Miley Cyrus, a superstar of the 21st century, has released her eighth studio album, titled “Endless Summer Vacation.” The album is her first since 2020’s “Plastic Hearts,” a rock-heavy tracklist made right in the midst of the pandemic.
As a huge fan since the premiere of “Hannah Montana” in 2006, I have been there through all of the Cyrus eras: the Disney teen idol era, the chopped pixie-cut, twerking, rebellious “Bangerz” era, the psychedelic, experimental “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz” era, the wholesome country “Younger Now” era and many more.
Just as Cyrus is one of the most versatile artists we know, she has collaborated on this album with a cluster of interesting musical figures you would not normally see on the same work. Artists like James Blake, Sia, Justin Tranter, Mike Will Made-It, Greg Kurstin and even her own boyfriend Maxx Morando all have credits on this album.
Cyrus has talked about how “Endless Summer Vacation” is split into two parts; the first six tracks are the A.M. side of the album and the last six are the P.M. side. The A.M. side is to resemble the feeling of morning energy and a brand new day ahead of you while the P.M. side is to resemble the fun, wild, glitz and glamour of a night out.
The lead single, “Flowers,” is arguably the biggest song of the year so far and sets the tone perfectly as the first song on the tracklist. It brings us into the world of Cyrus loving herself and moving on from a widely known relationship, and by the end of it, you’re wanting to know more about her journey.
A career highlight, “Jaded,” shows Cyrus is starting to feel for her ex, but she knows there is nothing more she can do.
“Oh, isn’t it a shame that it ended like that? / Said goodbye forever, but you never unpacked / We went to Hell, but we never came back,” Cyrus sings.
She’s looking back on how things could have been but knows she has to keep moving on. This is one of the clear moments on the record where we see the vulnerability and relatability of Cyrus accepting what this breakup has done.
However, it is the three-song run of “Handstand,” “River” and “Violet Chemistry” that feels like the biggest and best gut punch you can ever receive while listening to an album.
“Handstand” is the first track of the P.M. side, bringing us into a night on the town in L.A. You can feel the shift in the album as the song brings in a more sporadic and electronic production over a mostly spoken word by Cyrus.
The second single, “River,” is somewhat something Cyrus has surprisingly never done before. It feels like the most dance-pop song she has released and the closest she has leaned into that sound since her third album “Can’t Be Tamed.” The song makes you want to go right into a club, start dancing with people all around you and just lose your mind to the music.
When the pre-chorus comes in, it feels like you’re about to get drenched by the beat.
“Heart beats so loud that it’s drownin’ me out / Livin’ in an April shower / You’re pourin’ down, baby, drown me out (Ooh, ooh, ooh),” Cyrus sings.
There are two collaborations on the album, “Thousand Miles” with Brandi Carlile and “Muddy Feet” with Sia. Both are very light collaborations. Carlile only harmonizes in the background with Cyrus on their track while Sia sings only the outro of “Muddy Feet.” I appreciate that both are not fully-fledged duets because this album feels very personal to Cyrus, so it makes sense that the whole work would mostly just be her.
Cyrus has continued to be one of the most provocative, intriguing and genuine artists of our generation, and this album just proves that. In her most mature album to date, Cyrus has entered her 30s more sure of herself than ever, and we love her even more for that.
My personal favorites are “Jaded,” “River,” “Violet Chemistry” and “Wildcard,” but I’m sure I will be playing this whole album for many endless summer vacations.