Throughout the past ten years or so, Miley Cyrus has been a source of constant interest. Not necessarily music wise, but image wise she’s gone on a wild ride. First she was the clean cut Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus hybrid, an era in which she released the banger “Party in the USA”, and then she awkwardly tried to break free from that image with failed attempts like “Can’t Be Tamed”, and she was slowly losing relevancy. And then something happened. All of a sudden, she was twerking, singing about drugs and sex, doing drugs in public, releasing raunchy music videos, she had a new haircut, etc. She was suddenly more popular then she had ever been before, but for all the wrong reasons. No one cared about the music, she was just constant controversy. So last Sunday, as I was cringing through the VMAs, I seemingly cemented my hate for Miley. Her image seemed inauthentic and put on, and she was just constantly throwing her “edginess” in your face throughout her hosting of the show. And then at the end of her show closing performance, she yelled that her new album entitled “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz” is online right now. I sighed, knowing that I was curious enough to give it a listen, but that I was mostly likely not going to enjoy it. However, while it is very flawed, this is actually a pretty good album.
First things first, “…& Her Dead Petz” is very different from anything Miley has ever released in her career. This is not a very traditional pop album, and while it doesn’t exactly “test the boundaries” of music or present any super experimental or challenging sounds, it is unique as compared to most mega-stars’ music. There are touches of light psychedelia here, which makes sense given The Flaming Lips’ involvement with production and writing, and the song structures are bit more adventurous than your typical mainstream pop-fare. This isn’t Miley’s “Yeezus” or “In Utero” in that it won’t just fuck everyone’s head up, but it will present some new sounds and alternative ideas to many an unsuspecting 15 year old girl, and I’m happy Miley is taking up that role in hyper mainstream music culture. But I don’t think Miley is out to change the course of music, I just think she’s out to craft some lightly psychedelic pop tunes, and she definitely accomplishes that over the course of this overlong 23 song album.
But the good news comes first: there’s a lot of memorably good songs on here, and when they hit, they hit hard. Really, the best songs are the ones that bring the Flaming Lips-esque psychedelia along with the catchy tunes to match, like “Karen Don’t Be Sad” and “Space Boots”, two songs with gorgeous melodies, and “Milky Milky Milk”, which features a stunningly infectious outro. (“Yeah, I’m diggin’ it.”) But there are also some great tracks that deviate from this formula, like “BB Talk”, which features some spoken word verses describing an overly affectionate lover, which actually goes over well and is really entertaining, especially when followed by the super catchy chorus. There are even a couple of piano ballads that wind up towards the end of the record, “Pablow the Blowfish”, a surprisingly emotional ode to Miley’s deceased blowfish, and “Twinkle Song”, the closing track on here that sees Miley really test the boundaries of her voice and it goes over quite well and powerfully emotionally, as a piano ballad should. But the most standout song here in terms of sound has to be the opener, “Dooo It!”, produced by Mike WiLL Made It. (Who actually produces a lot of this album.) This song, as compared to these somewhat low key tracks, is a brash, in your face banger, loudly exclaiming these lines over and over again:
“Yeah I smoke pot!
Yeah I love peace!
But I don’t give a fuck!
I ain’t no hippie!”
Not exactly Kendrick Lamar right there, but it’s clear what Miley was doing by opening the album with that. She’s playing into her image, trying to shock people, and essentially trolling, given how much the album differs from this track’s sound. However, it’s still a fun, catchy, and immediate song, however cringy it is taken at face value.
So there’s a lot of good to this album. But it’s 23 songs long, which means there’s a ton of uninteresting material and failed ideas. Particularly, from track 12 to 20, with the only bright spot being the fun “I Forgive Yiew”, things get really boring actually, and for an 8 song stretch of tracks that can reach up to 4-5 minutes sometimes, that can really weigh an album down and kill its momentum. And I never thought boring describe Miley Cyrus in 2015, but this stretch does exactly that, featuring none of the killer melodies and instead just showcasing wandering, aimless songwriting and uninteresting vocal performances from Miley. However, props to Big Sean for his verse on “Tangerine.” Easily the most poetic and thought provoking verse of his career. Never thought I’d say it, but Big Sean almost saved a song.
“Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz” was a huge surprise. Although flawed in huge ways and featuring way too many throwaway songs, it presents some new ideas to the mainstream and also offers up some killer tracks to match. It’s not a great record, but right here Miley is making the music that she wants to make, and occasionally, its some pretty damn special music.
Standout Tracks: “Dooo It!” “Karen Don’t Be Sad” “Space Boots” “BB Talk” “Milky Milky Milk” “Cyrus Skies” “I Forgive Yiew” “Pablow the Blowfish” “Twinkle Song”