Next to the High School Musical phenomenon, Hannah Montana is probably Disney's most popular musical act of the late 2000s. Unlike High School Musical's all-star cast, however, Hannah is just one girl -- well, actually, two: even though it's Miley Cyrus who gives a face and a voice to Hannah Montana's schoolgirl-by-day, pop star-by-night adventures, she's in danger of being overshadowed by the role she plays. The first Hannah Montana soundtrack tried to differentiate Hannah from the young lady responsible for her existence ...
Next to the High School Musical phenomenon, Hannah Montana is probably Disney's most popular musical act of the late 2000s. Unlike High School Musical's all-star cast, however, Hannah is just one girl -- well, actually, two: even though it's Miley Cyrus who gives a face and a voice to Hannah Montana's schoolgirl-by-day, pop star-by-night adventures, she's in danger of being overshadowed by the role she plays. The first Hannah Montana soundtrack tried to differentiate Hannah from the young lady responsible for her existence by including a handful of tracks credited to Miley Cyrus; Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus goes one better and gives Cyrus and her alter ego one disc each. Hannah still gets top billing, however, and the first disc feels like the second volume of almost any soundtrack -- it's not bad, but it's also not as interesting as what came before it. "Nobody's Perfect" and "Make Some Noise" sound like less-inspired versions of the shiny, synth-driven pop and strummy acoustic ballads that made the first Hannah Montana soundtrack a hit. However, there are some songs that don't feel like also-rans, most of which dig deeper into Hannah's new wave influences: "We Got the Party"'s fizzy keyboards and chugging guitars sound a lot like Kim Wilde's "Kids in America"; "Life's What You Make It" sets bright, cheerleadery vocals to a riff that sounds like a reconfigured "My Sharona"; and "Rock Star"'s glittery pop fantasy recalls Avril Lavigne's new wave pastiche without any of the faux-punk attitude. "Old Blue Jeans" is another standout, a danceable track that shows that this volume of the Hannah Montana soundtracks actually does groove-oriented songs better than the original album did. Moments like these balance out the watered-down and downright schmaltzy songs, such as "One in a Million," a ballad with a twinkly, earnest piano melody that sounds like equal parts of Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" and Bruce Hornsby's "That's Just the Way It Is" fused together. Even though the title Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus seems a little self-defeating, it's true that the songs Cyrus sang as herself on the first soundtrack weren't especially memorable, so in a way her part of the set is a second chance to make a first impression. This time, the sound and the songs are better -- several tracks, such as "GNO (Girls' Night Out)" and "I Miss You," could easily be Hannah Montana songs, but Cyrus' singing is lower and throatier, and the arrangements are more organic and rock-oriented. She gets to sing the soundtrack's best song, an I'm-so-over-him number called "East Northumberland High," as herself, and dabbles in sounds that would be too eclectic for Hannah: "Let's Dance" has Latin dance-pop flair that is edgy compared to the Hannah Montana sound, while "Clear" pairs Cyrus' twangy voice with a laid-back reggae rhythm, making for a slightly strange but sweet combination. Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus would be just as strong as the first album if it were a single disc combining the best songs from Hannah's and Miley's albums, but Hannah Montana fans will no doubt enjoy having more music from their favorite fictional pop star and the real young woman who portrays her. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi
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