Adele and Gotye proved the pop charts are safe for songs far removed from the past few years’ hedonistic dance-pop, but it’s been a long wait for someone else to follow their lead successfully. For a second it looked like Ke$ha might conclusively break the mold, what with her talk about “cock pop” and her über-earnest Bob Dylan cover, but then Warrior mostly regressed to the predictable, blankly celebratory post-Taio Cruz mean. Taylor Swift eagerly capitulated to prevailing EDM-pop trends, with perhaps surprisingly superlative results. That leaves Miley Cyrus: a new hope for breaking out of the pop-cultural rut responsible for LFMAO and Flo Rida?
It’s not that big of a stretch. Like Ke$ha, Cyrus recorded a richly stripped-down Dylan cover this year. Also like Ke$ha, she doesn’t need old-fashioned rock snobs’ approval anyway: Hits such as Dr. Luke-Jessie J-Claude Kelly flash of genius “Party in the U.S.A.” and motivational Hannah Montana: The Movie power ballad “The Climb” are still keepers to this day. And then there’s her rebellious, Occupy Wall Street-championing image shift. Now, a video of Cyrus singing Dolly Parton’s 1974 classic “Jolene” during “Backyard Sessions” this summer sharply reminds us Cyrus has the pipes — and the pedigree (forget Billy Ray; Parton is her godmother!) — to keep her U.S.A. party going strong whatever style she chooses.
It’s tough to beat Parton’s brilliant original, and for that matter there’s also the White Stripes’ yawping, gothic-tinged “Jolene” cover. While we’re at it, no less than Frank Ocean faves Norah Jones and John Mayer teamed with country’s Keith Urban to perform the song at 2011’s Grammy Awards ceremony. Compare Cyrus’ rendition with the White Stripes’ and Parton’s below, and start getting curious about Cyrus’ upcoming album, which none other than Pharrell Williams is reportedly helping produce. Sweet life? Yessir.