Miley Cyrus' eighth studio album, Endless Summer Vacation, has arrived, following the fanfare of her lead single Flowers. For those of you who are TikTok users, Cyrus' chart-topping, woman-empowering anthem may seem inescapable, but we wanted to know how the rest of Cyrus' latest record compared. Does ESV provide a welcome vacation for listeners, or were we begging for the summer to end? Our writers share their thoughts...
Still distinctive and evolving, Miley Cyrus is once again bold on Endless Summer Vacation, her 8th studio album, a record which very nearly finds its target.
Whilst Cyrus’ philosophy and mystique remain as she intriguingly splits the album into AM/PM tracks, her visualisation of Los Angeles is frustratingly interrupted by heartbreak odes - when would pop music ever leave such a topic? Thus, we are returned to only an attempt at uniqueness. It’s not achieved, but just fine for your listening pleasure.
I’ve an admiration for Cyrus. For all the past and present fanfare (neither interest me), it’s her dance akin to Joni Mitchell or Stevie Nicks’ sound keeping me invested in these songs. Like Mitchell and Nicks, there’s a poignancy running through Cyrus’ veins, and any ballad she sings proves it, her commentaries on love carried by that smoky voice cuddle you with realism.
The initial groove of summer soul stands out in ESV (two seasons early on the release, I might add – it’s March and freezing), a vibe I assumed Cyrus would sustain throughout the album as she paints LA. 'Flowers' is a jam of an opener, reminding me of Jessie Ware, Cyrus’ chorus is nightclub-ready and, narratively, this track embodies the album’s message: either live in a daze or go forward and don’t look back.
What follows: against a surreally blissful hum, the anthem Jaded, a burst of regret and what-could-have-been (I adored, “I’ll change your number, keep your t-shirt.”) Then there’s my favourite, 'Rose Coloured Lenses', the most evocative of LA, is a cruise down a long, windy road you don’t want to ever halt your car on. It is in the instrumental crescendo that poignancy is found – life overwhelms, and Cyrus orchestrating that image is just awesome. Brandi Carlisle jumping on 'Thousand Miles' is terrific, further calling to navigate roundabouts and head north. Four tracks in and we’ve a strong first act – the later 'Wildcard' disorientating us further.
I mentioned confused choices up top, however – these are found as Cyrus wheels around in circles too cliched ('You'), or retreats into her recreation of 80s noise ('Violet Chemistry' and 'Handstand', that one’s sexually-underscored lyrics pausing incredibly for musical improv). What these add to an album apparently seeking to paint central South California, I’m unsure.
It’s 'Island' which steers us back on track, a small irony as this feels most paean to accepting that you’re deserted. As ever, though, with my criteria for tracks and albums, where clarity appears, greatness can be found (I do love the last touch to Island, too – the sound of waves.)
The album closes with 'Wonder Woman' – specific and earnest. Credit to Cyrus: for all confusion, she sure knows how to screech sincerity and make it applaudable.
So, ESV: clearly a mixed bag of gems. Its strength and weakness is losing us: our ears immersed in its random drive to nowhere, but also muddled in the content picks.
It will do.
The dust has settled and people everywhere, heartbroken or not, are still recovering from Miley Cyrus’ devastating impact. I am in a happy, healthy relationship, yet she had me telling my partner I can hold my own hand and have way better conversations with myself instead! And it wasn’t just me drawn in by the strength of Miley’s influence - I know several people (in relationships!) that have bought a £20 bunch of flowers just to let their partner know they don’t need them to do it. The power she holds is incredible.
Like most people my age, I am a long time Miley stan. Our relationship precedes the existence of on-demand TV, dating back to Season 1 Episode 1 of Hannah Montana, when I had to sprint home from school to make sure I didn’t miss the beginning of the episode. I genuinely believe she wrote her 2019 hit 'Slide Away' for me (and for me ONLY). I feel as if we have grown up together, almost as if she was a childhood best friend, whilst at times we may stray, I am always rooting for her.
Across her career Miley has established an insane talent and wide vocal range, so going into this album I already knew she would deliver an amazing vocal performance. Throughout the years I have seen so many sides of Miley, and this album felt like a coming together of all those moments. The influence of Miley’s country origins shine through, accompanied and complemented by her musical experimentation throughout her time in the industry. Rose 'Colored Lenses' evokes feelings of summer nostalgia, and would perfectly soundtrack an American road trip when you’re young, dumb, and in love. Meanwhile 'Violet Chemistry' would be a seamless addition to any summer party playlist.
There are a couple of other party bangers on the track list, but the next time I am in a club and they play 'River', I will go absolutely feral. That song was made to be grooved to on a sticky dancefloor. As is classic Miley though, she does give us a few raw and meaningful ballads that, once again, perfectly exemplify her brilliant voice. 'Wildcard' is a personal favourite. Not only do most Miley fans understand what this is in reference to, but this is a feeling that is all too familiar to a lot of people, especially women. Being told you’re simultaneously too much, whilst (also, somehow) not enough, is all too common. It feels good to know that it’s not just regular gals like you and me - Miley gets it too.
'Wonder Woman' is another perfect example of one of these raw emotional displays, and is an extremely powerful song to end the album on. It’s a beautiful reminder that behind the amazingly successful and seemingly strong Miley Cyrus, is an emotional human being, and that even the best of us cry when we are alone.
I will admit not every song on the album is a bop for me personally, but those that were really did slap. I don’t think any of the songs on this album resonate with me as much as 'Malibu' and 'Slide Away' did but, as I said earlier, I will always be a Miley stan and this album is just another example of how brilliant she is.
I don’t know about you, but Endless Summer Vacation has certainly impressed me. Dreamy, sultry, and emotive – there’s no doubt about it, Miley has always been good at producing a bop. She first teased us with ‘Flowers’, which is not only a mature “fuck you” to her ex Liam Hemsworth, but a heartfelt and warm introduction to an album for all the singles that refuse to crumble in their singleness.
It was audaciously hilarious that the song’s release was planned to coincide with Hemsworth’s birthday. Considering that infamous video of him mouthing to Miley ‘can you just be normal for a second’ at a red carpet event, Miley’s anti-response to Bruno Mars’ ‘When I Was Your Man’ was a wonderful way to make clear her priorities of self-love and evolution.
However, humour aside, there was also a lot of vulnerability and depth to this album. The lyrics complemented the casual spring vibes whilst also delivering a clear narrative: to celebrate the bliss of single life with a childlike excitement to love again and further self-discovery. I definitely felt the summery vigour in Miley’s music as I listened, genuinely feeling like I was melting peacefully in a pool with a sangria in hand. It’s certainly very different to her last album, Plastic Hearts, which gave us a hardcore punk-rock-country fusion, courtesy of Miley’s raspy, loud vocals. In Endless Summer Vacation the sprinkle of country remains ever-present, but this time she delivers it with wistful vocals that bring out a feeling of tranquil numbness, which I especially felt in ‘Violet Chemistry’ and ‘Rose Colored Lenses’. In contrast, I loved ‘River’ as it brings a more upbeat tune that still manages to seamlessly blends with the rest of the album and makes you want to keep “dancing on your own” like Robyn! ‘Muddy’ was another favourite, it pulled me back to the punk rock persona of Plastic Hearts-era Miley. In spite of the piano sample from Demi Lovato’s ‘Cool for the Summer’, it is, lyrically speaking, very hardcore.
Each song features smooth transitions, the titles young and fresh. There’s plenty of lexicon surrounding all things nature, which felt simple yet fun. Not sure if this is just me, but I also felt a psychedelic ambience with the rhythm, which isn’t something I would have expected from Miley. It served as a nice reminder of Miley’s malleability when it comes to adapting different genres. What remains throughout, though, is the emotive and powerful nature of her lyrics. ‘Jaded’ and ‘Wildcard’, for instance, are definitely songs to be belted out whilst driving in the rain, haha!
So, would I recommend this album? Absolutely! Whether you’re here for ballads with grit and nostalgia, or smooth yet hearty dance tunes, this album is for you! It comes at a great time, with summer just around the corner, there’s no reason to hesitate – give it a listen!
Edited by Florence Strang Boon.