After a three year wait, Miley Cyrus’s eighth studio album “Endless Summer Vacation” was dropped in early March. Leading up to its release, Cyrus described her concept for the album being split into two parts: a.m. and p.m., giving listeners the best of both worlds. She explained that the a.m. portion of the album is supposed to capture the energy and hope of the morning, while the p.m. portion evokes the seediness and wild energy to the night.
Spending eight weeks at number one, “Flowers” is Cyrus’s longest-running top hit on the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing her 2013 hit “Wrecking Ball” . “Flowers” is the opening track to the album as well as the first track in the a.m. portion. The song provides a sharp contrast between the vulnerability of the verses and the strength and boldness of the chorus. Upon first listen, I made instant connections to Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 hit “I Will Survive”. The tempos of the two songs are nearly identical, with Cyrus’s song at 118 beats per minute and Gaynor’s at 117. With its funky basslines and legato violin, the instrumental to “Flowers” is also very reminiscent of the disco sound of the late ‘70s. Both the anthems also speak of being broken after a failed relationship, but coming to the realization that they’ll be okay without their former lovers.
Cyrus showcases her vocal abilities with “Jaded,” the second track on the album. The song begins with a simple melody layered over bending guitar lines that evoke a melancholy feeling. Then enters the simple drum beat along with Cyrus’s singing. In the verses, she sings plainly and remains in her lower register, letting the lyrics take center stage. The verse tells of the regret at things that were left unsaid in a past relationship. Moving into the pre-chorus, Cyrus begins to climb into her belting range, becoming more emotive. The lyric “Said goodbye forever, but you never unpacked,” describes how the other person left but never truly moved on. In the chorus, the lyrics, “You’re lonely now and I hate it,” let that person know Cyrus still cares deeply for them and is unsatisfied with the way things turned out.
The fifth track on the album slows down in a moderato 6/8 beat. In “You,” Cyrus brings out her Tennessee southern accent as there is a lot of grit and twang heard in her vocals. This song is meant to be a soulful love ballad, but something about the lyrics made it feel more tacky than heartfelt. Some of the lines felt uninspired, like they were cliches or a stretch for a rhyme. Specifically the lines “I am not made for no horsey and carriage / You know I’m a savage” and “I don’t need Jesus, ‘cause baby you saved me” felt like Cyrus in no way pushed the limits of her songwriting capabilities.
One song on the album that felt out of place, making others seem more subdued, was “Handstand”. The track begins with synth and soon enters a thumping bass. Instead of singing, Cyrus begins the song with a spoken word poem detailing the night she met her partner. She paints the scene as colorful and electric. Following the poem, Cyrus sings in a light and breathy cadence as the chorus begins. It describes how amazed her partner is with her, comparing her mysticality to a unicorn and ignoring his mother’s calls because he is so transfixed. As the song progresses, the instrumentals become more and more infused with electronic pop elements, almost to the point of overkill. For about a 20 second stretch, the track felt like a 2013 YouTube gamer’s video intro.
A grittier song of the album, found on the p.m. portion, is the ninth track “Muddy Feet.” This track leans into the concept of wildness and seediness that Cyrus had envisioned for the night. With its violent and profane lyrics sung with bold and raspy vocals, Cyrus calls out an unnamed ex for cheating on her. Throughout the song, she rages at the signs of infidelity. She makes her suspicions known, but it seems that her partner is notorious for gaslighting as shown in the lyrics, “Always questioning my questioning.” Australian singer Sia provides backing vocals for this track that are only featured in the last 30 seconds of the song, with her chiming in with a couple of melodic “oh’s” and “woah”s.”
The concept of the “Endless Summer Vacation” was interesting, but the divide of the a.m. versus the p.m. sections is not as distinct as Cyrus described. This paired with several instances of unimaginative lyrics backed by techno beats that offer nothing special leave listeners wanting just a bit more.