There really isn’t a voice in the music industry quite like Miley Cyrus, not just in terms of vocal talent but also to maneuver the pop star life and using her craft to reclaim the narrative and share a radical message of self-love, becoming a symbol and inspiration to people everywhere. From her days on Disney Channel, to her richly unique pop career, Cyrus has faced love, praise, backlash, and at times, downright hate in the form of sexism and misogyny because she didn’t want to restrict her artistic vision or her right to express herself freely. It is fitting that in this aggressive push to advocate for self-love, often times falling flat depending on who it’s coming from that Cyrus responds with the anthemic ‘Flowers‘ that highlights her infectious independence and confidence, she gives the people something they’ve been meaning to hear. She is portrayed as the fearless, confident and carefree person that she really is and people are not only on-board but ready to be like her. ‘Endless Summer Vacation‘ is the latest album from Cyrus, easily her biggest release since ‘Bangerz‘ and it is the perfect album to close this chapter on.
‘Endless Summer Vacation’ is treated more like a culmination and start of something new than anything. It comes across that way not only in the number of sounds that she borrows from her previous work but also in the themes she chooses to explore. There are hints of ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ in tracks like the highly addicting ‘River’. The tracks ‘Jaded’, ‘Muddy Feet’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ all reminisce of her sound in the criminally underrated ‘Plastic Hearts’ record. ‘Jaded’ and ‘Muddy Feet’ in particular bring back the rock and rasp to the front with some hard-hitting instrumentals and direct lyrics while the sentimental piano ballad ‘Wonder Woman’ which acts as a closing track is more reminiscent of the quieter tracks from the record, in the same vein as ‘High’ or ‘Golden G String’. You could even hear inspiration from the ‘She Is Coming’ EP on tracks like ‘Handstand’ and ‘Wildcard’ which evoke the same vibes as tracks like ‘Party Up The Street’ and ‘The Most’. All of this being said, these tracks never feel like a repeat and they sound appropriate to this album’s sound which is a beautiful progression of what ‘Plastic Hearts‘. It’s a record that has one foot in the past and the other in the present. It’s original, fresh and unique for Cyrus who continuously proves that she can conquer any sound that she wants.
Coming off the high that was ‘Plastic Hearts‘ I was eager and nervous about how she would follow that perfect album and it is with honesty that I say that ‘Endless Summer Vacation‘ disappointed me massively on my initial listen. I listened to it the midnight it came out so maybe I was just tired. Today, the actual day of release, I listened to it and it got better with each listen. There were of course a couple of standouts like ‘Jaded’, ‘River’, and ‘Handstand‘ but I felt that overall the sound of the album wasn’t as memorable or urgent unless it was like those three tracks that I mentioned. After my second listen I decided to watch the Disney+ Backyard Sessions special that accompanied the album release and listening to Cyrus explain the meaning behind certain songs and explain their purpose within the album made me appreciate the entire project as a whole a lot more. It’s only been a day but more or less every song has grown on me, it has been ninety percent of what I have listened to. That being said, I still wouldn’t say that it’s better than ‘Plastic Hearts‘ which is the standard to meet in my opinion. Some songs do go on for a bit too long like ‘Rose Coloured Lenses‘ which even if I do like, that last chorus is just unnecessary in my opinion. Some songs are just not of the same quality as others which is why the standouts are so evident. Funnily enough, it’s the collaborations that didn’t do it for me. While I love the sentiment behind the track ‘Thousand Miles‘, it is ultimately a lacking track sonically that didn’t really do much for the album. The second collaboration is with Sia on the questionable ‘Muddy Feet‘ which feels misplaced honestly, not my favourite at all, might just be my least favourite off the album in fact.
That being said, the songs that worked for me are some of my favourites from Cyrus’ career. ‘Jaded‘ is the strongest track from a melodic perspective, it’s a song that you will learn in a matter of a few listens, in fact, you might be singing along before it’s even finished the first time. Cyrus’ vocal performance here is fantastic, I don’t know if she’s ever sounded this good on a song and that is truly saying something. The live performance during the Backyard Sessions is breathtaking. An absolute standout that demands to be a single, hopefully, it gets to be. The next couple of tracks follow each other back to back, they kickstart the PM side of the album. ‘Handstand’ is going to be overlooked and misunderstood but I get the vision so clearly, I love and adore this song. It’s fun, dark, experimental and all Miley. It’s one of my favourites and I hope people love it as much as I do. ‘River‘ is another standout, it is the second single and it absolutely deserves it. One of the best singles she’s ever had, one of the most fun, sexy and freeing tracks in her career, it’s simple but so effective. This unsaid trilogy then ends with ‘Violet Chemistry‘ which I didn’t get the first time but grew on me a ton on the second listen. What I love is that it’s four minutes and while some tracks do overstay their welcome, this is not one of those cases. It marinades in the sound of the night that ‘Handstand‘, it is necessary for the album to justify that darker sound to contrast it with the lighter AM tracks. She captures the freedom, spontaneousness, and exciting nature of the middle of the night like no one else. She paints a picture of empty streets bathed in moonlight with drunken friends and no plans whatsoever, letting the night plan itself. There are other tracks like ‘WIldcard’, ‘Island’ and ‘You‘ which are growers not show-ers. The entire record then ends with the very sentimental piano ballad ‘Wonder Woman‘ which I found to be very emotional and sweet. It reminded me of my own mother which is what Cyrus intended and I love that a record based on independence, freedom and womanhood ends with a touching tribute to her mother. It’s fitting and one of her best closing tracks to date.
Overall, Cyrus subverts expectations with an album that is not all rock, not all pop. It’s a mixture of a lot of sounds that when put together make for a pretty interesting record. She continues to refuse to be put into a mold and again, while it’s not my favourite of hers, it’s still different enough from everything that’s out right now and it’s got some interesting things to say and I love how Cyrus goes about saying them.
ranking of songs
4. Violet Chemistry
6. Wonder Woman
8. Rose Coloured Lenses
11. Thousand Miles (feat. Brandi Carlile)
12. Muddy Feet (feat. Sia)
Miley Cyrus’ ‘Endless Summer Vacation‘ is now available to stream.