Remember when Miley Cyrus hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2013 and said Hannah Montana was dead? It’s only been four years since the funeral, but Miley Montana is back, and the results really could go two ways.
Last Friday brought the release of Cyrus’ new album, “Younger Now.” If you were a fan of her last two albums, “Bangerz” and “Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz,” “Younger Now” won’t be your favorite. However, fans of country-pop might really enjoy her new sound, which might be the strangest thing about this album.
The first two singles, “Malibu” and “Younger Now,” feel like Cyrus’ appeal to the rest of the world to forget that whole twerking thing. They’re nice songs, but both are a little unsettling because of who’s singing them. Cyrus tries too hard throughout this entire album to align herself with the Nashville scene, and she forgets millions of people watched her grind on a foam finger on the VMAs stage.
There is nothing wrong with evolving as an artist, but “Younger Now” feels more like a cataclysmic event engineered by a marketing department in which Cyrus kills off her twerking teddy bears and marijuana-laden fashion choices.
Before listening to “Younger Now,” people need to decide if they like Cyrus’ vocals. The instrumental accompaniment on most of her songs is so beautifully simplistic that it’s really enjoyable on its own. But most importantly, unlike her past two albums, it isn’t loud enough to cover her vocals. “Younger Now” presents songs in which the listener can actually hear what the singer is saying. Revolutionary.
“Week Without You” might not be a favorite at first listen, but the smooth vocals and back beat really do grow on you. The chorus isn’t overly repetitive, and the electric guitar brings some surprising funk. The deepness of Cyrus’ voice makes this song a real keeper. It might not win on the first listen, but hit replay and try not to sway.
The vocals on “Miss You so Much” feature the clearest twang on the whole album and really feel like a modern June Carter ballad. Cyrus’ vocals, instead of overpowering the music, dance a duet with it for almost five minutes. This is one of the standout songs on the album. “She’s Not Him” is another example of a track with very cohesive vocals and instrumentation.
“I Would Die for You” is overly sappy and dramatic — a love song written by a lovesick preteen. The depth of Cyrus’ voice almost saves it, though. Gliding up and down octaves, her voice is too good for the lyrics. “Inspired” is another song that commits too hard on the cliches.
“Thinkin’” is a real jam, in large part because of the incredible chorus of Cyrus’ very poppy vocals and the beat-heavy instrumentation. The song’s intro is annoying, and the need to add country flair to a song that doesn’t need it really detracts from the whole. This is a really entertaining song, in part.
“Love Someone” and “Bad Mood” provide much more interesting combinations of country-like vocals driven by heavy beats. With these songs, it really feels like she’s creating something new instead of merely imitating other genres.
Cyrus’ duet with Dolly Parton on “Rainbowland” gives Parton as much vocal weight as a talented backup singer. She and Cyrus pretty much sing the entire song together, but Cyrus’ vocals are so much louder than Parton’s that her distinctive twang can barely be heard apart from her brief solos. One would think Cyrus would give more weight to one of the greatest country singers ever, but like white chocolate cake pops, some things never will make sense.
Cyrus, as an artist, can feel dishonest or maybe just disappointing. What she stands for has changed drastically in the four years since “Bangerz,” so it’s hard to really know who she is. “Younger Now” tries its hardest to convince the listener that Cyrus really isn’t the Los Angeles socialite one may have seen on Instagram these past several years. Maybe this album presents a new concept in that listeners will enjoy it most when they forget who’s singing it.
Overall, this album overall represents major growth for Cyrus, and any growth can be uncomfortable to experience. Enjoy this album for what it is and thank Cyrus, whoever she may be, for taking the time to write it. For a Miley Cyrus novice or an established fan, “Younger Now” still brings plenty of surprises.