Miley Cyrus stays true on Endless Summer Vacation album with Flowers
Miley Cyrus has a few more “Flowers” to add to her bouquet.
A couple of months after the chameleonic singer returned to the charts in a massive way (six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – her first No. 1 since “Wrecking Ball” a decade ago) with her “who needs you, anyway, buddy?” anthem, Cyrus, 30, has dropped a full slate of emotionally seesawing songs.
“Endless Summer Vacation,” her eighth album and first since 2020’s woefully underappreciated “Plastic Hearts,” swerves through resignation (“we went to hell but we never came back,” she laments in “Jaded”), sweet dreaminess (“Rose Colored Lenses,” the most memorable track) and sleazy fun (“River”).
Some songs, such as “Muddy Feet” with Sia and “Wildcard,” offer elements of a great song (an off-kilter bluesy chorus and rat-a-tat snare, respectively), but taper into generic, ultimately forgettable, pop.
But the album, out now, offers numerous standouts. Here are some of them.
‘Rose Colored Lenses’
A deliberate thump and prominent bass line anchor the loping song, which finds Cyrus in a state of woozy bliss. Sure, she knows whatever this is probably won’t last (“let’s just keep pretending”), but her yearning is real. “We could stay like this forever, lost in Wonderland,” she murmurs with a sleepy-eyed drawl. The grabby chorus is contagious, but the squealing guitar solo that ushers the mid-tempo chugger to its conclusion reminds how much Cyrus loves her rock ‘n’ roll.
‘Thousand Miles’ (featuring Brandi Carlile)
Sometimes, matters of the heart don’t lead to sensible decisions. As Cyrus sings, “I told myself to close that door, but I’m right back here again,” her awareness is palpable. She knows she’s on a futile mission, but can’t get out of her own way. Carlile’s lovely voice melds with Cyrus’ on the second verse, as the song flutters with a whiff of country guitar blended with a crisp drum track. The only quibble is the electronic vocal effects on the fadeout, which distract more than court intrigue.
This seductive swayer is the ultimate Cyrus offering. She summons the whiskey-slicked-gravel tone in her voice as she sings about wanting to drive to Texas to flip off her exes. But only with the very specific “you.” Cyrus is undeniably besotted – and unapologetic – while she unspools various scenarios (crashing a wedding, provoking a fight merely to make up “on the floor of your room”). Her determination: “I don’t need Jesus, because baby, you saved me.”
Cyrus has spoken about how she crafted the album as a love letter to Los Angeles and divided it into A.M. and P.M. vibes. “River,” the seventh among 13 tracks on the album, feels like the changeover. It’s a sweaty dance floor banger filled with glossy synths that would have made “Ray of Light”-era Madonna proud. A steady pulse anchors the song as a skittering high hat drops into the chorus. Cyrus is ready to party with abandon, so best to take a step back.
The most unique offering on the album carries a vague Caribbean lilt along with a luxurious chorus (“Am I stranded on an island, or I have I landed in paradise?”). Cyrus is at her best when her voice travels with the melody, one element urging the other. The song’s highlight is the sublime overlapping of the “Am I stranded…” chorus with the phrase, “I hear your voice like a song on the radio,” repeated in tandem in glorious harmony.
Cyrus saved her mightiest wallop for the last song on the album (not including the “Flowers” demo track), a relatable piano ballad about women who slap on the brave persona and then crumble in the quiet. Lyrics such as, “When a favorite record is on and she’s dancing in the dark/she can’t stop her eyes from welling up/she makes sure that no one’s “’round to see her fall apart,” could easily stumble into triteness. But Cyrus’ vocal, which starts off hushed, climbs to a pained peak and then plummets to soft hoarseness, pointedly capturing the melancholy and the strength.
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