Perhaps Miley Cyrus can be tamed. “Younger Now,” Cyrus’ sixth studio album, gives Hannah Montana fans the resolution they were longing for while simultaneously attributing a surprising adjective — “boring.” Cyrus’ journey of introspection seems to have revealed her strikingly true self and lackluster composition skills.
Depending on one’s age, Cyrus’ return to her pop-country roots will either come as a shock or a verified prediction of a similar narrative to that of “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” From the humble beginnings of her first LP, “Meet Miley Cyrus,” to her defiant phase of 2013’s “Bangerz” and 2015’s “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz,” Cyrus has taken fans’ ears on a rollercoaster. Her transcendental exploration of pop culture, politics, drugs and love painted her in a portrait she could not escape. “Younger Now” capitalizes on Cyrus’ recent transitional era.
The title track beckons the listener to empathize with Cyrus as she sings the equivalent of a journal entry. The eerie picking of the guitar opens the album with the lyrics, “Feels like I just woke up.” Upon initial reaction, connecting the lyrics to her recent past made the song come alive. Cyrus takes the transparent approach by adding, “I’m not afraid of who I used to be,” but is adamant about moving forward in her career.
It is important to note that the R&B ballads of “Bangerz” are nonexistent on “Younger Now.” The overuse of hip-hop beats and trap mixes are nowhere to be found. Heavy influence of warm acoustic guitars and soft tempos flood each track. Oren Yoel, Cyrus’ longtime producer, is credited with the songwriting and instrumental talent. Cyrus’ and Yoel’s collaboration on “Younger Now” proves to be a more timid mix than the previous material produced.
The tracks “Malibu” and “Rainbowland” are linked by association. Cyrus’ colorful music studio named “Rainbowland” is located in the well-endowed city of Malibu, California. Naturally, “Malibu” serves as a sun-baked love story that can only be truly experienced in California. Being the first single released, “Malibu” explains her rekindled relationship with fiancé Liam Hemsworth.
“Rainbowland” features Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and Cyrus’ godmother, Dolly Parton. The spirit of their relationship is defined through the first 30 seconds of the track as Parton’s voicemail is played. Their collaboration amplifies both vocalists’ bluegrass roots. The washy tempo of the snare drum and tambourine exalts the signature sound Parton is known for. In an interview with People magazine, Cyrus said the theme of the song is to create unity amongst all people no matter one’s race, gender, religion or political party. Although Cyrus is known for speaking her mind, the song falls flat due to the cheery, endearing lyrics that miss directly identifying society’s current social injustices.
Cyrus’ mature vocal range soars on the tracks “I Miss You So Much” and “I Would Die For You.” Her capability to be transparent and vulnerable for these short moments create accents that are lacking in the surrounding tracks. The stripped-down percussion and supple vocals give “I Would Die For You” a brutally honest expression.
Cyrus has the tendency to create songs like “Thinkin’” that regress her development as an artist and disrupt the flow of her albums. The lyrics speak for themselves as each rhyming word is repeated throughout the chorus just enough to be implanted in your brain for the next two weeks. “Bad Mood” unironically uses a bland chord progression tailored for the country-pop genre that regrettably leaves the last portion of the album feeling empty.
Overall, “Younger Now” exhibits an experienced vocalist that has yet to find a musical identity. It is not the album that erases the past. However, it defines who she has become and where she is going. Whether you’ve made a list about the “7 Things” you abhor about Cyrus or not, you have to respect her resilience to be her own person. Many ex-Disney stars follow the same pattern of “falling out,” but as of late, we are witnessing a new, mature era of Miley Cyrus — an era that hopefully proves to produce stronger albums than “Younger Now.”