By Katie Olson
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s daughter was warmly welcomed into the world this summer while Amanda Bynes spiraled out of control. Chris Brown was awarded 1,000 more community service hours for a car accident, and Raven-Symone came out on Twitter. As these events unfolded, they seemed to be soundtracked by two songs: Lorde’s “Royals” and Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop.”
The two female performers are releasing their respective albums a week apart from each other, which automatically begs comparison. Lorde, age 16, saw immediate success with her first single, “Royals”, as it peaked as #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart 13 weeks ago. The single has remained in the top three chart slots since it was released in June.
Cyrus’s first single, “We Can’t Stop”, seemed to ignite the outrage she caused this summer. Musically silent since 2010’s “Can’t Be Tamed”, 20 year-old Cyrus confused many with the surprisingly unoriginal and generically written song. Before the single’s release, Cyrus preached her excitement about what she was working on via Twitter. Since it was the first time she was working individually instead of being contracted by Disney, audiences were anticipating different material. But with the release of “We Can’t Stop”, the public saw that she was hell-bent on proclaiming her individuality through the same pop routine.
The full-length albums from Cyrus and Lorde, Bangerz and Pure Heroine respectively, were both highly anticipated by the public. Similar topics are presented in both of the efforts but in completely different ways. In “4×4”, the fourth track on Bangerz, Cyrus sings about running away (“drivin’ so fast / I’m ‘bout to piss on myself”). Lorde proclaims the same in “Ribs” using different terminology (“reeling through the midnight streets / and I’ve never felt more alone”). The subjects of strength and self-empowerment are displayed in Cyrus’s “Do My Thang” and Lorde’s “Glory and Gore.” While both albums are solid yells for rebellion, there is a stark contrast between the two. Cyrus’s album is vulgar, bold, and noisy while Lorde’s effort comes across as introspective, thoughtful, and heartfelt. The only noteworthy fact about Bangerz is that Cyrus managed to squeeze in five different collaborations with artists like Britney Spears, Big Sean, and French Montana. Otherwise the tracks are startlingly forgettable and repetitive.
While working on Bangerz, Cyrus dismissed her first trial at rebellion, “Can’t Be Tamed”, but a handful of her new songs are strangely reminiscent of that very track. In “Love Money Party”, a collaboration with Big Sean, Cyrus robotically spews the song title while the rapper mumbles inaudibly. In another team effort with Future, “My Darlin’”, Cyrus attempts a heartfelt ballad but her efforts are destroyed by overproduction and the rapper’s constant rambling. Despite the controversy brought on by the music video, “Wrecking Ball” is perhaps Cyrus’s most legitimate success. The song boldly displays Cyrus’s vocal talent while retelling the pain of a toxic relationship.
Compared to Bangerz, Pure Heroine is much more lyrically explorative. In “Buzzcut Season” Lorde sings about the characteristics of a misled society (“explosions on TV / and all the girls with heads inside a dream”) and adolescent oblivion (“we live beside the pool / where everything is good”). The singer also explores the terrifying realization of adulthood on the horizon in “Ribs” (“it feels so scary getting old”). Throughout the album, songs paint vivid pictures of teenage year trials and elaborate dreams. Lorde’s Pure Heroine is a lyrical masterpiece.
The press has named Lorde “the anti-Miley” even though the two performers are classified in the same musical genre. Cyrus may have succeeded in releasing an album that she was proud of, but Lorde shows much more promise as a young performer. Four years Cyrus’s junior, Lorde is musically experimental and lyrically knowledgable beyond her years, as displayed in her debut album.
Photos credited to Billboard (Cyrus) and The Guardian (Lorde).
This article was previously published in print and online at Seattle Pacific University’s student newspaper, The Falcon.