Miley Cyrus has excelled whenever she attempts new and refreshing within the pop landscape, even if it doesn’t all translate. It’s been that way since her fantastic pop record, Bangerz, continuing through subsequent albums and an EP. Whether it’s the electronic thrill of She Is Coming, island-country-pop vibes from Younger Now, or electro-pop-punk complexions on Plastic Hearts, Miley Cyrus continued to shine during the highs. She finds new ways to create with different styles, like the lavish dance-punk-pop “Night Crawling” off Plastic Hearts. It continues with Endless Summer Vacation, her latest release; we hear Cyrus continuing to try a different aesthetic to Disco/Dance elements of her last album, where it lives more to a summer vibe instead of night club bangers. The distinct style guides you via luscious production, buoyed by the eccentric guitar and percussion layers, keeping the sequencing of tracks focused and on a direct line of listenable consistency. Unfortunately, the songwriting doesn’t match the potency of the varying sounds, feeling more consistent with the choruses and melody structures.
Endless Summer Vacation starts on a high, diluting the Post-Disco influence we heard potently on Plastic Hearts with more lax Dance-Pop/Disco elements like on “Flowers.” It’s a good song that delivers an uninteresting production that maneuvers typical pop angles and solid verses and a vibrant catchy chorus to keep it afloat; it’s after where you get a significant run of tracks eclipsing beyond standard pop tunes. The overhead drives home the strength of the many songs in the first half, like the production, like “Rose Colored Lenses” or “Handstand.” They bring this electrifying energy contrasting the more summery and slightly bubbly “Flowers.” It’s like Cyrus dipped the former tracks into a rejuvenation chamber, only bringing them out after getting supercharged with luscious synths. It gets boasted by Miley Cyrus’ consistent performances that keep the focus high, even when the writing can sometimes be bland, like with “Muddy Feet” and “Wildcard.” They contrast each other thematically, wherein one speaks about wanting love, despite being a wildcard; the other focuses on cheating within a relationship – their attempts at creating analogies and metaphors don’t come as strong, and you’d prefer the more direct approach.
It all gets boasted by Miley Cyrus’ consistent performances that keep the focus high, even when the writing can sometimes be bland, like with “Muddy Feet” and “Wildcard.” They contrast each other thematically, wherein one speaks about wanting love, despite being a wildcard; the other focuses on cheating within a relationship – their attempts at creating analogies and metaphors don’t come as strong, and you’d prefer the more direct approach. Bibi Bourelly, Sara Aarons, or Justin Tranter can’t add much to the depth, leaving much to keeping a sensational chorus to boast the emotional importance of Miley Cyrus’ performances. Her vocals triumphantly glide through the sounds, which never taper off while bringing a smooth cadence through the melodies and harmonies. It helps keep the transitions clean and afloat.
When it transitions to a more pop-country/folkish “Thousand Miles” from a more synth-pop-heavy “Rose Colored Lenses,” you hear the smoothness by playing with the levels of specific instruments. It’s got me hooked despite these moments of her directness to themes of regret and optimism. With various producers, it can be hard to find balance on an album, especially when it tries to incorporate different styles, like when the pop-rock cadence of “You” after “Thousand Miles” before eventually rearing back into the electric “Handstand.” The consistent tonal rhythm, where it doesn’t stray too far from what it wants to be. But what these producers bring keeps you engaged throughout by bringing something new to the table. Past producers like Mike-Will-Made-It, a recurring producer since her Bangerz days, carry the right touch with the percussion on “Thousand Miles,” “Violet Chemistry,” and synths on “Muddy Feet,” becoming a driving force for their greatness.
Despite many tracks having various producers, there are two instances where producers tackle productions individually, like Maxx Morondo on “Handstand” or BJ Burton on “Island.” They get enveloped in aesthetics without teetering far from the center. “Island” is a beautiful antithesis to the more mundane “Flowers,” as it lets its tropical influence become a base layer, while Cyrus and the drums keep the subtle flow intact. “Handstand” brings a lot of synth-wave elements, maintaining a vibrant atmosphere to coat Cyrus’ vocals and the fantastic synths and glitchiness between verses. However, all the producers seamlessly create productions that have synergy. Not all, but some bleed out of their comfort zone – it’s ever so rare you’ll hear an artist like Brandi Carlisle singing over Mike-Will-Made-It drums. Predominantly produced by Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson of Harry’s House, they balance between styles, where the summery aesthetic becomes more of a plus and less so the goal, especially with the predictable but great piano ballad to close Endless Summer Vacation.
Miley Cyrus brings a quick breath of fresh air that isn’t poised to make you second guess, but as it replays in your head, some of its weakness become more glaring. It can turn decent songs into forgettable moments in the tracklist. Hindering what could be a seamless pop album drags a little near the end, but that significant high with “Island” and “Wonder Woman” as closers are beyond fantastic. Definitely give this a spin, even if it’s lesser than her last album, Plastic Hearts.