The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 6, 2013

Jeremiah Tucker: Miley Cyrus, King Tuff enhance summer songs

By Jeremiah Tucker
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — I think, by this point, the song of the summer is indisputably Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." Despite stalling at No. 2 on the carts, the electronic French duo's world-conquering single possesses a sense of inevitability. And unlike a lot of recent chart-toppers, its sleek elegance makes it less irritating on the 5,000th listen.

But the pop song I've found myself cranking in the Corolla this summer is Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop."

The single just cracked the top 10, landing at No. 5 on the Hot 100, buoyed by a shrewdly wackadoodle video that finds the former Hannah Montana cavorting in skimpy swimwear, making out with a doll version of herself and twerking.

Producer Mike Will Made It is the sonic architect behind many of my favorite songs of the past 18 months, including Future's "Turn on the Lights," Kanye West's "Mercy" and Ciara's "Body Party." For Miley, he adapts his eccentric, digitized production for a shot at mainstream acceptance, planting "We Can't Stop" at some weird crossroads where electronic music, rock 'n' roll and Top 40 pop converge.

There are about a dozen different hooks throughout, a contrast with the groove-oriented "Get Lucky," but Miley avoids the bubble gum effervescence of her smash "Party in the USA" with judicious use of minor chords, churning synthesizers and an unhurried tempo.

For summer, it's actually a little dark. The song is better suited as a soundtrack for a nighttime drive on a hot night than an afternoon barbecue.

But my favorite part is the lyrics. The drug references are the headline-grabbers Ñ the former Disney star sings about lines in the bathroom and "dancing with Molly," a reference to ecstasy Ñ but I laugh every time she sings, "Only God can judge us, forget the haters." Repurposing a world-weary declaration of defiance popularized by Tupac for the millennial generation is a marketing master stroke.

Only God can judge this haircut. Only God can judge my Tumblr. Only God can judge this Dunkin Donuts' glazed donut bacon breakfast sandwich. YOLO.

King Tuff: 'Was Dead'

If Evan Thomas' solo project King Tuff had been around in the '90s, it's possible he would've been huge. At the very least, he would've been on MTV. King Tuff's brand of grungy power-pop was catnip for major labels in the post-Nirvana boom years.

Though he's no superstar now, King Tuff's self-titled sophomore release sold well enough for Sub Pop last year that the garage-rock mavens at Burger Records just re-released "Was Dead," Tuff's first album. Out of print since its initial limited release in 2008, "Was Dead" is every bit as strong as Tuff's more recent music.

While "King Tuff" possesses more range, "Was Dead" tunes into some golden age of happy, barreling rock 'n' roll radio that never actually existed. This is the perfect music for July: scuzzy, catchy, sun-bleached guitar pop. "Lazerbeam" even includes a lyric about heading to the water slide with a chorus that goes, "Sweat, sweat, sweat and I want you."

And while the mood is relentlessly upbeat, there's enough grit to the music and Thomas' delivery that it avoids the limpness and saccharine that sink lesser records of this genre. So crank it this holiday weekend Ñ all summer, no bummer.