Miley Cyrus’s career has certainly endured the test of time — and if the success of ‘Flowers’ has anything to say, things are only getting better for the former Disney star. Endless Summer Vacation, Miley’s eighth studio album, is Cyrus’s ‘love letter to LA’, a record that’s sure to put the winter blues behind you.
The album opens with ‘Flowers’, the smash hit that skyrocketed Miley’s career to heights many may have previously thought unreachable for her. The song was just Cyrus’s second to reach #1 on the Hot 100, and it went on to break records internationally while also being the most streamed song in a week on Spotify during both its first and second week.
The success behind ‘Flowers’ is likely due to the song’s shift from the usual genres one would expect to find Cyrus dabbling in: pop or country. It’s more of a slow burning and simmering tune that infuses elements of funk and disco to show a new side of Cyrus. The song’s lyrics also smartly allow Cyrus to capitalize on her divorce with Liam Hemsworth, turning the topic about her that the general public was likely most interested in and flipping their direction back to her music career.
Miley’s exploration of a difficult relationship continues on ‘Jaded,’ where she apologizes for making an ex jaded, even going as far as to describe the difficulties of thinking of them in a new relationship: “Won’t be easy/ When somebody new is on your body/ I’ll change my number, but keep your t-shirt/ I don’t mind it’s gonna be faded,” she sings as the bridge brings the track to a stand-still.
‘Rose Colored Lenses’ features a more upbeat and positive outlook, and Miley’s vocals take front and center stage. As she sings about wanting to remain fixed in a happy point in a relationship forever, the mood and essence of Endless Summer Vacation is captured. “Let’s stay like this forever,” the song’s outro echos endlessly over the upbeat, summer vibeworthy beat. Despite capturing the essence of the album’s title, ‘Rose Colored Lenses’ feels a bit more shallow than the tracks before it.
On ‘Thousand Miles’, Cyrus is joined by Brandi Carlile (and no, it’s not a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s ‘A Thousand Miles’, sadly.) With Carlile’s career spanning many different genres, it’s no surprise to hear her here on Endless Summer Vacation, as Miley also experiments and pushes her discography into new territories. With Carlile’s expert hand guiding the path on the chorus, ‘Thousand Miles’ fuses melancholy and optimism, and it’s hard to find any ‘Hannah Montana’ (or ‘Wrecking Ball’) here.
Cyrus confronts her baggage and conflicting views on love with ‘You’, a song that offers more lyrical depth and storytelling than the songs before it, even if its message is a bit murky. ‘You’ feels like a version of ‘You & I’ by Lady Gaga, with Miley’s vocal runs and the song’s production feeling in a similar vein to Gaga’s 2011 track.
The majority of ‘You’ deals with being totally enamored, even recklessly in love and looking past each other’s flaws, but Cyrus’s confesses to not being up to a serious commitment on the chorus: “I am not made for no horsey and carriage.”
Cyrus switches things up on ‘Handstand,’ the track that signals the end of the ‘AM’ or morning vibes part of the record, transitioning Endless Summer Vacation to night mode. Its spoken intro is interesting and poetic, though it leaves ‘Handstand’ as a stand-in track that serves as more of a segue than anything of substance.
‘River,’ the second single from Endless Summer Vacation opens the PM side of the album, just as ‘Flowers’ opened the morning sessions. Here, Cyrus is back in her groove, getting back into the tried and true formula for success. ‘River’ smartly conjures lyrics of deserts and drowning, reinvigorating the album with some synth pop after the first half’s more downbeat indie vibes.
‘Violet Chemistry’ finds Cyrus enamored once again, but pleading for her lover to not deny the chemistry between the two. The track is catchy with its repetitiveness, though the bridge does offer the genius “Fingers start to dance along the figures and the shapes/ Mixing all the colors like we’re makin’ a Monet,” delivered perfectly.
‘Muddy Feet’ sees Cyrus team up with Sia (who only adds some warbles to the bridge and is also credited as a writer on ‘Violet Chemistry’.) While ‘Flowers’ was a track that made no apologies for love lost but found the positive in the situation, ‘Muddy Feet’ takes the same idea and delights in the confrontation.
“And you smell like perfume that I didn’t purchase/ Now I know why you’ve been closing the curtains / Get the fuck out of my house,” Cyrus seethes. ‘Muddy Feet’ is full of anger and passion, and it’s one of Endless Summer Vacation‘s best. If more of Endless Summer Vacation followed in the footsteps of ‘Flowers’ and ‘Muddy Feet’, the album would have a more definitive sound and message.
Miley revisits her issues with commitments from ‘You’ on ‘Wildcard’, teasing a lover with a serious relationship and reminding them that she’s ultimately a wildcard when it comes to things like being a wife, meeting the parents, or not breaking hearts. “Don’t wait for me/ ‘Cause forever may never come.” ‘Wildcard’ is clever in its premise and concept, but like many tracks on Endless Summer Vacation, it feels only halfway to full realization, with the song’s second verse lacking the wit of the first.
‘Island’, as the title suggests, is a tropical-inspired track about feeling isolation and feelings of longing and missing a lover. From a storytelling standpoint, ‘Island’ is strong — with a careful concept and lyrics that artfully tie together abstract concepts and feelings with real imagery, playing on an island being both a paradise and an isolated piece of land. This is just one of the many positive avenues Endless Summer Vacation could’ve explored in more depth, as opposed to its more shallow approach of just dipping a toe in many different genres and seeing what happens.
Endless Summer Vacation slows down to a close with ‘Wonder Woman’, a ballad of female empowerment and the burdens that women face. It’s a beautiful song for sure, but it only further proves that the album lacks cohesion or a true theme. ‘Wonder Woman’ closes the album with an uplifting, albeit sorrowful tune, but its a far cry from the magic that encapsulates the opening ‘Flowers.’
Fans of the Miley that delivered pop with a little rock and roll with some country twang will probably find Shania Twain’s Queen of Me more enjoyable than Endless Summer Vacation, but Cyrus’s dedicated fans — and those enamored by ‘Flowers’ — will likely find enjoyment in the new album, even if the record as a whole doesn’t have the power that ‘Flowers’ does.
Cyrus’s devotion to her concept — an album that is half sleepy, indie pop for waking up in the morning and half synth pop for a night on the town — is commendable, despite not being executed perfectly. Ultimately, Endless Summer Vacation is eager to explore too many different sounds, leaving it lacking any real cohesion needed to make it a distinct work. None of the album’s tracks are terrible, and in fact the highs tend to soar Cyrus’s discography to new heights…but in the end, Endless Summer Vacation meanders a bit too much and ends up being, sadly, boring and lacking conviction.