“Review: Miley Cyrus’ ‘Endless Summer Vacation’ Falls Short of Expectations”
Final Grade: 7/10
“Endless Summer Vacation” consists of 12 tracks.
Ahlgrim: “Endless Summer Vacation” starts off incredibly strong. Following the No. 1 global smash “Flowers,” Cyrus delivers a seven-song run of bold and polished brilliance, no song sounding quite like another.
Her versatility shines in the first half of this tracklist, gliding from pop to country, then R&B to experimental alien music, just before transforming into a pre-Y2K club diva. Despite Cyrus’ shape-shifting abilities, it all sounds cohesive.
But after “Violet Chemistry,” this momentum drops off dramatically. Cyrus loses steam in the “p.m.” portion, exactly when I expected her to kick it up a notch. “Muddy Feet” is a miss, “Wildcard” is a snooze, and “Wonder Woman” should’ve been left on the cutting-room floor.
Overall, “Endless Summer Vacation” is still a triumph for Cyrus with many more gems than duds. And to be fair, as she proved with “Plastic Hearts,” she has earned the right to do whatever she wants.
At its core, “Endless Summer Vacation” is an album about evolution. Cyrus seems to collect nuggets of maturity and self-sufficiency at the end of every twist and turn, like gold coins in a video game. There may be side quests — bosses to defeat and princesses to save — but at the end of the day, the title screen bears her name. Even when it seems like Cyrus is addressing a lover or an ex in a song, she is always the star. Her needs come first.
That’s an admirable place to be, and it’s clear that she only got here through hard emotional labor. Cyrus spends much of this tracklist confronting her past — and she comes out of the fray relatively unscathed, battle-worn but still standing, holding hands with all her old selves.
Larocca: The concept of splitting the album into two segments — “a.m.” and “p.m.” — may have been smart in theory, but in practice, it led to an unbalanced listening experience.
Cyrus’ clarity and sense of self are strongest on the morning songs — barring “Handstand,” every track on the early side is a precious new gem within Cyrus’ growing discography. “Rose Colored Lenses” and “Jaded” are especially stunning, exhibiting the very best of what Cyrus has to offer. And “Flowers,” of course, is a bona fide hit.
But by front-loading all her best tracks, Cyrus tires out as she heads into the night, which makes me wonder if her questionable taste on “Muddy Feet, “Island,” and “Wonder Woman” could’ve developed out of delirium and sleep deprivation.
That’s not to say the night is a complete wash, though. “River” is one of the sickest tracks here and already a major highlight within Cyrus’ larger catalog, and “Violet Chemistry” is intoxicating. I just wish the night didn’t die after she left the club — what happened to staying awhile?
But overall, this album contains a lot of what I’d want from a Miley Cyrus album: spunk, spice, incredible vocals, and that classic juxtaposition of being a free spirit who struggles with wanting to give in wholly to another.
Cyrus expertly navigates her inner conflict of asserting her self-sufficiency versus submitting to her codependent tendencies with a sharp pen, strong attention to detail, and several pulsing beats. She may not always get the balance right, but after all, she doesn’t really care or have time for what went wrong — she’ll just keep holding on like a rolling stone.
Worth listening to:
“Rose Colored Lenses”
“Thousand Miles (featuring Brandi Carlile)”
*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for “Worth listening to,” .5 for “Background music,” .5 for “Split decision,” 0 for “Press skip”).
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