even total sleazes) who are trying to invade her quality girlfriend time. On the blazingly brilliant “Fly on the Wall”—by far the best, angriest song here—she taunts, “You’d love to know the things I do/When I’m with my friends and not with you,” and then calls the anonymous chump a “creepy little, sneaky little fly on the wall.”
The only thing Britney ever did better was cut loose, and even through Breakout‘s title suggests both a debutante’s cotillion (leaving Disneyland and entering the airwaves) and an emotional liberation, Miley often sounds held-back and controlled. First single “7 Things” is hooky and catchy enough, but it’s only a step away from warmed-over emo platitudes (“You make me laugh, you make me cry,” yawn). “Wake Up America” is Miley’s environmentally conscious song, but she can barely bring herself to care: “But everything I read’s/Global warming, going green/I don’t know what all this means!” According to the liner notes, Miley co-wrote almost every song. Good. If her lyrical prowess hasn’t caught up to her voice yet, that should only hold promise of things to come. She’s a rare talent; now she only has to survive until adulthood.