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Miley Cyrus, Endless Summer Vacation Album Review: “A Triumphant Return to Pure, Unadulterated Pop”

By Dylan Mann-Hazell

Miley Cyrus makes a triumphant return to pure, unadulterated pop in the new aptly named record, Endless Summer Vacation. Though it may be snowing throughout the UK at the time of the album’s release, the weather does nothing to impede the unwavering summery energy this project evokes from start to finish. With brand-new collaborations for the artist, as well as the return of a few familiar faces, Cyrus’ eighth studio album might just be her most consistent yet.

With the release of the immensely successful single Flowers, the pansexual pop star announced her return to the pop world after a few years dabbling in her early roots of rock and country. Though these records were well-received, particularly the 80s-inspired pop-rock project Plastic Hearts, they didn’t quite reach the recent heights of this album’s lead single. Flowers became the self-love anthem of 2023, as a deliberate inverse of Bruno Mars’ romance-fueled song When I Was Your Man, with lyrics empowering living the single life. The track broke records as Spotify’s most streamed song in a single week and peaked at number 1 in the charts in over 35 countries. As such, the subsequent album has inevitably high expectations. The question is – has she delivered?

The short answer is: Yes. Endless Summer Vacation takes all of Cyrus’ strengths as a vocalist, writer and performer and shows off every inch of them. From genre to genre, topic to topic, the album covers a fantastic range of sounds and emotions. Rose Colored Lenses name drops the album title, and its warm and relaxing melody shows why - it’s the perfect sunbathing song. Fans of pure dance-pop will be thrilled with the addition of River, the newest single from the record, which will undoubtedly find its way into all the gay clubs this summer. You slows things down a notch with a waltz-esque ballad detailing the rush received from an unattached relationship; “I got some baggage, let’s do some damage,” she implores. Handstand is the most experimental track, evoking an interesting mix of Lana Del Rey, Grimes, and – quite bizarrely – dubstep inspired sounds. And while the pop-rock track Jaded might sound like it's from the final act of a 2000s Disney movie, that just makes it all the more charming. It feels like there’s something for everyone to love.

The collaborative tracks make for a pleasant change of pace, too. Lesbian rockstar Brandi Carlisle features on the cozy track Thousand Miles, complementing Cyrus’ voice beautifully. This track also marks the return of producer Mike Will Made It, who previously produced the pop star’s hip-hop inspired 2013 record Bangerz. Though this track is a stark contrast to the gritty pop from that era, their second collaboration on this record Violet Chemistry brings back the heavy synths for a track that is surely single material. Possibly the strongest track on the record, this innovative sound works perfectly for the renowned powerhouse vocals of Miley Cyrus, providing listeners with pure pop perfection.

Deep and personal topics are focused on in the album’s closing tracks, Island and Wonder Woman. The former follows Cyrus’ feelings of isolation due to her worldwide fame, as she questions whether her celebrity status has allowed her to thrive or has left her feeling lonelier than ever, asking “Am I stranded on an island, or have I landed in paradise?”. The beautifully intense power ballad Wonder Woman makes for the most meaningful track, with bold lyrics reflecting on Cyrus’ grief following the loss of her grandmother. It’s easily the strongest outing for Cyrus vocally, with gut-wrenching emotion pouring straight out of the singer’s heart.

Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that the weather isn’t quite ready to match the warm, flowery vibes Endless Summer Vacation evokes – it gives listeners plenty of time to learn all the words and belt them passionately driving in their cars on a hot summer’s day. Flowers may have been the song of this winter, but Endless Summer Vacation promises an infinity of exhilaration.

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