When Miley Cyrus presented her seventh studio album, Plastic Hearts, to the world, she defined herself as one of the most formidable contemporary artists. A legion of new fans were enamoured by her new rock sound, and she earned the respect of audiences worldwide. Fast forward just over two years since its release, Cyrus is back with another body of work that will ring for ages to come. When Cyrus made her return in January this year with Flowers, breaking records left, right and centre, she ushered in a new era of her career that has led us to her eighth studio album, Endless Summer Vacation.
Opening with the mega-hit Flowers, which debuted at #1 on the ARIA Single Charts marking the singers first #1 single ever in Australia, Cyrus sets the tone for the euphoric and rich sonic palette of the album. The groove-laden track brings together threads of 70's pop, funk and rock to create a nostalgia-fuelled subdued disco soundscape that is sure to have you dancing all night long. It harks back to pop luminaries Gloria Gaynor and Kylie Minogue with its ear-worm melodies and structure. Throughout the track, Cyrus recalls on a former flame and the apprehension of walking away before finding solace in self-love, a theme laced throughout the collection of songs. On Jaded, she acknowledges her own part to play in the relationships downfall, “I’m sorry that you’re jaded, I could've taken you places. You're lonely now and I hate it” she sings, but asserts that it takes two to sustain a healthy relationship. The songs chorus has reminiscent qualities to tracks from the singers third studio album, Can’t Be Tamed, with its anthemic nature and soaring vocals.
The slow burning Rose Coloured Lenses finds Cyrus holding onto the sweet and intimate moments of a relationship and wanting to shut out the outside world. “We could stay like this forever, lost in wonderland” she sings in the chorus as she dreams of what a perfect life together could entail. The song brings 60’s influenced harmonies atop down-tempo percussion and relaxed and loose melodies. Across the album, Cyrus channels past eras of her musical career, with clear references to her past work. One of the most overt references arrives on Thousand Miles, which features harmonies from Grammy® award winner Brandi Carlile. “You think I'm crazy, you might be right” draws lyrical parallels to Cyrus’ 2013 song Maybe You’re Right, “You might think I’m crazy, that I’m lost and foolish leaving you behind. Maybe you’re right” she sings on the track, which appeared on her fourth studio album, Bangerz. The track leans into more country-based territory, with its vivid storytelling lyricism and glistening guitar melodies. Having debuted the albums next track on New Year’s Eve 2021 on NBC’s Miley's New Year's Eve Party, it was expected that You would appear on the record. However, Cyrus has delivered a new arrangement that perfectly slides into the albums genre-melding sonic realm. Cyrus’ raspy vocals simmer above engaging piano melodies, before a sultry beat and full instrumentation kick in. One of the albums more pure love songs, You finds the singer basking in the glow of new love and feeling totally enamoured by her lover and the experiences they share together.
In a snippet shared to Instagram of her upcoming Disney+ original special, Endless Summer Vacation (Backyard Sessions), Cyrus confirmed the duality of the record with the idea of an “AM” and “PM” side. As we exit the albums “AM” tracks, Handstand serves as a bridge between the two, transitioning from the energy of the daytime to the more grimey and wild experiences nightfall brings. In this case, we find the singer moving from more love and heartbreak-based themes towards sexual desire whilst still retaining the self-empowerment threaded throughout. The songs spoken word verses could fit right in on a cut from Lana Del Rey and brings the more experimental presence of her fifth studio album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, to a mainstream audience. Dynamic and textural production unfurls beneath Cyrus’ breathy vocals, and oozes with maximalist-meets-psychedelic sensibilities. It’s one of the naughtier offerings on the record, with Cyrus detailing her bedroom habits that find her partner “pushing into science 'cause you don't understand.” The euphoric 80’s synths ring through on River. The track, which serves as the albums second single and will receive a music video later today, continues the sex-fuelled lust of Handstand, but also touches on the jubilant love present on You. It drives the pace of the album and offers a more carefree vocal performance from Cyrus, which is sure to become a dance floor banger in clubs across the globe.
Violet Chemistry sees the singer reunite with Bangerz producer Mike WiLL Made-It, and is a zesty cut that again gives off Can’t Be Tamed vibes. Perhaps it’s the liberating quality that rings throughout both records. Can’t Be Tamed was the singers first post-Hannah Montana album, and Endless Summer Vacation is her first body of work since signing with Columbia Records. There’s a darker tone to the track, feeling like it could soundtrack your journey speeding down the lanes of a neon-lit cityscape. At this point, I could report every song delivers an outstanding vocal performance from Cyrus, but across the album she perfectly knows when to meander between breezy vocals and more powerhouse moments driven by the context of the song. Here, she offers a more subdued performance before introducing ad libs in the songs final chorus. For those who thought Flowers was Cyrus’ revenge track, you were wrong. That title is firmly held by the singers collaboration with Sia, Muddy Feet, which offers a more biting performance by Cyrus. The track takes aim at a cheating ex-partner, prompting the singer to kick them out of her home and wants their “muddy feet” to never darken her doorstep again. Her rock vocals return on the songs booming chorus, once again proving her versatility as an artist. She continues to blaze on Wildcard, driven by her strong and powerful vocals which again lean into the rock-based performances found on Plastic Hearts.
In a moment of breath, Cyrus gives us her own La Isla Bonita with Island, which finds her pondering “Am I stranded on an island, or have I landed in paradise?” She’s lapping up the solitary parts of her life which have allowed for growth and self-love, whilst also searching for a pure and real connection with others. The melody of the pre-chorus is sure to be stuck in your head for days, it’ll be hard to forget Cyrus’ delivery of “Mama told me, "Girl, smoke 'em if you got 'em.” Left my land and back at home with all my problems, so I'm staying here wondering all day long.” The album comes to an end with Wonder Woman. You wouldn’t be remiss for thinking the emotional piano-led ballad could be influenced by the singers work with legendary musician, Sir Elton John. There’s a Candle In The Wind feel to the song, serving as an ode to strong women and the want to be immortalised forever. It’s the albums only pure ballad, and the perfect way to end what is sure to become one of the singers most career-defining releases.
Cyrus once sang the words, “you’ll always find your way back home,” and Endless Summer Vacation finds the singer right at home. The record draws influence from the superstars illustrious career, and brings together her multi-genre exploration into one finely tuned body of work. Whilst the album finds its main groove in nostalgia-fuelled 80’s synth-pop, notes of rock, psychedelia and country are woven throughout to create a listening experience that replicates a modern audiences’ listening habits. Gone are the days when an individual slotted themselves into just one genre, and that’s something Cyrus understands. The singer has presented a confident and mature body of work that still captures all her eccentricities and dedication to her craft, taking us deeper into who she is as a person. We’re offered a glimpse into her personal life through expressive and evocative lyricism, with each song feeling like an intimate journal entry that together forms a more solid view of where Cyrus stands at this point in her life. She’s fun, adventurous, brave, caring, introspective, assertive, self-assured, carefree and more. That is the beauty of Endless Summer Vacation, Miley Cyrus is everything, and this record is a love letter to embrace yourself and find joy within who you are. And to be a bit cheeky along the way.
Endless Summer Vacation is out now!