Miley Cyrus Comes Full Circle on ‘Younger Now’

Miley Cyrus Comes Full Circle on ‘Younger Now’

Younger Now marks at once a return to her roots and a full-fledged dive into lightly charted territory.

Younger Now marks at once a return to her roots and a full-fledged dive into lightly charted territory.

Text: Jake Viswanath

Another day, another Miley. Well, that’s not how the saying actually goes, but at this point, it may as well be. Out of the mid-00s era of Disney popstars, Miley Cyrus has emerged as the most transformative, earning a polarizing chameleon-like reputation not dissimilar to the Queen of Pop herself, Madonna. And as unlikely as it may seem, her new album Younger Now proves why she’s the closest we’ve got to Madonna out of all her peers — not because they’re all that alike, but due to their common refusal to let others dictate what they do.

As singled by the title track and lead single “Malibu,” Younger Now marks at once a return to her roots and a full-fledged dive into lightly charted territory. Her Nashville twang that unifies her otherwise vastly diverse repertoire was the starting point for this record, a folksy-pop work that delves into her country side more than ever before. These songs were tailor-made for her deep tones and raspy high notes rather than vice versa, her voice sounding more crisp and versatile than ever. It perhaps shines most on quieter acoustic numbers like “I Would Die For You” and “She’s Not Him,” where she beautifully addresses her pansexuality but commits loyalty to her current male beau (you know who). Just because she reclaimed her country roots doesn’t mean she lost her progressive values.

Her biggest country indulgences come in the form of highlights “Miss You So Much,” a sprawling emotional opus with steel guitar, fragile vocals, and dramatic buildups that slightly evoke Taylor’s “All Too Well” (sans scarf), and the sickly sweet and bouncy “Rainbowland,” where she dreams up a world of peace and color with godmother and country legend Dolly Parton across a fast-paced bluegrass strum. Miley’s still the star of the show, but Dolly’s adorable voicemails are the undeniable best moments.

Despite her embracing her country roots, little miss Miley hasn’t lost her pop leanings at all. She coins one of the catchiest choruses of her career with “Thinkin’,” a groovy slice of guitar-driven bubblegum that could’ve slid onto Hilary Duff’s debut, and harks back to her pop-rock days on stomper “Bad Mood,” complete with soaring hooks and a tribal-lite campfire roar. Her Bangerz era can be heard (somewhat) on “Love Someone,” a deliciously bitter and hypnotic breakup anthem, while the psychedelic touches that permeated Dead Petz are all present, the soothing vocoder-ed notes and her searingly raw stream-of-consciousness lyrics being used to great effect. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but her sheer honesty and tendency to ramble with melodies is endearing.

While there’s nothing as ridiculously fun as “SMS (Bangerz)” or downright shocking as “BB Talk” here, Miley managed to create her most consistent and cohesive album yet. A little underwhelming for those who’ve become accustomed to her antics? Perhaps. But the warmth and familiarity of Younger Now is comforting at this scary moment in the world, something that will only become more evident in time. She seems right at home today, its slim 11-track frame signaling a self-assuredness in what she’s creating, especially given how Dead Petz has more than double the tracks.

But don’t mistake her confidence as the real Miley. No one expected the psychedelia of Dead Petz to follow the groovy urban-pop of Bangerz, and no one asked her to swerve 180 degrees to a more wholesome sound on Younger Now, yet here we are. And we’re likely to find her in a totally different world next time around. If Madonna is the queen of re-invention (no one’s taking her Queen of Pop title), then Miley is next in line for the throne. They always create the art they want to make in the moment, only following trends if they like them. “Change is a thing you can count on,” she yearns on the gorgeous title track, and while it fits as a comforting mantra for the world, it seems to be Miley’s mission statement now. Take it or leave it — you can decide for yourself each era.

Younger Now is out now. Stream the record below.

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