Miley Cyrus is back with another banger. The “Flowers” singer just released her eighth studio album, Endless Summer Vacation, which is full of lyrics alluding to heartbreak, new love, and hopefulness. After the ongoing success of her lead single, fans anticipated more music from Miley and she delivered. One of the more upbeat songs on the album, “River,” is a “dancefloor banger” that the pop culture icon described.
On March 8, she posted a clip from her Backyard Sessions Disney+ special where she breaks down the inspiration behind the track.
Above all, however, Endless Summer Vacation is an apotheosis. After spending the decade following her Disney Channel rise by trying on different styles of popular music, from hip-hop to country-pop to guitar-rock, Cyrus positions her latest full-length as a culmination of her experiences and strengths, with a variety of sonic approaches folded into the mix. Cyrus, one of the more gifted pop artists of her generation, knows exactly who she is, and Endless Summer Vacation reckons with both where she’s been and where she might be headed next.
“Flowers” previewed the ‘70s haze of the album’s overarching pop-rock approach, but Endless Summer Vacation also includes nods to the psychedelica of the Dead Petz era, the sturdy rock of Plastic Hearts and the trap beats of Bangerz, as Cyrus revisits relationships that didn’t work out, peaceful blips that should have lasted longer, and personal truths that have led her to this moment as a fully self-assured 30-year-old. The themes are presented confidently, and the guest list is limited; Brandi Carlile and Sia appear on “Thousand Miles” and “Muddy Feet,” respectively, but their voices are mostly used to buttress Cyrus’ own, which has always been a remarkable instrument but has developed even greater nuance. She sings with purpose throughout the album, imbuing lines that could be delivered in any standard pop track with enough personality to convince the listener that, no, only Miley could sing this.
That’s always been Cyrus’ calling card — there’s no one else in pop music quite like her. And with Endless Summer Vacation, an irreplaceable talent pulls together all of the ideas she’s previously explored into a single, grand statement.
Cyrus has since revived the popular web series: most recently, today, returning to her former TV home Disney (in this case Disney+) for a 42-minute performance special featuring songs off her new album, Endless Summer Vacation, and before that to promote her 2020 album Plastic Hearts.
With the release of the performance series on the streaming platform, let’s look back at Cyrus’ most memorable performances from “The Backyard Sessions” on YouTube.
MTV Unplugged Presents “Sweet Jane” (Cover of Cowboy Junkies’ cover of The Velvet Underground), 2020
The YouTube series took a five-year hiatus, and the first video released when it returned in 2020 was this sinuous cover of a cover: Cyrus is singing the hit Velvet Underground song “Sweet Jane,” but her version is modeled after the hit 1988 cover by New Zealand’s Cowboy Junkies. It’s well-known among her fans that Cyrus loves to show off her extensive rock music knowledge. From a duet with Joan Jett on Plastic Hearts to covering songs like Janis Joplin’s “Maybe” and “Zombie” by the Cranberries, she’s shown she can handle the genre without breaking a sweat. She also knows when to push her vocal range to its absolute limit, as she does during her “Zombie” performance, and when to scale back, as she does on “Sweet Jane.” Cyrus adds her rock-star sheen to the music, and her voice glides across the melody easily. The video also demonstrates the breadth of the audience she has reached with this video series, with one YouTube commenter writing, “I’m over 60. This kid has a cross-generational appeal that’s indisputable. What an incredible talent!!”
Of course, Cyrus doesn’t mention the Hunger Games actor by name; however, her former romance with Hemsworth is objectively the musician’s longest and most well-known public relationship. The two first met in 2009 on set of The Last Song, and dated on and off for the better part of a decade. In 2018, they got married before promptly splitting a few months later in 2019.
The length and rockiness of the former couple’s relationship has led fans to connect much of Cyrus’ new music to Hemsworth, including her Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 Endless Summer Vacation lead single. On “Flowers,” the Hannah Montana star confidently sings about her ability to love herself better than her former partner, believed by many to be Hemsworth, ever could.
There’s also the not-so-subtle fact that Cyrus literally released “Flowers” on Jan. 13 this year, aka Hemsworth’s 33rd birthday. So, there’s that.
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