San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Album Review: Miley Cyrus makes a small splash with ‘Endless Summer Vacation’

Cyrus dropped her newest album, calling herself a “wildcard” and reflecting on her relationships, even within herself
Photo Courtesy of Miley Cyrus’ Instagram
Album cover for “Endless Summer Vacation.”

If anyone has demonstrated their ability to switch it up and change their sound, it’s Miley Cyrus. She’s done it all, from music associated with “Hannah Montana,” to covers of Madonna and a rock album titled “Plastic Hearts.” 

Now, Cyrus is changing course again after a three-year album hiatus, not including her live album, “Attention: Miley Live,” which included mostly covers and older works. Instead of sticking to her Blondie-esque persona that she cultivated back in 2020, Cyrus chose everything at once with her March 10 release.  

Cyrus released “Flowers,” the first single for her first album with Columbia Records, on Jan. 12 in the United States. She revealed the upcoming single while she hosted her NBC live special, “Miley’s New Year Eve Party,” by showing a snippet of Cyrus in a metallic gold dress, sunglasses and the title of the song. 

The single’s international release coincided with her ex-husband’s birthday, detailing their split behind catchy phrases like “I can hold my own hand…I can love me better than you can.” Since this critically-acclaimed pop hit, which still clings to the top of the charts three months later, fans have been anticipating the album.

Now, fans may be surprised by the album as a whole, which Cyrus divided into two halves – coining it the “a.m.” and the “p.m.” – to separate the “energy” and “the potential of new possibilities” in the morning, and the “slinky seediness” and “grime, but glamor” of the night, according to an interview that is featured on the Disney+ film to accompany the album’s release. 

However, the switch halfway through the record makes the entire body of work seem completely different from that initial single by progressing through pop genres (including similar beats to synth-pop), electronic music and acoustics – and after the first listen, the album is still complicated. 

The album starts with “Flowers” and “Jaded,” two songs that convey the trials and tribulations of failed romantic relationships. Both manage to express beautiful sentiments in the wake of a breakup, with “Jaded” capturing a somber, raw reality in this 43-minute record. 

Cyrus is able to capture the emotional experience without discarding the catchy lyrics that fans will sing at the tops of their lungs, because there’s always “I’m sorry that you’re jaded” to scream outside the car window. 

The third track, “Rose Colored Lenses,” makes perfect sense for the “a.m.” theme that Cyrus wanted to capture. The dreamy love song contains optimism and a “floating-on-clouds” attitude about a romantic relationship. This makes sense for producers Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson, who worked on Harry Styles’ recent album, “Harry’s House.” At any rate, there’s “energy” to the relationship and to the melody, which is why it works as a contrast to the latter half of the record.  

The switch to “p.m.” is the sixth track, “Handstand,” which starts with a bizarre voiceover from Cyrus. The song is more reminiscent of Gwen Stefani’s “Love.Angel.Music.Baby” than the earlier songs in Cyrus’ own album. The monotone voice is jarring, especially when it’s coupled with sexual lyrics and moans in front of an electronic beat. 

At any rate, “Handstand” starts the ball rolling for the rest of the moody, modern tracks, like the newest single, “River,” along with “Violet Chemistry” and “Wildcard.” 

The ninth track, “Muddy Feet,” is the emotional crux of the album. Cyrus places blame for a failed relationship, screaming at an ex to get out of her house, and alluding to cheating. This song completely deviates from the upbeat, female-empowered “Flowers.” Instead, Cyrus uses her raspy voice to convey that she’s not taking the high road anymore, and getting to the grit that we were promised.

The only song that reminds the audience of the album’s title is the eleventh track, “Island,” which pairs relaxed lyrical stylings and a stereotypically tropical melody. It’s the anomaly within this body of work, and unfortunately, it misses the mark. Although it provides an extra layer to peel back by focusing on Cyrus’ relationship with her current self, listening to Cyrus repeat “am I stranded on an island? Or have I landed in paradise?” is more like a chanted mantra during this, supposedly, “grimey” half of the album.  

After “Island,” the album never looks back at the electronic sound that Cyrus established. Instead, the two acoustic finales are a total U-turn from the “a.m.” pop genre and the “p.m.” electronic genre. Miley Cyrus is a wildcard, as she sings, so fans cannot expect anything else.

Overall, the album is a grower, but it has flaws. If this album is supposed to be an “Endless Summer Vacation,” it’s more like going on vacation with your ex because you booked the flights two months ago, accidentally showing up at a rave and ending with everyone crying in the club. 

The first listen is a constant whiplash between genres, and the two faint background vocal features from Brandi Carlile and Sia don’t add much to the record, which has the audience questioning: why are they on the album at all? 

In spite of that, there are standouts that push through during the second listen and beyond.  Cyrus showcases her versatility throughout the record, all while intertwining impactful themes of the highs and lows of romantic relationships, the relationship of self and familial relationships. 

Clearly, Cyrus is maturing her sound. At 30 years old, she’s setting the tone for what’s to come, and she’s not looking for approval from anyone. 

In other words, she’s just being Miley.

About the Contributor
Madison McGill
Madison McGill, Staff Writer
Madison McGill (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year journalism major from San Diego, California. Madison started out at The Daily Aztec in the Arts & Culture section writing album reviews, but she quickly discovered her love for covering campus news and her all-consuming opinions. Currently, she’s writing about fashion and beauty for an online magazine called Vanity Stories. When she’s not researching and interviewing for her newest work, Madison loves to dance around to music from her niche playlists and watch way too many films.
Activate Search
San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Album Review: Miley Cyrus makes a small splash with ‘Endless Summer Vacation’