I’d like to invite you to take a moment and really reflect on what you think of when you first hear the words “Miley Cyrus.”
I’ll tell you what comes to my mind — of course Hannah Montana is up there, along with twerking, smoking pot, Liam Hemsworth and a collection of iconic hits. And really everyone knows what songs I’m talking about. They range as far back to her Disney days, all the way up to the more recent “Wrecking Ball.”
But as I was sitting in the TCAT yesterday getting ready to stream her new album, Younger Now, I realized something about our beloved ex-role model.
Miley Cyrus doesn’t have a sound.
She’s no riffing goddess like Ariana Grande, and she’s not the queen of candy-pop like Katy Perry; Cyrus just lacks musical identity, which is an amazing feat considering that throughout her career she has never NOT been associated with music. She has managed to skyrocket to fame and remain in the public eye without presenting any unifying factor in her music, post-Disney.
After Hannah Montana, we were introduced to the Bangerz “Bad Girl” and then to the Dead Petz “Stoner Wild-Child.” Her brand has been inconsistent, and at times riddled with allegations of cultural appropriation and other offenses. After listening to Younger Now, I am of the opinion that this issue was a major consideration for Cyrus and all involved with her new album. Here we see Cyrus trying to undo some of her previous personas in a similar manner to Lady Gaga’s attempt earlier this year.
So I guess this is the good news: Miley’s over it! She’s over all of the drugs, unicorn dicks, and twerking! I can hear soccer moms praising the Good Lord Jesus for having their prayers answered — finally they can bring their girls to Cyrus concert without having to cover their eyes as the singer gyrates on a giant inflatable hotdog.
But on a more serious note, Younger Now is actually one of two things. It’s either a young pop star’s return to her country roots. Or, this is all really just a white backtrack — a return to heartland Americana audiences after unsuccessfully and, most importantly, unapologetically trying to use black culture to advance her career. And honestly, I think the latter of the two options is more on the mark.
The album makes no attempt to hide its intentions to rebrand. Younger Now opens with a mellow guitar riff underlining her sentimental lyrics: “Feels like I just woke up / like all this time, I’ve been asleep.” She continues the very Hannah-Montana-like trend of singing about not really being the person everyone thinks she is, and frankly it got old really fast.
The album has a few hits, most notably the single “Malibu” that was released earlier in the year. While the song features generic fail-proof pop tricks and a catchy beat, it’s difficult to get past the song’s bland and unexciting tone. Following that is the singer’s collaboration with her godmother, Dolly Parton, on the twang-y “Rainbowland.” The song itself is messily put together, with Parton’s riffs playing around insignificantly in the background. Honestly the most enjoyable part of the song is Parton’s dulcet voice speaking both at the beginning and the end of the song — the personal touch almost makes the rest of the song forgivable.
Following these first few songs is a long period of non-memorable songs. “Miss You So Much” does explore Miley’s talent for passionate performances, as does “I Would Die for You.” However, the songs fail to showcase Cyrus’s range and their lackluster melodies made me want to simply move on to the next thing. “Thinkin” is a throwback to her time experimenting with R&B and is a nice change from the swinging country sound that backs almost every other song on the album.
Miley’s choice to infuse the album with a country styling was very offsetting — it reminded me of a reverse Taylor Swift and I wasn’t really sure how effective it was. Perhaps with more music in the upcoming years this question of “is she pop or country?” will be resolved and then people will be able to put more attention to her actual music — hopefully when that happens, she’ll have the chance to organize her music more and figure out what her strengths are.
Ophelia Rodriguez Mazza is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.