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Hannah Montana:The Movie Soundtrack
Artist: Miley Cyrus
Label: Walt Disney

Not long ago, the headline for an article about Miley Cyrus on my Internet home page declared her "America's Teen." She may be approaching billionairess status and have put herself in at least 50 percent of the hot water in which she's found herself roiling in the last 18 months or so, but the kid doesn't need that kind of pressure, does she? La Miley may need a primer in Godly humility that would jibe with the Christianity she publicly professes (her fulminating over being stood up by the guys in Radiohead at the last Grammys ceremony was an especially hilarious tantrum), but she's not as far gone as other girls in her rarified position have taken excess and entitlement. And more importantly, she's still about her business minding her #2 job, making superior 'tween pop.

Job #1 for her is acting, presumably. The second one comes in at an awfully close runner-up, though, when her primary position in the first job is portraying a dual-identity pop star. The soundtrack to the movie adjunct for  her TV character that has aided in amassing her fortune, Hannah Montana, mixes up my heretofore unchanged perception of the music made under her own name and that she makes under her alias.

My contention has been that Cyrus makes better music under her own name than she does as Montana. Now she's jerking with that equilibrium. It's difficult to tell, for instance, whether Cyrus's (as opposed to Montana's) "Hoedown Throwdown" is a brilliant pop/country/hip-hop amalgam the likes of which Big&Rich could easily forge with Cowboy Troy, or is it the craptacular mess I thought it to be upon first hearing it on Radio Disney (where else?). And if Montana (as opposed to Cyrus) is singing "The Good Life" with her tongue poking hard through her cheek, it's easier to laugh with her at the prospect of buying an entire shopping mall because she can't decide which Jimmy Choo's to buy. That she has us--or me, anyway--guessing isn't a bad thing all the same.

And per the movie's plot about Montanna getting back to her Southern roots, Cyrus indulges in her country influence. One hopes big, inspirational slow, Martina McBride-esque numbers like current single "The Climb" and the more boot-scootin' "Don't Walk Away" don't portend an end to Cyrus's fetching dancey/rockin' side (e.g. "See You Again," "Fly On The Wall"). Might she, instead, take a cue from erstwhile teen country-to-pop singer LeAnn Rimes and pursue music in whatever direction that feels comfortable. For whatever flak she may catch for anything else she does, Cyrus still has a heckuva voice that sounds likely to age well.

And her father should be glad that she shares it with him. Their duet version of his previously solo "Ready, Set, Don't Go" gave him his first top 10 country radio hit in years not long ago. Of his two contributions to his daughter's big screen debut, their team-up on "Butterfly Fly Away" (continuing a theme?) shines over the less compelling "Back To Tennessee." A trio from another Disney-affiliated label, Rascal Flatts, fare a smidgen better, with an acoustic rendering of the wry "Backwards" (your life gets better when you play a country song that way) rising a gry above a similar soft treatment of their Selah-remade single, "Bless The Broken Road."

Another teen gone country, Taylor Swift, guests with the sanguine "Crazier" (not a Patsy Cline oldie's sequel, alas, but still catchy). And English newcomer Steve Rushton mixes country with reggae on "Everything I Want" when he's not getting '80s new wavy as Montana in some of her better moments.

It's a mixed bag. It's corporate synergy (Rushton's signed to yet another Disney imprint). It's a movie memento sure to be purchased by a fair percentage of the kids (or their 'rents) who see the flick it complements. And calculated down to the last note though it may be, it's still pretty good. Thank Miley for much of that. The kid knows her stuff.

Jamie Lee Rake  April 14, 2009

 
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