Album review: Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation
By Sharn Crouch
Endless Summer Vacation provides an imperfect, but nevertheless aesthetically pleasing, mosaic. Speaking on Disney’s Backyard Sessions, Miley Cyrus labels this album her “Cinderella shoe” as it provides “the perfect fit” for her.
Cyrus combines the four elements with a concoction of sounds that utilise her catalogue of experimentation. Perfectly encapsulated by the earthy lead single ‘Flowers’, the album is a slinky exploration of the feminine. It is split into two parts, ‘AM’ and ‘PM’, whereby Cyrus plays with the associations of light and growth with the morning, and the darker undertones of the night. This grouping, alongside the track order, is intriguing, particularly with the tropical notes found in the track ‘Island’, which seems to be an anomaly in the ‘PM’ section.
Cyrus plays with preconceived connections of nature and the feminine. Not only through ‘Flowers’, but also with the second single ‘River’, for which she also dropped a glamorous music video. It will undeniably become a club classic, making it likely to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor in terms of pop-chart success. ‘Violet Chemistry’ also features a catchy dance sound, which is accompanied by steamy lyrics of temptation.
The pop-synth notes found in ‘River’ are addictive. Sexual innuendos also run, like a river, throughout, as she belts “You’re pourin’ down, baby, drown me out”. Combined with rough-edged, powerhouse vocals heard in the chorus, and teasing, monotonous verses, ‘River’ does not flow into the listener’s ear but invades it. ‘Jaded’ also follows a similar format, though the backing track acts as a platform for her power-house vocals to bounce off. Much like the movement of water in a river, from its source to its mouth, Cyrus has an incredible ability to slip between genres, elevating her to a status of timelessness.
Cyrus’ case for timelessness is not defended by the closing song on Endless Summer Vacation. Ballad ‘Wonder Woman’ features overused clichés, which we have heard a million times before. While there is immense pressure on the closing song of any album, ‘Wonder Woman’ fails to showcase any of the strengths of this versatile piece, leaving the listener lost.
Similarly, track 10 ‘Wildcard’ regurgitates something Miley Cyrus has done before, assuring us of her inability to be tamed, most famously noted in her 2010 hit ‘Can’t Be Tamed’. Whilst ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ remains forever iconic, with the maturity and versatility of the previous songs, it is frustrating to have a similar concept used and poorly executed. Though, unlike ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Wildcard’ has the redeeming feature of its fun backing beat.
What Miley Cyrus hasn’t done before, though, is a collaboration with Sia, seen in ‘Muddy Feet (feat Sia)’. The token “Oh Oh Oh” heard in many other of Sia’s works makes the track feels dated, and therefore begs the questioning of the creative vision. This is especially true when one is reminded of Sia’s controversial history, most recently in her role as writer and director for the film Music.
‘Rose Colored Lenses’ also leaves the listener lost, though in a different sense, as it vulnerably explores time and its temporality. The listener is lost in Cyrus’s soft vocals, as she lulls them into an emotional, reflective, dreamlike state. Its ability to lure the listener into a trance mimics the effect of viewing through ‘Rose Colored Lenses’, searching for the best in someone.
‘You’ is experimental in its form. The listener is forced to navigate themselves through a smoky haze of toxicity, sex, and desire, though on the surface it is presented as a typical romantic love song. Whilst this juxtaposition makes for a complex track, the chorus features the cringe lyric “I am not made for / no horsey and carriage”.
As the first song on the ‘PM’ side of the album, ‘Handstand’ bleeds sex and desire at its core. A spoken introduction, combined with a chorus that, atypically, does not centre her powerhouse vocals, and a poetic bridge combine to produce the strongest experimental track on the album.
Nods to Hannah Montana can be found in country-pop ‘Thousand Miles’, a collaboration with queer icon Brandi Carlile, which focuses on Cyrus’ relationship with her sister, singer-songwriter Noah Cyrus. Hannah Montana, and her music, have provided the basis for a lot of Cyrus’ experimentation and platform, hence it is necessary to complete the mosaic.
Endless Summer Vacation is a product of Miley Cyrus’ career-long ability to explore herself both personally and musically. Her independence is admirable, and the combination of soft-vintage ‘AM’ sounds with the moody ‘PM’ tracks provide an overall sound album.