Album Cover by Columbia Records
The world’s favorite openly pansexual pop star is back with new music, as Miley Cyrus’ highly anticipated eighth studio album “Endless Summer Vacation” was released on March 10. Since the record’s official announcement in January, Cyrus has remained fairly elusive, even while her dance-infused self-love anthem “Flowers” reigned atop the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. In her first full-length LP since 2020’s critically acclaimed “Plastic Hearts,” Cyrus exhibits an elevated level of pensiveness and rumination on her latest project’s twelve songs.
Thematically, “Endless Summer Vacation” is far from the sunny, upbeat headspace that its title brings to mind, a misnomer best expressed on its reflective, wistful third cut “Rose Colored Lenses.” Instead, Cyrus is often extremely existential as she ponders the inevitably temporary nature of relationships. In the wake of her 2020 divorce from Australian actor Liam Hemsworth, Cyrus abandons the rage and anguish that fueled “Plastic Hearts” and opts for a quieter, more somber tone as her plans fail to materialize as hoped.
Album opener “Flowers” is one of the record’s strongest highlights, its effervescent hook immediately seeding itself into your brain before the second chorus has even begun. The song’s viral music video, which has received more than 400 million views, helped propel some of its initial success, with rumors swirling that the luxurious Los Angeles home Cyrus appears in was the location where Hemsworth committed adultery during their short-lived marriage. Though Cyrus has yet to comment on this tabloid fodder, the video’s setting accomplishes the album’s secondary role as a “love letter to LA” and features Cyrus having a blast despite her solitude.
Promoted in tandem with the album release as the project’s second single, seventh track “River” is the record’s most energetic and unabashedly fun song, with propulsive dance beats and an infectious chorus: “You’re just like a river / You go on forever.” The song’s black-and-white music video is unlikely to provoke controversy to the extent of past Cyrus smashes like “Wrecking Ball,” but it can best be described as erotic as Cyrus gyrates with a group of muscular shirtless dancers. Only time will tell if “River” can match the immense commercial success of “Flowers,” but it more than matches the quality of its predecessor.
Though one of her contemporaries, Taylor Swift, may be best-known for crafting soul-baring fifth tracks, Cyrus gives Swift a run for her money on the standout “You.” Cyrus bemoans the heartbreak of being apart from one’s desired partner on this emotive ballad, passionately listing the activities she wishes they could enjoy together. The down-to-earth, simplistic nature of her pleas, which include wanting to go driving and dancing with her lover, displays Cyrus’ fruitless search to find a sense of lasting stability, “but only if it’s with you.”
Like most mainstream pop albums, “Endless Summer Vacation” is not without a few songs that fall short of the LP’s finest moments. “Muddy Feet,” which is easily the angriest song on the record, is too short to leave much of an impression and bizarrely features Australian singer Sia, though her vocals are too quiet to audibly detect. Though not as deserving of a skip as “Muddy Feet,” “Wildcard” and “Wonder Woman” both lack the memorability of punchier tunes listeners stumble upon earlier on in the tracklist.
Any longtime fan of the chameleonic musician is sure to be pleased with the personal nature and sonic cohesion of Cyrus’ new LP, even if “Endless Summer Vacation” is less consistent than the superior “Plastic Hearts.” More than ever before, Cyrus appears to finally be comfortable in her own skin, weaving the tale of her post-divorce journey with an even blend of the country and pop genres she has often jumped between. Even in the midst of uncertainty about where to go next, Cyrus’ newest project flourishes as a thoughtful depiction of self-discovery and reckoning with navigating an unpredictable future.
Author: Reid Sperisen (He/Him)
Copy Editors: Bellze (They/Xey), Bella (She/They)