"Breakout" is a teen pop song whose instrumentation includes keyboard, guitar, and drums while lyrics discuss growing up and being carefree.
Contemporary critics received "Breakout" very well, appreciating its lyrical content. Digital downloads began immediately after the Breakout's release on July 22, 2008, and led to commercial success in Australia, Canada, and the United States; its highest international peak was at number forty-five on the Canadian Hot 100. Cyrus performed the song in several venues; her first, in the 2008 Disney Channel Games was used as a promotional music video and on her first world tour, the Wonder World Tour, it was the opening number.
"Breakout" was written by Ted Bruner, Trey Vittetoe and Gina Schock of the Go-Go's. It was first recorded by American pop singer Katy Perry, recording the track as a demo for her debut album One of the Boys, though it was never fully executed for the album and was passed to Cyrus, on whose version Perry sings backing vocals, soon after a leaked version of Katy Perry on the Internet. Perry discussed her role with Bliss magazine: "My vocals are actually on Breakout. I thought, 'Yes, I'm singing on a Miley single'." Cyrus said naming the album Breakout was influenced by the song as it was "one of [her] favorite songs" on the album; this was because the song is feminine but has appeals to different age groups: "Moms, dads, sisters, brothers can, you know, relate to it. And it's basically because you just want to go out and have fun with your friends and sometimes, you know, go out dancing and let loose once in a while."
"Breakout" is a dance-pop song with a strong use of pop rock elements, lasting three minutes and twenty-six seconds. Written in the key of G major, it follows the chord progression G5—Dsus—Csus2—Dsus, beginning with a fast beat, composed of chiming electric guitar and drums and later progressing to "the snares skip and the keyboards shimmer". In the view of Chris William of Entertainment Weekly, "Breakout"'s lyrics are "a harangue against life's cruelest inequities", drawing attention to the opening verse, "Every week's the same/Stuck in school's so lame/My parents say that I'm lazy/Getting up at 8 a.m.'s crazy/Tired of bein' told what to do/So unfair, so uncool," though adding that the song was a sign that the "little girl isn't growing up". However, Mikael Wood of The Los Angeles Times said the song was indeed about growing up fast, referencing the lines "It feels so good to let go" and "Wish it would never end" and Jodi Rosen of Rolling Stone also believed "she's venting the frustrations of a teen who's too grown-up to submit to her parents, teachers or anyone else" with the lines "tired of bein' told what to do".
"Breakout" received generally positive responses from contemporary critics, with Chris William, writing for Entertainment Weekly stating that Gina Schock left influences from The Go-Go's' 1982 hit single "Vacation" with "just the right amount of maturing". Mikael Wood of The Los Angeles Times called the song "a slightly tougher, more guitar-based sound than last year's Meet Miley Cyrus", while Bill Lamb of About.com said the song was one of the "top tracks on Breakout" and Heather Phares of Allmusic said the song's "school girl rebellion" was "designed to present the feisty, carefree Miley".
According to Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe, "Breakout" is "pure pop realm with the Go-Go's-style fizz" and Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone called the song "a more self-possessed [...] sophisticated pop record under her own name". Ash Dosanjh of Yahoo! Music said, "You can forgive Cyrus's lack of poetic profundity because this is a dancefloor smash complete with ecstatic beats pummelling throughout." Along with "7 Things", Robert Christgau called the song "one of the best of Breakout". Ben Ratliff wrote for The New York Times that "Breakout" "appeals to both age groups", adding, "it’s a girls-only call to fun, but it hints at a decadent, school-free future." However, Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine described "Breakout" as a "noxious Avril Lavigne knockoff— an anti-education screed filled with declarations"
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