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Hannah Montana 2 / Meet Miley Cyrus
Artist: Miley Cyrus
Label: Walt Disney/Hollywood

Talk about underestimation. Upon reviewing the first soundtrack to Hannah Montana for another Christian-oriented publication, I wouldn't have thought it would debut at the top of Billboard's sales chart--not the trade magazine's soundtracks listing nor its tally of children's titles, but the overall sales chart. Such are our strange times that an album from a basic cable show for tweens with no pop radio singles (not counting Radio Disney, and maybe you ought) can beat the best of MTV, BET and CMT.

It then comes as no surprise that the second collection from the eminently silly _Montana_ repeated its predecessor's stint at the retail summit. And unlike the first set's multiple artists format, this time it contains all songs sung by its star, Miley Cyrus.

Cyrus is why music from such a show merits any Christian press. She's a believer, though her position as one of the House of Mouse's current profit centers may keep her from being more vocal about it. That she insists on having her Montanan wardrobe exude godly modesty looks to be the furthest she gets on that account. Considering the carnality of the current mediascape, that may be a significant bit of pre-evangelism right there.

Sadly, Cyrus hasn't improved much as Montana. She more explicitly exploits her character's "student by day/rock star by night" double identity on "Old Blue Jeans" and "Rock Star" (of course!), and "Make Some Noise" adds some melodic poignancies to the bring-the-party sentiments that comprised her most raucous contributions to the first HM album. "Bigger Than Us" could perhaps pass for cCm, what with the often lyrically ambiguous nature of much youthful Christian market pop nowadays.

However, as the writing credits bear out, Cyrus/Montana is singing songs written by third parties who don't quite synthesize the singer's natural rambunctiousness with her character's ability to carry off her unlikely lifestyle. Better that her handlers should let Cyrus contribute to the next fleshing out of Montana's musical persona.

The second disc of this two-fer bears out that assessment. On her debut as herself, Meet Miley Cyrus, she helps in penning better songs with more varied and more believably executed musical textures and, presumably, personal lyrics.

If the latter is true, Cyrus' wants a boyfriend ("See You Again"), knows the kind of guys she's already too good for ("East Northumberland High") and may already have pined over another ("I Miss You"). Musically, she not only excels at the neo-new wave dance rock that came off less admirably on the first Montana outing; elsewhere, her Avril Lavigne-via-Annete Funicello  vocal sass benefits Latin-tinged funkiness, moist-eyed slow jamming and-go figure!-pop reggae ("Clear," of which I'm dealy wanting to hear a dub version soon). If little of it hints at her spiritual side directly, it still sounds as if Cyrus may be somehow filtering the experiences of more typical middle school girls through her belief in Jesus. And she just might yet do like her HM  co-star/country singer dad did and record at least one contemporary Christian long-player.

The junior Cyrus should have no trouble finding acting roles that better suit her energy and charm once HM ends its run. Until then, the musical career under her own name is off to a promisingly tuneful, intriguing start.

Jamie Lee Rake  August 5, 2007

Hannah Montana 2

Meet Miley Cyrus