THE WRITE STUFF
"Can't Be Tamed" is Cyrus' seventh studio album-ranging from the four soundtracks she's released under the "Hannah Montana" imprimatur to two as herself and one Walmart-exclusive EP-and it will be released on Hollywood Records. And while Cyrus is strenuously distancing herself from the days of "Hannah," she still has the benefit of being a product of the giant Disney promotional machinery.
"We're very fortunate that we have artists who have many, many levels to their careers, whether it's film, TV, books or records," Hollywood Records GM Abbey Konowitch says. "The unfortunate news is that we're fighting for minutes-not hours or weeks-for the artist's availability." Cyrus began work on the album in December 2009, while she was touring in England, including a sold-out five-night stand at the O2 in London. Producer John Shanks-who previously worked with Cyrus on her single "The Climb," which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was No. 1 for 15 weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart-reteamed with Cyrus for the album and wracked up frequent-flier miles in the process.
"John spent quite a bit of time, God bless him, running over to England and catching her for parts of the day for recording and writing," Hollywood Records head of A&R Jon Lind says. "He would come back to L.A. and work on the songs and tracks. He was really a soldier and a world traveler for going to do this creative thing in between Miley's schedule."
Besides Shanks, Cyrus worked with two familiar faces on the album: co-songwriters Tim James and Antonina Armato, who penned "7 Things" and "See You Again" and also wrote the title-track first single for this album with Cyrus.
"I call Antonina 'Mommy' because she's my second mom," Cyrus says. "No one could ever understand the relationship we have. I've been working with her for four years and every day I go into the studio and we just sit around and eat cupcakes and talk and I tell her everything about my life. I think that's why we make good music together." Although several songs on the album throb with the kind of Euro-inspired dance beats heard on hits by David Guetta and the Black Eyed Peas, Cyrus says the sound is secondary to the personal lyrics therein.
"I listen to zero pop music, which is really weird for someone who makes pop music," Cyrus says, noting that the first concert she ever went to was Poison. (She covers "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with Bret Michaels doing backing vocals on the album.) "My 13-year-old self would have beaten up my 17-year-old self because she would be like, 'You're a sellout!' But that's not what it is. It's not dance music that's just about, 'Ooh, I'm in the club and everyone's looking at me.' It means something. I'm not just sitting here trying to sell glitz and glamour...because no one lives that life. A lot of [pop] songs are super shallow, but this music isn't."
As an example, Cyrus cites the album track "Liberty Walk," about someone who finds the courage to leave an abusive relationship. She says she doesn't have a formal process for songwriting, instead preferring to take notes on her cell phone or in the journal she keeps on her computer.
"With anything-the clothes I wear or the way I want to look-I don't plan it," Cyrus says. "Even with the video [for "Can't Be Tamed"] I had the treatment, but beyond that, it was whatever comes. We didn't have all the choreography set in stone because I didn't want it to end up looking fake and polished. Everything in life has to come naturally or I feel like it's just been done."
For Cyrus, being authentic may be the key to her success as she transitions to adulthood.
"The challenge is: How do these pop teen idols mature without alienating their fans-those that supported you on the way up, including the parents, who often shelled out the dough for the music and the concerts?" Ross asks. "Miley is in good company. After Britney [Spears] appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in the infamous hot pants that created a boycott of her music and the release of 'I'm a Slave 4 U,' she took a tremendous amount of heat. But as long as the audience perceives that the artist is in control of their image, they're likely to be more forgiving. With Christina [Aguilera], when she put out 'Dirrty,' that also created a media storm, but she reeled it back in when she reinvented herself with the torch songs and the ballads."