Endless Summer Vacation
Rocker chick, Disney actress, media outrage target for the side effects of drugs and teen stardom: Miley Cyrus has done it all. Modern music would be hard-pressed to find someone as versatile as Cyrus: in her last three albums, she’s traded electropop for country twang, shifted into gritty stadium rock, and on her latest, Endless Summer Vacation, she switches gears so many times within the album it’s difficult to tell what it actually is.
The album is divided into two sections, “AM” and “PM”, but the divide between the two is imperceptible. Endless Summer Vacation is part breakup material and part rosey-eyed new love, the range of which are explored on its first five tracks. Surprise smash-hit “Flowers” kicks things off, and is somewhat indicative of where the album goes. Its lyrics, meme’d and Instagram-captioned to death already within its six-week runtime at No. 1, are useless quoting here, but the refrain of buying oneself flowers and relying on yourself instead of someone external genuinely serves a positive message (and the disco production was promising).
Other songs on this first section function more to describe a new love: “Rose Colored Lenses” shows a snapshot of a morning Cyrus doesn’t want to leave. “Sunrise got us up early,” she begins, and on the chorus, sings “We could stay like this forever, lost in wonderland.” “You”, a vocally strong R&B track shows her in complete devotion to one person: “I wanna set off alarms, deal out the cards / Smoke Cuban cigars and get kicked out of bars before two / But only if it’s with you,” she sings. On the chorus, though, the problem with Endless Summer Vacation as a whole becomes clear — somewhat uninspired writing. “You know I’m savage, but you’re looking past it,” she sings.
A trio of the most sonically interesting songs kicks off right after with “Handstand”, which begins with a monologue that doesn’t enhance the song. She sings of nighttime boat rides and electric-neon creatures, then later, allegedly masturbates while doing a handstand. The frenetic, buzzy synths dappling the song give it an intense gravitas, but the line “You’re questioning the science, ‘cause you don’t understand / How I’m doing what I’m doing in a fucking handstand” is vague enough where the innuendo is lost. The most upbeat song on the album, “River”, follows, and its perfectly electro-pop production loses points with nonsensical lyrics laid on top — she sings, “You’re just like a river / You go on forever,” which rivers famously do not do. “Violet Chemistry”, finally, gets it right with both sound and lyricism: Cyrus pleads a lover to stay, but the confidence she showed in “Rose Colored Lenses” is gone — she knows that this time, the feeling will be fleeting. “May not be eternal but nocturnal, nothing more,” she admits against horns and vocal chops.
After “Violet Chemistry”, the album plods along. “Muddy Feat” is a diss-track aimed at ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, accusing him of gaslighting and cheating, but Sia’s distant vocals and the song’s faux-intensity doesn’t translate. “Wildcard” harkens back to some production elements on 2020’s fantastic Plastic Hearts, but the real stinker is “Island”, which has the unbearably cliche tropical instrumentation. The chorus poses an interesting question as to whether she’s in paradise or actually stranded, but it moves on from it too fast. An early demo of “Flowers” is the last track, which serves no other purpose than to feel grateful the real version is what she released first.
Endless Summer Vacation is a mixed bag, but this is at least somewhat consistent with previous Cyrus records. It tries to be too many things, plays with too many sounds, such that the overall effect is jarring. While some songs like “You”, “River”, and “Violet Chemistry” stand out on their own, listening to the album front-to-back is a journey where you’re whipped around too many times.
Purchase Endless Summer Vacation by Miley Cyrus HERE
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