Miley Cyrus released her highly-anticipated eighth studio album, Endless Summer Vacation, on Friday, March 10th. The overarching theme of the album focuses on the trials of love and loss, with a heavy emphasis on her relationship with ex-husband Liam Hemsworth.
The album’s production value is undeniably high, filled with compounded synths, complex drum beats, and innovative vocal warps. However, I can’t help but feel that she’s phoning it in. The entire album seems to lack the passion and authenticity of her earlier releases, such as “Angels Like You” or “Hate Me” from her previous album, Plastic Hearts. Her tone aims to be one of acceptance and reflection, but instead comes across as uninspired and jaded. The album was by no means a flop, but certainly becomes more disappointing as you work your way through the tracks. Overall, it earns a 4/10 in my book.
Cyrus begins the album with “Flowers,” a groovy twist on Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.” This track is the most explicit diss on Liam Hemsworth, as she describes all the romantic things that she could still do without him. Fans have pointed out multiple allusions to their relationship, such as the lyrics, “Built a home and watched it burn,” which refers to the couple’s house in Malibu that was destroyed in a 2018 wildfire. The song is decidedly a new anthem for all the single ladies, but it lacks the creativity that fueled her past work. Personally, it seems stodgy to put a revised version of someone else’s song as the first track on an album.
Rather ironically, one of the only songs I found that offered any real passion was “Jaded.” Reminiscent of Cyrus’ fifth album, Younger Now, the music reflects her signature punk style and incorporates her iconic rasp. The song deals with the lack of forgiveness in a relationship for both partners. She also displays her talent at articulating the anguish of love with lyrics like, “I know it was wrong, but never said I was sorry / Now I’ve had time to think it over / We’re much older and the bone’s too big to bury.”
“Rose Colored Lenses,” “River,” and “Violet Chemistry,” all had the same feel: techno-funk without the spirit. The messy compositions and her strained voice are hard to listen to. The beats have a unique, futuristic feel, but they don’t fit the album’s soul of bittersweet resolution. These songs are merely poor mimicry of “Flowers,” and seem to reflect her desire to create elevator music instead of authentic, relatable tracks. While she sings, “You’re never running dry,” her music certainly is.
Although Brandi Carlile is featured on “Thousand Miles,” she serves as Cyrus’ echo, fighting above the noise of a screeching harmonica. The song was more tender than the others, but it still felt forced. I was pulled in by the country-esque guitar but broken from the reverie by what can only be described as Cyrus’ attempt at acapella.
“You” and “Handstand” earn the lowest ratings on the album. Both tracks branch out in new directions, the former with a piano ballad and the latter with an EDM drug trip, but both fall flat as her voice struggles to accommodate their unnecessarily busy production. Lyrically, both are rather juvenile, with lines like, “I am not made for no horsey and carriage.”
“Muddy Feet” is deliciously angry, marked by an aggressive drum track and powerful vocals. However, Sia, who is technically featured in this song, is nowhere to be found, and Cyrus seems to lose her tone at multiple points. However, you can certainly feel a more concrete purpose behind this song: a passionate rejection of a past lover.
“Wildcard” seemed to hit closer to the mark. The instrumental track is still busy but softer, letting her explore her extremely high potential with rasp and heartfelt runs. This song finally offered some real passion on the album, exploring the way her need for spontaneity has impacted her love life. The beat, the lyrics, the vocals… every part of the track reflects a deep yearning for the answer to her own restlessness. As a Cyrus fan, I kept waiting for another one of the in-your-feels songs that she does so well. This track certainly delivered just that.
The most creative beat on the album appears in “Island.” A paradisiacal tune with hints of Polynesian sounds, the music will get you up and dancing. Definitely the chillest track on the album, it’s easy to listen to and instrumentally creative. As the album’s outlier, you too will wonder, “Am I stranded / On an island? / Or have I landed / In paradise?”
“Wonder Woman” leaves the album on a heartbreaking note as she sings about a hardened woman who only dares to show emotions when music begins to play. The song features painful yet beautifully-written lyrics like, “She makes sure that no one’s ’round to see her fall apart / She wants to be the one that never does.” However, her nasally voice struggles to convey their emotional weight.
As an avid Miley Cyrus fan, I was disappointed with Endless Summer Vacation. It was unoriginal, uninspired, and at times, nearly unlistenable. While I wouldn’t go as far as to label it a failure—most of it was fine, just not great—I can only hope that she will reevaluate her sound and produce music from the heart instead of more of this album’s techno-blabber.