Miley Cyrus' Time of Our Lives EP spawned the carefree mega-hit “Party in the U.S.A.,” but on her second album, she does just about everything she can to distance herself from that look and sound to announce that she has grown up. On Can’t Be Tamed’s cover, she’s clad in black from her heavily lined eyes to the tips of her toes, sporting pale skin and chestnut hair several shades darker than Hannah Montana blonde. The album’s sound is several shades darker too, but within reason; while none of these songs sounds like it belongs on one of her alter ego’s albums, Can’t Be Tamed was released by Hollywood Records, Disney’s more mature imprint. So while “Liberty Walk”'s bold synths and beats and rapped verses sound edgier than any of Cyrus' previous work, upbeat lyrics like “Don’t live a lie/This is your life” keep the song Radio Disney-friendly. She also tries this dancefloor-ready sound out for size on “Who Owns My Heart,” the stomping title track, and “Permanent December,” which apes the Auto-Tuned rapping of Kesha's “Tik Tok” minus that song’s mindless fun, which is actually a recurring problem on Can’t Be Tamed: too often, Cyrus equates grown-up with joyless, and songs like “Scars” reach for an emotional depth that isn’t there. Though pop was Cyrus' bread and butter during her Hannah years, the album’s synth-dominated tunes don’t jell with her voice; she sounds more natural and more grown-up on the songs that straddle rock and country, including the revved-up cover of Poison's “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and the anthemic “Two More Lonely People,” which makes the most of her voice and appeal as they are. Even occasionally overwrought ballads like “Stay” and “Take Me Along” are a more organic fit for the singer she has been and could become. At times Can’t Be Tamed feels perfunctory, doing the job of showing Cyrus is growing up without making her too mature for her still-young fan base and little else. She’s taken another step away from Hannah here, but there should be room for fun even in more adult musical territory.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares