Release Date: March 10th 2023
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Rose Colored Lenses
- Thousand Miles (feat. Brandi Carlile)
- Violet Chemistry
- Muddy Feet (feat. Sia)
- Wonder Woman
- Flowers (Demo)
Here’s a phrase I’d never thought I’d write. I’m about to dive deep into Miley Cyrus’s new album Endless Summer Vacation. Boy… here we go. With Miley being a controversial person within the last decade, ever since Can’t Be Tamed and Bangerz released, as well as her personal drama being aired for the whole world to see (inclusive of her marriage breakdown to Liam Hemsworth); I think many of us started to write her off. Write her off as a person, maybe as an artist, or quite possibly as a role model. I know I did. When I first heard about Miley, it was through her Hannah Montana stuff, and then through her role in The Last Song. Her acting left much to be desired. I mean, it was alright. But it was Miley’s singing that blew me away. When “When I Look At You” released in 2010, I was surprised in a good way, and thought that she’d be big, popular and influential. Fast forward to now, and Miley has taken the world by storm and has changed the pop scene. But… not in the way that I and many others would have thought and maybe hoped. Probably in a more crass, crude, risqué and overtly sexual way than we were once led to believe. I thought that once Miley, the sweet girl who graced our screens on the Disney Channel, sung about sex and relationships and one night stands both in Can’t Be Tamed and Bangerz; that was it. Sure, she’d be popular, but there was no way that I could listen to another Miley song and my soul be lifted up and edified. Those two were just incompatible and that was the way that it was.
Yet… there are still Miley songs now that inspire and encourage and are just plain fun to listen to. Not a lot, but some. “Malibu”, “Wrecking Ball”, and “Younger Now” in particular are tracks that do enlighten my heart and my soul. Not on the same level as “The Climb”, “When I Look At You” or the pop dance number “Party In The USA”; but those other melodies stumped me. Was I being too critical of Miley and perhaps should I have judged her music with a different barometer to her personal life? When “Flowers” blew up this year to the surprise of maybe half of us; I didn’t think anything of it. But then everyone started covering the song. Music Travel Love, Bella Taylor Smith, Halocene, Our Last Night, Madilyn Bailey, Boyce Avenue, First To Eleven… the list goes on and on. I knew that I had to dive back into Miley… and here I am. I didn’t really grow up with Miley, so when she created music that was much more ‘mature’ and ‘adult’ than anyone was expecting back when she was still 17 or 18; it didn’t really faze me all that much. And so, diving back into Miley, not as an avid fan or even a casual fan, but rather as an observer of popular music and of hopefully good music; does Endless Summer Vacation rate high amongst albums of this year; and more importantly, is this project healthy for the soul as a Christian? The answer… depends on how you define ‘healthy for the soul’. But objectively, Miley is a powerful and inspiring artist that is changing the world for good and is singing about a lot of relatable and relevant issues.
Is it best to know every intricate detail of Miley’s life before entering the album that is Endless Summer Vacation? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, I went in not knowing much of ‘current’ Miley and treating her like I would a new artist. To that end, Endless Summer Vocation is a literal masterpiece, and it partly is due to the smash hit single “Flowers”. Opening and closing the album with “Flowers” (the demo of “Flowers” ends the album!), Miley powerfully and skilfully sings out and declares the theme of female empowerment and independence, saying that she doesn’t need a man to make her happy, content, satisfied and fulfilled. A song that outlines that we shouldn’t place our self-worth with any particular person, and instead find the love we need from within; this song is a game changer. Of course, there are songs in CCM that speak about relying on Jesus for our source of strength and our Hope and our Living Water. That’s par for the course of CCM; but I don’t think anything in mainstream music mentions anything that explicit or overt about not relying on anyone else for your identity. Sure, this song doesn’t speak about Jesus, but it does pose the question of ‘where do you get your worth from if not from others?’, and this song will spark a conversation about whether placing your worth in others is misguided or needed in today’s society. Of course, you can depend on or rely on friends and family; but ultimately you need to live your life and you yourself need to be happy with the decisions you have made. And I think that’s where “Flowers” succeeds, and it’s because Miley sings about real life and about realising that you can love yourself even if others don’t, and though it’s not ideal, you can feel good about yourself because you made a choice and you don’t need to second guess yourself based on the opinions of others. Similar in theme to “Dare You To Move” from Switchfoot; “Flowers” sets the tone for Endless Summer Vacation in that Miley’s new album is a ball of energy, but she still delves into powerful, honest, personal, and vulnerable material as well.
“Jaded”, a heartbreaking an emotional ballad, seems to be referencing Miley’s split with Liam, with Miley relaying that she feels sorry that Liam feels jaded by the split, and she regrets everything unsaid that was left between them. It’s not really a song of closure per se, because I don’t think Miley herself feels sorry about the split itself, and because no one really knows why they split apart in the first place, apart from the usual ‘irreconcilable differences’ phrase that most people use; but Miley attempts to try to move on from Liam with this song, and even though their relationship was messy, kudos does need to be given to Miley as she tries to move on and explain her part in the split with this song. “Rose Colored Lenses” is a slow-tempo laid back guitar led ballad about Miley at the start of a brand new relationship and wanting to live life though rose coloured lenses forever, but ultimately knowing deep down in your heart and soul that you need to get back to reality and live your lives; while we are encouraged in this song to… yes, take time out to be alone with your significant other, but also learn to live with each other and love each other and like each other during the everyday and chaotic moments in life as well. “Thousand Miles”, with guest vocalist Brandi Carlile, is a gentle, acoustic guitar ballad, where Miley and Brandi emotionally and honestly outline the end of a relationship (romantic, platonic), and the persona wanting to go back to what is familiar, but still realising that they need to let the other person go for whatever reason (while the original version of this song spoke about the death of a friend’s sister!); while the poignant yet heartbreaking “You” has Miley declaring her love for someone new, while also renouncing Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. On the surface, this is a romantic song about dedicating your entire life to someone; but with me knowing Miley’s upbringing as a Christian, this melody left a sour taste in my mouth. Objectively, this melody is a sweet ode to love and the fact that two people choose to be together every day; but given that the reference to rejecting Jesus was in a second version of the chorus after verse two, it seems that Miley added the chorus in for shock value, and let’s just hope and pray that God heals her anger and bitterness in time as well.
“Handstand”, though artistically and musically different and from left field, is a song full of imagery and metaphors, and a song that I don’t fully understand even now (especially the spoken word introduction), although the essential message of pleasing your lover is probably a message that young kids shouldn’t be listening to; while “River” is similar lyrically to “Handstand”, as Miley is describing sex with someone, although the music is incredibly unique and impressive. “Violet Chemistry”, a subdued EDM melody, speaks about the intense connection two people have together, and wanting to explore that connection on a deeper level; while the intense and spiteful and vengeful “Muddy Feet” features Sia on guest vocals, and has Miley pointing fingers at an ex and accusing them of being unfaithful and cheating on her with someone else.
The solemn, powerful, and harrowing melody “Wildcard” is a picture of pure torture, of Miley being pulled in two different directions, as she acknowledges that she is somewhat free-spirited and nomadic, but could also want the suburban housewife life one day. In the song, Miley sings that she is a wildcard and that sometimes she wants one thing and in another moment another thing altogether. It’s a reminder that sometimes we change in life and want different things, and that’s ok; while Miley delves into the positives and the negatives of fame in “Island”, where she recounts that she is known to everyone but she herself doesn’t know anyone to the level that she would like, with Miley declaring that “When I came up with an idea for “Island,” the idea was kind of everyone is still a stranger to me, but I’m a stranger to no one. For me, I’ve been able to create these paradises where I feel safe. But I was contemplating this life that I have for myself. Is it a paradise or is it a lonely island?”. Endless Summer Vacation then ends with the uplifting and inspirational ballad “Wonder Woman”, where Miley champions the women in this world, acknowledging their efforts and their achievements, and also lifting them up.
And now, after listening to probably the most out-there album I’ve listened to within the past few years… is Endless Summer Vacation worth it? Is it uplifting and does it teach you something by the end of it all? Strangely enough, I find these songs hopeful, moving, inspiring, vulnerable and honest, even though “Handstand” and “River” were unnecessary additions. On the whole though, with Miley recounting her split from Liam, her entering into a new relationship, the realisation that she might want to settle down but might not want to as well, and also the conclusion that she is lonely sometimes even when she isn’t alone, along with the fact that Miley wants to always champion the women of this world; Endless Summer Vacation is like Miley Cyrus’s diary from the last few years. it’s not perfect, and it’s messy. But that is what works here, because it’s not fake and people can relate to at least one song by the end. I’m still not an avid Miley fan, and I don’t think I will ever touch Can’t Be Tamed, Bangerz and Miley And Her Dead Pets. But with this album, I’ll definitely be intrigued by whatever comes next, and this album deserves replay value. Wow, didn’t think I’ll be saying that… Well done Miley, thank you for this powerful, real and inspiring album, and one that teaches me to live life to the fullest and to not hold back in everything that we do!
4 songs to listen to: Thousand Miles, Wildcard, Island, Wonder Woman
RIYL: Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Aly & AJ, Taylor Swift, Jonas Brothers, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding, Britney Spears