It seems like every few months someone Tweets out the video of Miley Cyrus singing “Jolene” as part of the Backyard Sessions, and acknowledges their surprise that the pop star has a seriously stunning voice. It’s always a tired, repetitive post, and always seems a bit ridiculous at this point in the singer’s career, but still, there’s always people who are surprised. If anyone has any shock that Cyrus has a great voice after the release of the singer’s eighth studio album, Endless Summer Vacation, which was released this past Friday, then they’re just not paying attention.
Cyrus has never sounded stronger vocally than on her new album, which recaps her emotions after the singer’s recent divorce.
It’s always exciting to see what Cyrus is up to next because each of Miley Cyrus’ seven albums since the singer’s 2007 debut has felt like a reinvention of sorts. In 2008, her album Breakout was the pop star’s attempt to break away from her role as Hannah Montana, 2013’s Bangerz saw Cyrus definitively declare that she’s no longer a teen pop sensation, 2017’s Younger Now saw her leaning into her country roots.
Now with Endless Summer Vacation, Cyrus’ latest album, delivers less of a musical reinvention, but sees the singer at a crossroads in her life as she reinvents herself from a deeply personal standpoint. Newly single and ready to pour out all of her feelings, Endless Summer Vacation is the singer’s best album since Bangerz.
The album kicks off with “Flowers,” Cyrus’ breakup anthem that’s been inescapable for two months. Seriously, inescapable isn’t an exaggeration. If you don’t pay for a Spotify Premium account you’re hearing the song at every commercial break. It hit the number one spot on charts across the world, from Vietnam to Hungary and several different charts in the US. Thankfully, for a song that’s that relentlessly unavoidable, it’s a great, danceable hit. “Flowers” is a fun, disco-infused, honest, self-love anthem that shows a new side of Cyrus.
It’s easy to see the song as just a lament over a bad relationship, specifically, Cyrus’ marriage to ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, who, after the release of this album, is probably in hiding. But it’s so much more than that—it’s a groove-worthy reclamation of self-worth, an acknowledgment that Cyrus is capable enough to make herself happy, and doesn’t need to rely on any other person, even if they are Thor’s brother, to make her life fulfilled and joyful.
Cyrus has always been a powerful belter, which is why singles like “Wrecking Ball” are always fun to scream at karaoke nights, but songs like “Flowers” see her comfortably and effortlessly cruising through the song with a voice that’s crystal clear. She’s never sounded more comfortable in her voice than on this album, as if she has nothing left to prove.
But “Flowers” isn’t the only version of the song on the album. Cyrus also includes a demo of the track to close out Endless Summer Vacation and bookend the album with the infectious single.
Just like any pop song that strips away its gloss and shimmer, and is instead performed at a piano, “Flowers (Demo)” allows listeners to take away a different meaning from the song than the upbeat, inspiring anthem that’s been dominating the airwaves and streaming platforms for months. Because of its more low-key approach to the song, it’s seen as a more lamentful and sad take on the relationship, versus the upbeat prior version of the song. “Flowers” is powerful enough on its own that the demo version of the song isn’t a necessary addition to the album.
If “Flowers” starts the album off on a strong note, it continues with the second track “Jaded,” one of my favorites on Endless Summer Vacation. It’s an earnest apology song in which Cyrus rasp-ily belts out the chorus.
Another high point of the album is “Muddy Feet,” arguably the peak of Cyrus’ anger expressed throughout Endless Summer Vacation. The singer’s rage is deeply felt on the track, which also features Sia. The song is a growling, furious lash out at, well, I’m presuming Hemsworth, and is the best that Cyrus’ vocals have sounded, maybe ever?
The singer also collaborates with perennial Grammy favorite Brandi Carlile on “Thousand Miles,” a mostly-forgettable song inspired by the singer’s love for her younger sister and fellow popstar, Noah Cyrus. She also writes about her family in the ballad “Wonder Woman,” a song about her late grandmother that pays tribute to the intergenerational strength that her grandmother passed down to her mother. “Wonder Woman” is a soft ballad that only sees Cyrus unleash her raspy belt once.
While heartbreak sucks, it often creates some of the best music. For Cyrus, this has proven to be true. Endless Summer Vacation isn’t a perfect album, there’s extreme high points and there’s definitely lulls, but altogether it’s pretty damn good. The album has allowed Cyrus the chance to let her vocals shine and unpack some of the heartbreak that she’s been carrying along the way.
Endless Summer Vacation is out now.
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