updated 10/07/2013 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/08/2013 AT 8:00 AM ET
With the circus that’s been surrounding Miley Cyrus lately, it’s hard to separate the music from the madness.
But the newly released Bangerz – clearly calculated to forever blow up the image of Hannah Montana in the pop starlet’s first album since splitting with her Disney label – actually has its own kind of craziness, taking you on a wild-child ride.
The bulk of the disc was produced by Mike WiLL Made-It, whose hip-hop beats have scored hits for Rihanna, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz.
He accomplishes the unlikely feat of Rihannafying Miley on tracks like the summer party anthem “We Can’t Stop” (in fact, originally intended for Ri-Ri), the Big Sean collaboration “Love Money Party” and “My Darlin’,” which – featuring trippy vocals by Future – takes “Stand by Me” into space-hop territory.
This edgier Cyrus, though, is never totally believable as a B-girl or a bad girl (see “FU”), and even if you check your brain, the mindlessness of “SMS (Bangerz)” with Britney Spears just feels plain silly.
Still, Bangerz also packs moments of emotional power – whether it’s the affecting “Adore You” or the No. 1 ballad “Wrecking Ball” – that hit hardest.