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Miley Cyrus' 'Breakout,' Released When She Was 16, Might Still Be Her Best Album

Shawn Mendes on Topping 21 Under 21

Taylor Swift Realizes One Crucial Detail Is Missing From Her 'Look What You Made Me Do' Video

Katy Perry Brings Fans 'Behind-the-Curtain' in New Xfinity Series

And Katy Perry News from ew.com

Miley CyrusMiley Cyrus' 'Breakout,' Released When She Was 16, Might Still Be Her Best Album

Billboard.com

If any artist swings counter to the idea that narrative is everything, it’s Miley Cyrus. Releasing her sixth full-length, Younger Now, -- after multiple changes of musical identity at just 24 -- she hasn’t necessarily made her best albums during the height of her making headlines.

We're talking about Bangerz of course, the hit 2013 hodgepodge that spawned her biggest smashes (“We Can’t Stop,” “Wrecking Ball”) and made everyone uncomfortable at the same time. That album had its charms, particularly on the singles and deep cuts like “FU” and "My Darlin'," because it’s hard to (respectively) resist either a Disney Channel breakout queen embracing profanity over a damning “I Put a Spell on You”-style waltz, or the timeless four chords of “Stand by Me." But even the aforementioned hits have a certain stiffness to them, and Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz -- the Flaming Lips-helmed follow-up from 2015 -- grapples with the line between charming and ramshackle throughout its many, many experimental tunes.

The person who Miley Cyrus is may actually work best with good old Wonder Bread pop-rock tunes, as her pair of beauteous new singles, “Younger Now” and “Malibu,” indicate in their blessedly beige way. Someday she’ll likely write a powerful statement as a sex symbol, but 2010’s somewhat awkward “Can’t Be Tamed” wasn't quite there yet. Her biggest song prior to her rebellious period, “Party in the U.S.A.,” engaged with funk in an honest way; it’s more important to the vibe that she felt a Jay-Z song in the air, even if she couldn’t say which.

But “Younger Now” and “Malibu” are her best songs in years, because normalcy comes naturally to her, even as a genderfluid, weed-mainlining provocateur. Cyrus’ robust mezzo-soprano soars past the verses to fill the canyons that the choruses open up, just like good Stevie Nicks anthems, to name but one retro-reference with whom she shares a powerful rasp. The rich harmonies are a generous gift to the current charts. And she doesn’t have to do much else; these tunes sound like they’ve been lying around forever waiting for her to inflate life into them, bearing little obvious overlap with the contemporary pop mainstream that Miley not that long ago helped to define.

Nearly a decade ago, “pop-rock” was still a category that an MTV star could be in, though, and Cyrus’ 2008 album Breakout was from a simpler time, devoid of thinkpiece fodder or teachable moments. Younger Now comes full circle and may give Breakout its proper follow-up, though it’s going to be slower. Breakout’s final third is a bit too dominated by ballads, but the rest of it is shiny dynamite. The opening title tune is pure exuberance that vows to “dance ‘til the dance floor falls apart” and sets off five flawless exercises in mallrat bubblegum from there. “The Driveway” is named for where a teen romance meets the end of the road, while the whipping “Full Circle” tries to put it in reverse. “Fly on the Wall” taunts the paparazzi over a diet-Britney electrobeat. And then there are its two works of genius.

“7 Things” was Breakout’s big hit, a high-school relationship rollercoaster recap that could have only come from someone with sitcom-trained timing. It folds Lennon-esque “shock!” ad libs into a rollicking acoustic strum for sweet verses that tear into sour choruses about how that boy drives her completely nuts. Then just when things aren’t looking good, Cyrus returns listing all the things she likes about him. It’s both melodramatic and semi-realist, completely acting its age (which was 16 at the time) and knowing a bit beyond its years as well. Teen pop has rarely sounded this “teen” in the years since, and Cyrus’ vocal tugs at all the right strings. It could only be topped by one thing.

“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is inarguably one of the greatest pop songs even formulated by humans, but do yourself a favor and don’t back-to-back Cyndi Lauper’s beyond-classic original with Cyrus’ full-throttle remake. Faster, more rock’n’roll and amped up with the punch of of the sort of brilliant string stabs that normally raise a disco jam to the sky, Cyrus’ version gives the vocal performance of a lifetime to match. Even if it’s not better than Lauper’s unassailable blueprint, the Miley version will shake your confidence in sacred cows, at the very least. It does exactly what a cover should: breathes new life into a tune you thought you couldn’t possibly know new things about. Whichever version you prefer, Cyrus’ update will only help you appreciate the song more.

From there, Breakout dips into some interchangeable tracks but never any bad ones, and is taken out by a high-powered RockMafia remix of “See You Again,” another of her best tunes that pleases mightily in any context. But it’s also got the visionary “Wake Up America,” a corny-as-it-is-cute plea for us to reduce our carbon footprint that was just self-aware enough to work: “I know that you don’t wanna hear it / Especially not from someone so young,” she sang, already a budding Al Gore who enjoyed bud way more. These songs moved like an arena-rock band fronted by a teenage Pat Benatar, with hammering drum fills and synth accents aplenty. They actually rocked.

Younger Now is unlikely to do much of that, and the advance singles are as short on those kinds of dynamics as most 2017 pop. But the Miley Cyrus of 2017 is recognizable to the Miley Cyrus of 2008, who knew a good tune when she heard one and belted it out ‘til the dance floor fell apart. Uh oh, all over again.

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Shawn Mendes on Topping 21 Under 21

Billboard.com

Since learning to play guitar at the age of 13 in 2012, Shawn Mendes has redefined the mainstream appeal of modern teenage songwriting. The Ontario native’s albums -- 2015’s Handwritten and last year’s Illuminate -- both hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, while current smash “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” -- his fifth top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 -- echoed throughout arenas on his sold-out summer tour, which has earned more than $32 million, per Billboard Boxscore.

In honor of topping our 2017 21 Under 21 list, we interviewed Mendes about the pressures of being a young singer-songwriter, the best career advice he's received and the status of album No. 3.

How does it feel to be a representative of your age group in the spotlight?
It really feels amazing. I can't believe how fast things have happened and I'm just so honored that people are able to look to me as a leader.

Do you feel any pressure being on the younger end of your fellow pop artists/singer-songwriters?
If anything more so it makes me feel like I still have time to do bigger and better things. I think the world is becoming a place where younger and younger people can do great things and I just hope I can inspire other young people to do the same.

When you started songwriting, were you worried you wouldn't be taken seriously because of your age?
Definitely, it's hard being a young artist and being taken seriously. I still feel I have a ways to go because there's always that stigma. But the reality is that as I've grown, my fans grow with me, and I think eventually it will come.

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of being a teenager?
Probably just the assumption that because we're young we don't have the life experience to understand certain things. I think young people are able to be so in tune now with culture and the media with everything that's at their fingertips that if it's harnessed in the right way, a young person can if they work at it, learn faster and be as wise as anyone much older than them now.

Is there a part of the industry that you feel is more difficult when you're a teenager? What's something that's easier when you're younger?
I think the difficult part is keeping up with people who might be able to handle things better because of their experience. But so far I've managed and I think the advantages outweigh the negatives.

What's the best advice you've received about navigating the music industry? And what advice would you give young artists who want to make it like you have?
I think the best advice I've gotten is either from Ed Sheeran who early on told me to just keep working and not to stop. And Taylor [Swift] on her tour telling me that when you get on stage, everyone there just wants to have a good time, and not to stress much about it, it really helped my confidence.

What has been your biggest accomplishment since your career took off?
That's hard to say but I think this latest tour and just the growth I feel I've gone through this year would be it.

Where do you see yourself going from here?
Haha hard to tell but I'm making album 3 right now and I just hope it can be even better and bigger than the last one!

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Taylor Swift Realizes One Crucial Detail Is Missing From Her 'Look What You Made Me Do' Video

Billboard.com

In a new behind-the-scenes clip from her "Look What You Made Me Do" video, Taylor Swift shares a fun look at the making of the "Stream Co." scene.

“The absolute idiocy of this scene is that we’re robbing a streaming company as if they have a vault of cash and all the girls are shoving money into their really well-coordinated, primary color, awesome Gucci outfits wearing ridiculous kitten masks,” Swift explains.

Holding one of the kitten masks, she comes to the sudden realization that she actually forgot one very important detail she "really should've thought of" in the planning stages for "Look What You Made Me Do."

"We really, really should’ve stapled her ears.” Swift lamented, referencing the signature look of her Scottish Fold cats, Olivia and Meredith. “Why?! God, you get the best ideas after it’s too late."

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Katy Perry Brings Fans 'Behind-the-Curtain' in New Xfinity Series

Billboard.com

Fans can now access all the Katy Perry tour content their hearts desire whenever, wherever on Xfinity X1. The cable provider’s new Katy Perry channel offers behind-the-scenes footage of rehearsals and music videos, along with previously unreleased interviews and freshly curated playlists.

The channel’s content will only continue to grow, especially as Katy has just launched her Witness tour, camera crew in tow. “It means a lot to me for all of my fans, no matter what their situation, to feel like they can come along for the ride,” Perry says of her new media hub. “I love that Xfinity X1 will be a place where I can give fans weekly glimpses into all the different facets of the tour — not just the work of it, but also the fun!”

Taylor Swift fans are already familiar with this newer form of access, as Swift created a video-on-demand service called Taylor Swift Now last year for DirecTV and AT&T. Perry will similarly give fans new intimate access not available on other platforms.

Left Shark is alive and well in the new teaser video for the project. If that’s not enough to get fans to pay attention, an adorable puppy seals the deal at the end of the video before cutting to a voiceover by Katy herself.

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And Katy Perry News from ew.com

Katy Perry wants her fans and celebrity friends to Witness her life. The pop star surprised fans with a four-day-long livestream in June on YouTube ahead of her latest album, Witness, but now the making of that livestream is becoming a feature-length special for YouTube Red.

Called Katy Perry: Will You Be My Witness?, the Big Brother-esque spotlight will repackage the big moments from Perry’s internet event, wherein she holed herself up in a giant house with celebrity guests like RuPaul, America Ferrera, Caitlyn Jenner, and Anna Kendrick coming in and out.

As shown in the trailer, the “Swish Swish” and “Bon Appetit” singer promises to show the world “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of her life as she does yoga with Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and discusses politics with activists. “I cannot be free until you are free,” Ferrera says.

Other faces popping up to discuss topics like gender, spirituality, and diversity are Mario Lopez, Dita Von Teese, Gordon Ramsay, James Corden, Sia, and “fans, friends, and family.”

Katy Perry: Will You Be My Witness? will premiere on YouTube Red this Oct. 4.

Perry kicked off her Witness: The Tour this month in Montreal, where she dazzled the audience with sequins and bodysuits. She continues to offer behind-the-scenes peeks of herself on the road to Xfinity X1 customers.

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