"Livin' two lives is a little weird," sings Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana on her signature track, "The Best of Both Worlds." Hannah Montana: The Movie and its soundtrack try to present the best of many worlds -- pop and country, California and Tennessee, Disney and non-Disney artists -- and it's also a little weird. Given the huge success of the TV series and the concert movie, it was inevitable that there would be a big-screen Hannah Montana story, but it's almost uncanny how the movie's storyline, which involves Hannah having to choose between pop stardom and her "real" life as regular country girl Miley Stewart, echoes Disney's efforts to separate Cyrus' stardom from Montana's. This tug of war of personas also shows up in the movie's music: originally, Montana's music was based on the pop of past Disney queens like Britney and Christina (with a smidgen of Avril Lavigne), but songs like "Let's Get Crazy," which makes a beat from paparazzi flashbulbs, and "The Good Life," a sugar-coated celebration of Gucci handbags and Prada shoes, sound more like fizzy caricatures of pop songs than ever. Tellingly, the best songs that Cyrus sings on the soundtrack have her own name on them -- aside from the goofy "Hoedown Throwdown," which feels more like a parody of down-home fun than a tribute to it. Cyrus' husky twang sounds far more natural, more down to earth and grown-up, on songs like "Don't Walk Away," "Dream," and "The Climb," all of which recall the Shania Twain-lite of her debut album, Breakout. This Nashville feel dominates on Hannah Montana: The Movie, from "Butterfly Fly Away," a treacly duet between Miley and her dad Billy Ray, to the inclusion of songs from country stars in an attempt to add more authenticity to Hannah's sometimes suffocating world. Billy Ray's "Back to Tennessee" fits in smoothly with an acoustic version of Rascal Flatts' witty "Backwards" (although their "Bless the Broken Road" drags). However, the best song on Hannah Montana: The Movie belongs to Taylor Swift. Her "Crazier" is more genuine, more effortless, than any of Miley or Hannah's tracks, which is all the more interesting considering that Swift is, in a lot of ways, what Hannah Montana was aiming for in the first place: a massive teen star with country roots and pop polish who seems comfortable in, and delivers the best of, both of those worlds. The soundtrack's segmented track list adds to its strangeness; after so many songs about going back home and getting back to roots, it's a little disorienting to return to Hannah's glitzy world with "Let's Do This" and "Spotlight." At just over an hour long, Hannah Montana: The Movie provides devoted Hannah/Miley fans with plenty of music for their money, but anyone else will find it exhausting.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
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