Album Reviews

Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation

(RCA) UK release date: 10 March 2023

American singer’s eighth studio album is her most consistent to date, showing she’s negotiating the path to a more adult audience just fine

Miley Cyrus - Endless Summer Vacation Back in 2013, when Miley Cyrus was cavorting round stage with Robin Thicke and a giant foam finger, you may not have predicted her maturing into one of the most consistently interesting popstars around.

Cyrus is arguably that though – her last album, 2020’s Plastic Hearts, achieved both commercial success and critical acclaim, and her latest single Flowers has become something of a global phenomenon. As she enters her thirties, the Disney Princess or Teenage Twerker seems a long way away.

Part of the reason for Cyrus’ longevity is her determination to do things on her terms. Although most of Endless Summer Vacation is filled with radio-friendly pop-rock anthems, there’s also a fair degree of weirdness bubbling under the surface. That’s signified on this album by dividing the record into two parts: AM and PM, with the former representing the energy of the morning, and the latter showing the grime and seediness of the night time.

It’s easy to see why Flowers has become such a big hit – it’s an ode to independence, a kiss-off to a former ex and a break-up anthem for the ages. The first half of the album is in a similar vein – Rose Coloured Lenses looks back at the glory days of a relationship where the temptation is to “stay like this forever”, while Jaded is another break-up song with some clever, poignant lyrics (“I’ll change my number but keep your T-shirt, I don’t mind it’s torn up and faded”).

What’s notable is how Cyrus’ voice has changed in recent years – it’s now developed, as shown on Plastic Hearts, into quite the powerful instrument: sounding equally at home with songs that require a more smoky drawl as she is with the big, soaring ballads. At times, she’s reminiscent of Sheryl Crow, and it’s easy to imagine how her career may move more into this direction in time – maybe the duet with Brandi Carlisle, Thousand Miles, is one indication.

As befits someone who once recorded an entire album with The Flaming Lips though, there’s a fair degree of experimentation on Endless Summer Vacation, especially during the first half. Handstand, featuring a surprising co-writing credit for indie maverick filmmaker Harmony Korine, has electronically processed spoken word verses, lyrical allusions to acrobatic sex and a whole manner of bleeps and bloops.

Violet Chemistry (co-written by James Blake) has a weird, skittery energy to it, while Muddy Feet, featuring Sia on backing vocals, is a sweary rant directed at a cheating ex (“You smell like perfume that I didn’t purchase”), with lines like “Get the fuck out of my house with my shit”. Cyrus’ delivery is so intense that you start to fear for the subject of the song.

Possibly the most important credit on Endless Summer Vacation is Kid Harpoon as producer, who works similar sonic magic on the album as he’s done with Harry Styles in the past, adding plenty of depth and power to songs that may sound a bit nondescript in other hands. Those early days as a solo artist hanging out with the likes of The Kooks and Mystery Jets in London must seem like a different age to him.

Although there’s some filler on Endless Summer Vacation – Wildcard and the rather flat closing piano ballad Wonder Woman fall into this category – it probably ends up as her most consistent album to date. This is one former teen idol who’s negotiating the path to a more adult audience just fine.

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