Genre: Experimental/Psychedelic Pop
Producer: Miley Cyrus, The Flaming Lips, Oren Yoel
Released: August 30, 2015
During the last few years, Miley Cyrus has become known for her various publicity stunts as the textbook example of the less dignified route to take when you want to distance yourself from your old Disney Channel image. But for all the twerking, substance abuse and naked wrecking ball riding she has done, her ‘shocking’ antics have never reached her music, which has been as stale and bland as chart fodder gets.
But now, for the first time, her stunts actually relate to the music she makes. First, she released the album available for free streaming with no prior advertising. Second, it was made in collaboration with The Flaming Lips, an experimental band known for such antics as releasing their music encased in edible gummy fetuses and real human skulls, as well as interesting musical projects as the 24-hour long song “7 Skies H3” and “Two Blobs Fucking”, a composition meant to be played via Youtube with 12 different smartphones simultaneously. Naturally, I was intrigued; maybe the two extremes could meet in halfway and form some sort of beautiful amalgamation between over the top psychedelia and pop sensibilities?
Soundwise, the combination works exactly as I presumed: Cyrus’s blander material is elevated by the creativity of the ‘Lips, while she keeps the bands’ ideas closer to Earth so even an average pop listener can get something out of it without the help of acid or magic mushrooms. The musical style is a hybrid of the Lips’ psychedelic, distorted drone and Cyrus’s modern dance pop, with both styles complimenting each other: the noise aesthetic drowns out the most grating aspects of Cyrus’s chipmunk-like voice, while her contributions to the songwriting keep the songs from slipping into the subliminal abyss of noise most recent ‘Lips recordings have drifted into. However, it seems like that the band has had more leverage in the making than Cyrus, as the end result is reminiscent of the bittersweet and dreamy Flaming Lips material of early 2000’s, with some MØ-like electronics thrown in.
This is not always a good thing. While some numbers, like the sombre “Karen Don’t Be Sad” or the hammering “1 Sun” work well, many of the songs are trainwrecks of various (half-)baked ideas; for example the opener “Dooo It!” seems to have about five different vocal tracks, all of them seemingly in different time signatures. Often Cyrus sings in a way that sounds like she’s trying to imitate completely wasted Lana Del Rey, and given that the lyrics center only about drugs, her being wasted is probably the best case scenario. Apparently not a single record label personnel heard the album prior its release, and it can be heard: the album could have also used some serious trimming and editing: now the whole thing is over hour and a half long. Which is a shame really, as with some outsider perspective this overly long, bloated mess could have been refined into something good.
The cover image sums up the album perfectly; it could have been something pretty, colourful and shiny, but it slightly missed its mark and ended up an ugly mess. However, on a principal level I have to give the album a thumbs up: the internet has made possible a situation where artist of Cyrus’s caliber can release such an uncommercial album, completely without any kind of control from the record labels, and yet doesn’t have to be afraid of running her career into the ground. And that is always a positive thing.