(Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone) “Miley Cyrus’ latest outing does not reach as high as the last, but still hits the notes it needs to in order to deliver a satisfying experience.”
Despite the fact that summer still feels ages away, Miley Cyrus is getting it started early with her new album, “Endless Summer Vacation.” While Cyrus has had a rocky, inconsistent career with just as many misses as hits, she seems to have settled into her groove in the 2020s. “Plastic Hearts” was one of the best albums of 2020, and while “Endless Summer Vacation” does not quite hit the highs of its predecessor, it serves as a worthy follow-up with a strong selection of songs begging to dominate the summer airwaves.
“Endless Summer Vacation” was preceded by the release of “Flowers,” which quickly became one of the biggest hits of Cyrus’ extensive career thus far. While the track is a solid introduction to the sound of the album, “Flowers” struggles to stand out amongst the rest of her output in the 2020s due to its clear intention of becoming a top hit. The rest of the album is much more interesting and noteworthy.
This quickly becomes clear on the second track on the album, “Jaded.” The breezy, slightly rock-tinged song allows her to show off more of her vocal prowess and puts her in a more sonically unique position. The rest of the album sounds much more like “Jaded” than “Flowers,” to its great benefit.
Features on the album include Americana artist Brandi Carlisle on “Thousand Miles” and singer-songwriter Sia on “Muddy Feet,” though both are relegated to backing vocals on their respective tracks. While both of these songs would’ve benefitted from a greater appearance from the featured artists, their presence adds a lot to these songs.
The second single, “River,” also far surpasses the lead. While bound to be divisive due to its central analogy, it is the catchiest song on the album—a critical component of any pop album. It also stands as one of her most interesting singles in years and stands out among a mostly safe tracklist.
The safeness of “Endless Summer Vacation” is its biggest and only flaw. While the entire album is good and much of the album is great, it fails to push the boundaries in the way that Cyrus has built much of her career on. While it does chart a new course for her sonically, it would be even better to see her on the cutting edge of music culture again.
Instead, “Endless Summer Vacation” borrows much of its inspiration from other artists. Much of the album is produced by Harry Styles producer Kid Harpoon, and this influence can be heard throughout, but especially on the lead single “Flowers.” While other songs do not have quite as direct a comparison point to other artists, there is an aura of familiarity permeating much of the album.
Where “Endless Summer Vacation” lacks in edge and originality, it more than makes up for it in execution. It’s hard to fault an album too heavily for playing close to the rulebook when it works this well. The production throughout is wildly engaging, and Cyrus’ vocals soar to new heights throughout. It may not be the extravagant Cyrus of the 2010s or the laser-focused rock star Cyrus of 2020, but “Endless Summer Vacation” is a worthy entry into her canon regardless.