June 5, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Miley Cyrus takes fans on a summer vacation

Endless Summer Vacation

Columbia Records

Miley Cyrus developed a musical teleportation machine in her new album “Endless Summer Vacation,” transporting listeners to a beach house on a summer day.

Cyrus’ album is full of atmospheric production with hints of ’70s and ’80s disco influence that make listeners want to dance around their house. The production, the apex of the album’s quality, is full of instrumentation, yet it’s so light, smooth and breezy. It consistently accentuates Cyrus’ raspy vocals that are especially powerful when Cyrus uses her lower octave.

The strong sense of confidence and self-assurance that Cyrus emulates on this album starts right off the bat with “Flowers.” This song uses a sample of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” and the track is groovy and upbeat, opposite to the slower ballad form of Mars’ songs.

“Jaded” has a funky, lively production full of synths and drums. The song sees Cyrus reflecting on a past relationship and recognizing its problems. “Jaded” sounds as if it was created to be sung during a beach jam session or concert, its synths sounding modern and fresh like the air by the ocean. The song is vibey, moody and a definite highlight on the album’s tracklist.

Unfortunately, after such a compelling and intriguing start, the album falls into a four-track-rut of mediocrity and awkward clashes between varying degrees of successful vocal performances and a sometimes-shaky production.

The first (and worst) of these offenses, and the most shoddy track on the entire project, is “Thousand Miles.” The track has a more country-style twang to it and while Cyrus has been successful in meshing genres together on past projects, this song feels out of place. The production is choppy and during the post chorus, there is a beat break that seems immature and underdeveloped. The lyrics are sweetly sentimental but sound more reminiscent of something Cyrus would have sung during her Disney days.

“Thousand Miles” has a feature with Brandi Carlile and her vocals harmonize nicely with Cyrusbut did not add much to the song. That trend of features not contributing a lot to a song continued with the second and final feature with Sia on “Muddy Feet.”

“You” is a track with slick production that suffers from a whiney vocal performance from Cyrus. Furthermore, her belting, a typical highlight in Cyrus’ vocal prowess, translates on this track as if she’s struggling to hit the notes instead of seeming passionate. 

The album finds its footing again with the bold track “Violet Chemistry in which she’s asking a potential lover to take the jump and to take a chance: “Stay a while, don’t deny the violet chemistry.” Cyrus sounds confident and her lower register is the star of this track. She also incorporates impressive belts into the background of the track and sensual harmonies. The production is sparkling in groovy synths. This song belongs in a nightclub awash in neon lights with the potential of drawing anyone to the dance floor.

Alongside the louder, fast-paced dance tracks, the album features an array of calmer, relaxed songs that someone could turn on during a road trip. “Wildcard” and “Island” both serve to place a spotlight on the peaceful, soft elements of the album’s production but are unique in their own ways.

“Island” is slower and minimalistic with its production and instrumentation. Contrarily, “Wildcard” is passionate and louder in nature. Cyrus’ emotive vocal performance on this track is similar to her performance on her 2020 song “Midnight Sky.” While neither are the most memorable, they are nice additions to the track list and help the project transition nicely into the final tracks.

“Wonder Woman” is the album at its lyrical best, shedding light on the pressures women face to seem put-together and prioritize others over themselves. Cyrus’ past as a child star and celebrity adds even more interesting layers to this song’s already emotional lyrics, especially in a social media-based world that fosters parasocial relationships with celebrities. “She makes sure that no one’s ’round to see her fall apart,” Cyrus sings quietly but powerfully.

The demo version of “Flowers” that concludes the album’s run is softer and somber in nature, truly showcasing the transformation that Cyrus gradually took to become the confident woman that marches throughout the tracklist.

“Endless Summer Vacation” provides 43 minutes of pure escapism that lives up to what its name promised. The production is fun and playful, and Cyrus sounds self-assured throughout the album. However, certain tracks don’t belong or are awkwardly placed within the tracklist. The album also features vastly different sounding tracks back-to-back, which prohibits successful production-based transitions from occurring between tracks, making parts of the album’s run sound blocky.

The bumps in this otherwise smooth album-listening-journey are gnarly and noticeable, but the consistently superb production prevents listeners from being removed from the moment or the story.