ENDLESS SUMMER VACATION // MILEY CYRUS ALBUM REVIEW

Miley Cyrus' long-awaited eighth album, Endless Summer Vacation, is what she described to be her love letter to Los Angeles, which serves as the backdrop to these twelve tracks. This album feels like some of her strongest, most cohesive work yet, which she credited to the mental and physical transformation she went through during it's creation. As an artist, Miley is known to always reinvent her sound and style with each new album cycle, she is someone who never shies away from experimenting or pushing the boundaries of what is expected of her. She is a multi-faceted artist and has explored so many different genres, all of which she has truly excelled in. "I think Endless Summer Vacation, to me, represents my fearlessness when it comes to experimenting. Not just with my sound, but with my identity and the way that I want to be seen," Miley said in her Disney+ Backyard Sessions special, released alongside the album. "This album feels like it's kind of a concoction of the best of those sounds that I've tried out. I've been calling this album 'the Cinderella shoe' because it's just a perfect fit and it feels like it's only mine and could only be mine."

"The fun thing is that if you're a friend of mine, if you're close to me, it sounds like a conversation with me - there's subtle shade, there's honesty and truth and some wisdom and there's some humor, there's some heaviness and depth. It really represents who I am and I feel that the greatest records I have been able to make or the greatest songs I've been able to write, they do exactly that. They just really connect me and whoever is listening in a way that feels like an intimate, honest conversation," Miley continued.

Her previous release, Plastic Hearts, is an album that really solidified Miley as one of the greatest rockstars of this generation. Aspects of that album carry through into Endless Summer Vacation with songs like "You", "Muddy Feet" and "Wildcard", but overall it is quite a departure. This album has a little bit of everything on it, but it is mainly focusing on more of a traditional dance pop sound, with elements of rock and country throughout. As a whole, Endless Summer Vacation is what I view to be a culmination of all the best aspects of the music she has released over the past sixteen years and plays to all of her strengths. Some of these songs sonically even take me back to some of her earliest work as Hannah Montana, which just feels so full-circle and reflective of her journey so far. 

The majority of the album is produced by Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson - when I first found out they were collaborating with Miley on Endless Summer Vacation, I knew immediately it was going to be one of my favorite albums she has released yet. I love all of the music they made with Harry Styles over the years, as they are two of the main co-writers and producers he has worked with on all of his solo music since 2017. Many of the elements I love about Harry's music carry through into this album. I hear the influence especially in the third track, "Rose Colored Lenses", which is one of my favorites from the album. It feels very reminiscent of "Grapejuice" to me, which is one of his best songs, as well. It's as if the repetition of his "there's just no getting through without you" is her version of "let's stay like this forever" from that song. 

Milke WiLL Made-It, her long-time collaborator that she worked with on Bangerz and Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, also features as a co-producer of three tracks. I love hearing the return of the experimental and psychedelic influences that were so present on both of those projects return on Endless Summer Vacation in a more mature and polished way. 

Endless Summer Vacation is split into two parts conceptually, AM and PM. In her Disney+ special, she talked about the way the two halves of the track list are structured, "The AM to me is representing the morning time, where there's a buzz and energy and there's a potential of new possibilities. It's a new day," she said. "At nighttime, it feels like there's a slinky, seediness and kind of a grime, but a glamour at the same time. In the evening, it's a great time for rest, it's a time to recover. Or it's a time to go out and experience the wild side. In LA, there's a certain energy to the night and you can feel trouble boil up to the surface and it's very inspiring to me."

"Flowers" is the opening track of Endless Summer Vacation, which is a powerful anthem of self-love and empowerment. Its release marked a new era of her career with the tagline of the promotion being "New Year, New Miley". It quickly became one of the biggest songs she has ever released, which being almost two decades into her career, is so great (and rare) to see. To celebrate it's success, she also released the demo version of "Flowers", which is featured as a bonus track on the album. Both versions represent the duality that this song holds, it gives a whole new perspective to the journey that got her to this moment. While the official version feels so uplifting and empowering, the demo starts off so much more melancholic as a stripped-back ballad. In instances like this, it is so cool to see what production can do to completely transform a song and bring new life into it. In the first verses of the demo, it sounds like she is trying to convince herself that she can buy herself flowers, hold her own hand, etc. - but as the song progresses, you can really hear the confidence in her voice start to grow and that she is really meaning what she is saying by the end of the third verse. The best songs, especially in the pop genre, are the ones that hold a level of dichotomy between the instrumental and lyrical content. If you dig deeper into the lyrics, there is so much symbolism within this song, "built a home and watched it burn", being one of the stand-out moments. It is so subtle but if you know about the lore behind this song, you'll know how much of an impact that line holds. 

Flowers are also a recurring motif throughout so much of Endless Summer Vacation, which makes this being the first single to introduce the album such a perfect choice. With lyrics like "you'vе watered the weeds and you killed all the roses", on "Muddy Feet" and "pillows on the floor and the flowers dead", on "Wildcard" - it feels like an important underlying concept that threads this album together.

I view "Flowers" and the second track, "Jaded", as songs that feel like she is closing the chapter of the tumultuous time that inspired so much of Plastic Hearts. On that album, it sounded like she still was trying to overcome and process a lot of emotions, but with the opening tracks of Endless Summer Vacation it sounds like she is ready to move on from all of it. "Jaded" serves as an apology with the opening lines being, "I don't wanna call and talk too long, I know it was wrong, but never said I was sorry, now I've had time to think it over, we're much older and the bone's too big to bury" and in the chorus, "I'm sorry that you're jaded, I could've taken you places, you're lonely now and I hate it". It also serves a reflection, with her repeatedly stating that "It's a f*cking shame that it ended like that" throughout the chorus. Although it is very different and much more mature, something about this song sonically takes me back to her early work, songs that come to mind are "The Climb" and "Wrecking Ball", with the powerful vocals and bold chorus. 

The third track, "Rose Colored Lenses", feels so representative of the thesis of the album with the lyric "Endless summer vacation, make it last till we die". This song feels so LA, it's as if I'm transported to California every time I listen to it. So much of her music throughout her career is rooted in her love for Los Angeles, which is an aspect of her songwriting that I love so much. "When I'm writing a song, I try to be really descriptive in my lyrics and paint a picture of the moment in time the song stemmed from," Miley said in her Disney+ special. This song is one of the highlights of the album for me, I just can't get enough of it. So many lyrics and phrases she uses are my favorite from the entire album - "daydream, deja vu", "we could stay like this forever, lost in wonderland", and the repetition of "let's stay like this forever", to name a few.

"Thousand Miles" is a song that Miley recently revealed has been in the works for years, originally having the title "Happy Girl". In her Disney+ special, she reflected on the process it took to write this song, "When I wrote "Thousand Miles," it started as a song that was very different from the one that's on the album. I wrote it in 2016 or 2017. And it was after one of my really close friends lost her sister to suicide. And I just couldn't imagine not having my little sister in my life. And so, I wrote this song for her, and it was originally called 'Happy Girl'. And it was, 'I just wanna see you happy, and all I really want is just for you to be happy, girl.' And it was just about happiness and sisterhood." 

Over that time, it has taken on a new life and is a very different song than what it initially started as. She continued, "It just makes me emotional because now the song is filled with so much joy in the music. And it's become something so far from the sadness that inspired the song." Brandi Carlile is also featured as background vocals, although I do think the song could have benefited if she had her own verse. Either way, it's a really beautiful song that would have fit well on her Younger Now album, which I assume it was originally written for around 2016. Since she released the "Flowers" demo, I would love to one day also hear the "Thousand Miles"/"Happy Girl" demo too to see how much this song has been transformed over the years. 

"Handstand" is the final song that closes out the AM side of the album. I view it as the transition from the morning to evening, since it is representative of both the "buzz and energy" of the AM side of the album's concept, as well as the "slinky, seediness and ... grime but a glamour" of the PM side. It is very different than the rest of the album, and honestly kind of weird, but that is also what makes the track so captivating. It feels reminiscent of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, which much like this song, is a polarizing album that many likely won't fully get the first time they hear it. "Handstand" is an experimental and psychedelic fantasy, half spoken-word poetry, half spacy techno breakdown. The instrumental is my favorite part of the song, it serves as a great interlude on the album and bridges the gap conceptually. On the end of the spoken-word section, Miley says, "We danced until there was nothing left ... 'cause that's all we knew" which is the perfect segway into the second part of the album, especially the next four songs. 

The first song of the PM side is "River", which feels like an ode to all of the greatest pop stars that have come before her - on her Spotify commentary, she specifically mentions Britney Spears, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan - but I also hear a strong Madonna influence on it too. It is a perfect pop song, I would say one of the best she has made since her Can't Be Tamed days. The chorus and melody are so infectious, and I can see it becoming another big hit for her to follow-up the success of "Flowers". The up-tempo club anthems follow through into "Violet Chemistry", which incorporates some of the trippy production elements present on "Handstand". It feels like it perfectly encapsulates both the grime and glamour that Miley said inspired so much of the second half of the album. 

More of that grit and seediness is sprinkled throughout other parts of the album, which feels very reminiscent of what we heard on Plastic Hearts. There was a glimpse of that influence early on in the album with the fifth track, "You", which is one of Miley's best vocal performances in her entire discography. It showcases the strength in her voice in the same way that "Angels Like You" does, which I would consider to be one of the best songs she has ever made. Miley originally debuted the song live on her 2021/2022 New Year's Eve special, which at the time she said it was so new that she hadn't even recorded it yet at that point. A live version of the song was released in 2022 on her album ATTENTION: Miley Live, but it is interesting that it took over a year for the official studio version to be released. On the song she sings, "I got some baggage, let's do some damage, I am not made for no horsey and carriage". That sentiment carries through later in the album with track 10, "Wildcard", another song that feels very connected thematically to the Plastic Hearts era. On "Wildcard" she sings "and don't wait for me, 'cause forever may never come, I'm a wildcard, loving you is never enough" - to which she sings on "Never Be Me" from Plastic Hearts, "if you're looking for someone to be all that you need, that'll never be me" and "I don't wanna gamble with your heart". 

"Muddy Feet" is a grungy rock song, one that feels like a callback to a lot of the anger and angst of songs like "Gimme What I Want", or "Night Crawling" from Plastic Hearts. The sample of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" is absolutely genius in this, the way it is incorporated into this song is one of my favorite moments of the entire album. "I don't know who the hell you think you're messin' with, get the f*ck out of my house with that shit, get the f*ck out of my life with that shit", she sings in the opening lines. The song also features Sia as a co-writer and on vocal harmonies at the end. I love the studio version of this song, but I can only imagine how amazing it will be when she performs it live!

"Island" is a return to the laid-back sound on the earlier AM part of the album, with a melody that reminds me of Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know", which is subtle, but perhaps intentional since it follows the same lyrical symbolism. On her Backyards Session special, Miley talked about the inspiration for the song, "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?" On the song she repeatedly asks herself, "Am I stranded on an island, or am I living in paradise?" I love the West Coast beach vibe of this song, paired with the sound of waves washing ashore in the background. The bridge is also a beautiful part of the song where she sings, "I hear your voice like a song on the radio". 

The closing song of Endless Summer Vacation is "Wonder Woman", which tells the story of three generations of love and womanhood. "When we started writing the song 'Wonder Woman,' the lyrics felt like too big of a shoe for me to fill. I wrote this song after my mom had lost her mom, and me and my mammy were really close," Miley said on her Backyard Sessions special. "And she’s always just supported me, and my mom and her mom were just really, really close. Me and my mom are really close. You know, this song is about, I guess, that kind of generational strength and the wisdom that my grandma gave to my mom. It was embedded in my DNA, so we almost all feel like just one woman in a way. One wonder woman." This song is such a stand-out moment of her career, it is one of the best she has ever made for so many reasons. It is such a powerful and moving way to close out this album, writing from the perspective of not only herself, but also of her mom and mammy. One of my favorite lyrics from this song is, "When her favorite record's on and she's dancin' in the dark, she can't stop her eyes from wellin' up, she makes sure that no one's 'round to see her fall apart, she wants to be thе one that never doеs". 

To quote "Wonder Woman", Miley is "a million moments" and has lived "a thousand lives". Her authenticity and unwavering pursuit of absolute creative freedom are qualities that shines through in every album she creates, but especially Endless Summer Vacation. This album feels like a testament to her own resilience and a celebration of her creative journey so far. 

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

-Melissa ♡

Photo Credit: Miley Cyrus, Columbia Records, Brianna Capozzi


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