Miley Cyrus

After stretching her wings on 2010’s “Can’t Be Tamed” and ruffling some feathers with her somewhat racy “Who Owns My Heart?”, Miley Cyrus has spent the past three years tinkering in the studio and twerking in unicorn onesies to prepare for her grand return to music.

Everything about the former Disney pop princess has undergone a massive transition, from her image — shearing her lovely brown curls for a punk-inspired platinum blonde pixie cut — to her sound, hitting the studio with hip-hop’s hottest hitmakers like Future, Pharrell, Tyler, The Creator and “Body Party” and “Kisses Down Low” producer du jour, Mike WiLL Made It.

“I chopped my hair and bought a pair of Docs and never looked back,” she casually explained to V Magazine. And today, Miley’s grand reemergence began with the premiere of her new Mike WiLL-produced midtempo, “We Can’t Stop.”

In a way, “We Can’t Stop” is a lot like a continuation of “Party In The USA.” But while her 2010 single found success in its dorky, carefree commands to nod our heads and move our hips like yeah to Britney and Jay-Z on the radio (remember, she was just transitioning into the Artist Formerly Known as Hannah Montana at the time), “We Can’t Stop” isn’t aiming to be anywhere near as frothy.

Three years later, the party’s taken a somewhat heavier turn: There’s a certain darkness floating in between the red solo cups, salacious hook-up sessions and drug-fueled bathroom trips, backed with all the monotone chilliness of RiRi‘s menacing Unapologetic banger, “Pour It Up.”

The song itself lazes along in a spacey cross between the tripping drum loops of “Umbrella” and the melodies of Jessie J‘s “Price Tag.” There’s also some Emile Haynie-esque yelps throughout, giving off some ever-so-slight Lana Del Rey vibes. The catchiest moment comes during the bridge, as the drums dip into grinding electronica: “La-da-dee-da-dee, we like to party / Dancing with Molly, doing whatever we want,” Miley sing-songs.

Like the tired drug reference in the bridge, where “We Can’t Stop” falters is not in its production, but the lyricism: Embarrassing “urban” moments are frequent, as Miley gives a shout out to big booty females, urges us to forget the haters and get turnt up. (Hear that, CiCi?)

Still, there’s some sparkles of more subtle genius: “Everybody in line in the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom,” she sings — a nod to her new BFF Pharrell’s N.E.R.D. hit “Everyone Nose”, no doubt. (“All the girls standing in the line for the bathroom!”)

From overly eager hip-hop enthusiast (“We are so turnt up, yeah / Getting turnt up, yeah!”) to LGBT warrior (“It’s our house, we can love who we want to!”), nothing will stop the newly unfettered pop princess from being ’bout that life: “It’s my mouth, I can say what I want to,” she declares. (Very “Robot” too, no?)

So, sure: The lyrics are often too try-hard and the delivery’s a bit like watching a baby giraffe learn to walk (Miley’s country-chipmunk drawl doesn’t quite fit a Mike WiLL production as smoothly as Kelly Rowland or Ciara) — but at least she’s got the right idea. The production is slick. She’s not bowing to tired trends — she’s working with the producers who are putting out the music that’s genuinely most interesting right now.

The backlash across the Internet is loud, aggressive and annoying today. But hey, guess what? It may not be an instant smash, but it’s still more innovative than what certain other pop princesses are putting out at the moment. Besides, she’s still just being Miley (just ask Lesley!) — so bitch, don’t kill her vibe.

Not that she really gives a fuck what you’ve got to say, anyway: This Mileybird has long since flown the coop.

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“We Can’t Stop” was released on June 3. (iTunes)