Picks and Pans Review: It Won't Be the Last

updated 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Billy Ray Cyrus

First, the bad news: Nothing on Billy Ray's new, second album comes within a country mile of "Achy Breaky Heart," the inescapably catchy song whose album sold a staggering 9 million copies worldwide and rocketed the swivel-hipped singer to overnight stardom last year. Now, the worse news: On this record, with its flood of hurt-hunk ballads and pose-ready rockers, Cyrus seems to be making a common mistake that rapid-rise performers usually live to regret, namely, believing his own hype.

In many respects, Cyrus got a bum rap the first time around when country critics called his debut album, Some Gave All, rootless and amateurish. Chided by a Nashville establishment that likes its young studs to kick around the corral until they're broken in nice and proper, Cyrus went for the visceral—and in "Achy Breaky" found the ideal showcase for his muscle-flexing, pelvis-jerking style.

And therein lies his problem. Over the long haul, country music's life-blood is the union of singer and song, not of beef and cake. Throughout It Won't Be the Last, Cyrus puts his attitude where his mouth is, but outside of the unsubtle "Talk Some" ("I read your body language perfectly clear"), it backfires. Cyrus undercuts even his best songs, like Alex Harvey and Mike Curtis's "Somebody New," with melodramatic bellows, husky snarls and a truckload of embarrassing Elvis-oid crooning—"When I'm Gone" shamelessly drags in Elvis's old backup vocalists, the Jordan-aires—betraying his still-unformed musical personality. Until he proves he has one, he'd best keep in mind the lyrics of his own "Throwin' Stones": "What goes up must come down." (Mercury)

From Our Partners