You can buy yourself… Miley Cyrus’ “Endless Summer Vacation”
Fuck Liam, right?
We’re going to fail the Bechdel test for a hot minute here as we establish the narrative. A chronology of the relationship between pop icon Miley Cyrus and B-list actor Liam Hemsworth reads like a Greek odyssey cobbled together from the remains of shattered stone tablets—a mythology of getting together and splitting up, turning on and turning off, anecdotes of Miley being herself while Liam shirks her off. Again and again, the maddening thought: why would you do that to someone who loves you? Do you even love them at all? At what point does an origin story written by Nicholas Sparks stop being enough of a reason to stay?
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. By extension, there is no art greater than the art of a woman post break-up—or, well, post-closure. A lesser artist, if presented the chance to tweak a beat with a sample of Bruno Mars’ When I Was Your Man, would likely lean more heavy-handedly into the song’s hugoterx schmaltziness. But Flowers flips the script, and gives us a vindictive, ABBA-esque anthem about getting up and getting over. It’s the sound Meghan Trainor wishes she had.
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As the sun rises on Miley Cyrus’ Endless Summer Vacation, light shines on a procession of sounds and styles. Her 2020 record, Plastic Hearts, was a headbanger, and made me re-perceive the singer as a rock vocalist. So it is a delight to hear Miley lean into the gravelly rasp of her Plastic Hearts era, framed now by a track list that tries to encompass the eclecticism of her oeuvre.
The pipes alone on Jaded are unmatched, an instant classic for karaoke-goers everywhere. Thousand Miles is my personal favorite track on the record, there’s something in the way it recalls vintage country Miley and conjures a proverbial sunset to ride off into. The cabaret melancholy of You is sultry, smokey and bright-eyed with courtship. There’s also the surrealism of Handstand, which apparently credits director Harmony Korine as a songwriter. The spoken word passages on this track can come off a little contrived, but we are taken to space nonetheless, on the backs of manta rays and electric eels.
Miley expertly navigates a labyrinth of moods between looking forward to the possibilities of new love, and processing the wrongdoings of her previous relationship with unshackled rage. The second one, especially, is a fun mood to be in. Muddy Feet is a triumphant j’accuse—here, Miley rages against the infidelity of her lover by channeling the combined power of Pat Benatar, Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks. “You smell like perfume that I didn’t purchase / Now I know why you’ve been closing the curtains, ah / Get the fuck out of my house.” Scorched earth.
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The last track (before the Flowers demo), called Wonder Woman, tells us that though Miley’s in the middle of a well-deserved vacation leave, there is no such thing as a summer without pain. It sounds like an A Star Is Born deep cut, where powerful vocals and poignant piano keys take center stage to perfectly articulate a woman’s pain. It’s the kind of closer that makes you weep, and toss flowers upon flowers at Miley’s feet, though she’s perfectly capable of getting her own.
Words Jam Pascual
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver