Foam fingers, nipple tassels and mini pig tails — these are just a few of the iconic objects popularized by Miley Cyrus. Throughout her career, the pop singing sensation has consistently shocked, surprised and horrified many people.
On her latest album Younger Now, Cyrus trades twerking for twang — the pop star has shedded her highly sexualized persona and replaced it with a level-headed country girl.
Cyrus began her rebranding after almost a decade of experimentation and controversy. This began with the release of Younger Now’s lead single “Malibu” earlier this summer. The single was much more understated than any of her previous work, and it presented a tame Miley which went deliberately against her previous declarations. The single was strong in its simplicity, as was its follow-up “Inspired.”
Younger Now’s release cycle shifted gears with the obvious Bangerz era apology track “Younger Now” where the album gets its name. The track is poorly written, and the vocalization feels eerily halfhearted. If Cyrus claims she’s “not afraid of who [she] used to be,” why would she try so hard to rebrand herself?
Many of the tracks on the record are just as vapid.
The album is boring and forgettable, and in going back to her roots, Cyrus loses what made her so popular. The singer is known for her powerful voice, yet the album’s ambient production overshadows that. She comes across as monotonous a lot of the time.
This is due to the juvenile songwriting throughout, especially on tracks like “Bad Mood” and “Thinkin’.” What’s interesting, though, is that Cyrus’s music felt more authentic on Bangerz than on Younger Now. Where Bangerz showed Cyrus unapologetically breaking boundaries and testing limits, Younger Now feels, though well-intended, haphazard and messy.
Younger Now can be compared to Lady Gaga’s latest effort Joanne.
Both projects attempt to find some sort of authenticity and take confessional approaches. Further, they aim to blend country and pop, a feat no one has accomplished since Taylor Swift’s career-making Fearless in 2008. Cyrus attempts to redefine herself and show audiences the kind of artist she truly is. Younger Now is just as cultivated as Cyrus’s previous work. The only difference, however, is how uninteresting this new image is.
The peak of Cyrus’s contrived madness came with what remains her best album to date: Bangerz. The record came out of nowhere and spawned three hits: “We Can’t Stop,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Adore You.” The songs were each accompanied by videos designed to spark conversations, though their content was compelling enough to stand out on its own. “Adore You” features some of Cyrus’s most emotional, raw and intriguing lyrics and vocals. She knew Bangerz would be controversial, and the contention was what made the record so phenomenal.
Cyrus continued to experiment with different sounds, as she was experimenting with substances like cannabis. Her free album Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz was equally as ambitious as Bangerz. It showed the singer delving into psychedelic pop and freeing herself of the constraints of mainstream pop music. The songs “Karen Don’t Be Sad” and “Dooo It!” are both unique and show a different side of the Nashville native.
Cyrus’s latest project was intended to be accessible to the masses — to bridge the divide worsened by today’s political climate. By toning down everything that made her stand out, Cyrus fails to say anything of substance. Younger Now is decidedly passive and therefore falls victim of dullness. For an artist who made a career out of surprising, and often extremely interesting, music, Cyrus failed to make a compelling “back to roots” album.