Full Album Review: Miley Cyrus – Younger Now (2017) | Download Free Zip
Miley Cyrus has long been seeking a musical identity. Just before the release of her popsplosion album Bangerz, she seemed destined to go back into the family business. Her string of 2012 covers—released as a series of videos called the Backyard Sessions—were deep-voiced and sultry. On “Lilac Wine,” she volleyed between Nina Simone’s sinuous vocal timbres and the romantic drama of Jeff Buckley, both of whom once performed the song. But it was her version of “Jolene” that made it clear she understood the nuances of her godmother Dolly Parton’s music—and her father Billy Ray’s music—and that perhaps these little studies would guide her future output of slick pop-country.
Then, in early 2013, Miley uploaded a video of herself dressed in a frog onesie doing her best twerking impression. It seemed innocuously silly, in line with having “no swag” as she told Sway in a 2010 interview—but it wasn’t. This kicked off a Miley’s lewd ‘n’ twisted era: the topless Terry Richardson photoshoots, the crotch-grinding of Robin Thicke at the VMAs, all leading to a psilocybin-tinged friendship with Flaming Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne. Together, the two concocted Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, a 23-track album of drug-fueled self-indulgence that fits in, somehow, cameos from both Big Sean and Ariel Pink. Dead Petz was basically a collegiate hippie fantasia played out on our Twitter feeds and TV screens.
And now, she’s over it! Her latest album, Younger Now, is supposed to be a vision into her post-neon maturity and a clear idea of who Miley Cyrus is, but as a statement of reinvention, it’s merely a suggestion of the kind of artist Miley Cyrus could be. Younger Now blends pop-rock and pablum country fare that is so restrained, so thinly produced, it seems like her lovably goofy personality was hobbled throughout the recording process. Even before she read the funeral rites for Ratchet Miley, Cyrus teased the kind of performer she was becoming. A recent cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” showed a self-assured pop star reclaiming her Appalachian roots while still maintaining the post-Disney cool facilitated by Mike WiLL and Pharrell.
Instead, Miley delivered “Malibu,” her first single after giving up her bong and getting back with Liam Hemsworth and a preview of the lifelessness to come. Even though “Malibu” is supposed to be a paean of reconciliation, it is far too breezy and pappy to evoke any sense of passion (which she excels at). Even when collaborating with Dolly Parton on “Rainbowland,” the muddy production leaves Miley uninspired—it’s not until a voicemail from Parton teasing, “You probably wrote this about some boy you loved” at the end of the song that we get some clarity.
The album is not without bright spots. The quiet “I Would Die For You” gives Miley room to explore the depth of her voice and the song’s stripped-down percussion makes it one of the least soupy tracks here. She sounds strongest on “Miss You So Much,” where the power and mourning in her voice become the stars of the song. Though it was written about a close friend’s boyfriend who overdosed, Cyrus had been hanging out with her beloved grandmother the day she was recording: “It made me kind of think about her, the more I started singing it.” Miley’s connection to the transcendent spirit of love and grief is just the realest thing on an album full of limp deliveries.
Even though Younger Now has these few successful moments, it’s hard to reconcile—much less care—about this harmless Miley. The odd country-pop lope of “Bad Mood” and the thoughtless strings and horns that pepper the arrangements of the forgettable ballads that close the album do little to take away from her unapologetic abandonment of rap music and culture. “I can’t listen to [hyper-sexual lyrics] anymore. That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little. It was too much ’Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’ — I am so not that,” she told Billboard in May. This was, naturally, met with a maelstrom of ire on Twitter and elsewhere for “[disrobing] her black culture cloak after profiting from it.” Aside from insulting people who viewed her music as a commodification of rap culture, it’s hard to take Miley’s “I am so not that” declaration seriously when her Bangerz Tour was a pervy “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” romp where she both simulated an orgy and straddled a hot dog as she rode it through the air. If she’s asked about her past performative sexuality, as she was by NPR, she will dubiously cite riot grrrl impresario Kathleen Hanna as a totem for it being feminist and acceptable.
Like so many of us at the age of 25, Miley’s imagination is galvanized by pop culture, but she is often missing its original context. She finds inspiration on the surface and cherry-picks what to use for herself without understanding the work’s original point of view, whether it is Hanna’s Bikini Kill days or twerking born of bounce music in New Orleans. The irony is that when she is working with material from other people’s toolboxes she sounds the most engaged and the most like herself. Her search for the next new sound that defines Miley Cyrus as someone who contains the filigrees of a pop star, the chops of a songwriter, and the agency of a woman who is in full control of her art should continue beyond Younger Now, because there is precious little to be found here.
1. Younger Now / Listen & download
2. Malibu / Listen & download
3. Rainbowland (feat. Dolly Parton) / Listen & download
4. Week Without You / Listen & download
5. Miss You So Much / Listen & download
6. I Would Die For You / Listen & download
7. Thinkin’ / Listen & download
8. Bad Mood / Listen & download
9. Love Someone / Listen & download
10. She’s Not Him / Listen & download
11. Inspired / Listen & download