Miley Cyrus does not hold back; her glittery new album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, explodes with her exclaiming “yeah I smoke pot”. The 23 track album continues lyrically in this self-indulgent vein, about her dreams, what she wants in the bedroom, her love of getting high and of course, her dead pets.
In pop culture today Cyrus undeniably represents total inhibited self-expression. Released for free through Soundcloud, Cyrus clearly does not care if it is an in-cohesive and unmarketable body of work- which it is. It is a self absorbed work of passion. But, I’ve tried to listen to the album as a separation from its nauseating launch at the VMAs and its equally as nauseating album art and have discovered that despite its vulgar surface, the album does have some really beautiful moments.
The standout song is the timeless ‘Karen Don’t Be Sad’: it is stripped back, sweetly sung and utterly human. She simply and emotionally sings directly to “Karen” in a welcomed departure from her otherwise relentless promotion of marijuana. It is certainly a far cry from the rest of the album, especially the thumping opening track ‘Doooo It!’, an explosion of digital noise and profanity. Another beautiful song is ‘Miley Tibetan Bowlzzzz’ which, as just one note crooned like a prayer song over beautiful orchestral swells, I cannot fault. But what is it doing on this album?
For me the album reads like a secondary school science experiment: unpolished, confused with certainly no definitive conclusion. It jumps from ballads about a dead dog, to songs with just her voice and a piano crying about a blowfish “she never met”, and then to the graphic sex and thumping bass we saw in her previous album Bangerz and all of which are sandwiched between filler songs of ambient but unaffecting electronica. In ‘BB Talk’ she discusses emojis. ‘Im So Drunk’ is 0:47 seconds of robotic noise in which she sings “can’t even explain what I feel right now”; well I can Miley, and at this point, it’s exasperated.
The Tame Impala sound of psychedelic pop is there- ‘Space Boots’ is particularly cosmic and melancholic, as is ‘Evil Is But A Shadow’ and ‘Tiger Dreams’ featuring Ariel Pink with their swelling synths and relentless reverb. But for all their extraterrestrial instrumentals, these tracks lack any memorable melody. It’s not painful listening, it is far from it. She successfully creates a stoners’ ambience and admittedly, the odd track doesn’t do badly in a psychedelic pop playlist but as a 23 song repertoire, I found it to be an exhausting wall of sound. For me the problem with the album is that I don’t find it deep or affecting. I find the mismatch of genres and noise not even disorientating enough to care, it is just a jumble of ridiculous, unmemorable songs. But I am happy to say that overall the album is not as painful as I expected, and she showcases her voice well.
It is a self indulgent project, making music that she loves on her own music label, and although it didn’t impress me, I like that she probably does not care. She clearly had a good time getting high and making it.
Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is out now via Smiley Miley records.