What’s a girl like Miley Cyrus to do in 2019?
She’s already conquered tween-pop, followed by the requisite Disney princess-gone-bad rebellion era. She dove in head – err, sorry – tongue-first to #SomethingMoreUrban territory, twerking her way around hip-hop beats and cultural appropriation allegations aplenty. She launched herself into outer space, squeezing into cartoonish couture and experimenting with psychedelic sounds. She brought herself back down to Earth with a return-to-roots, stripped-down record. So, what now? As American philosopher Onika Tanya Maraj once pondered: what’s good, Miley?
As it turns out: a little bit of everything.
SHE IS COMING is the first of three six-song EPs promised from the 26-year-old superstar (a la Robyn‘s trailblazing Body Talk series), released on Friday (May 31), leading to a complete collection called SHE IS: MILEY CYRUS due out later this year.
And while we’ve only heard one-third of the project thus far, one thing’s for sure: she’s not too worried about settling for any one genre anytime soon.
“Hallelujah, I’m a freak, I’m a freak, hallelujah,” she proclaims seconds into lead track “Mother’s Daughter,” a rebel yell from the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana.
Produced by Miike Snow‘s Andrew Wyatt and co-penned by neon-haired rebel youth pop penner ALMA, “Mother’s Daughter” plays like a cockier, cuntier grown-up continuation of Can’t Be Tamed‘s rousing electro-pop empowerment anthem, “Liberty Walk.”
The beats are grittier and the lyrics are fiercer (“don’t fuck with my freedom“), but the attitude (err, cattitude – more on that later) remains largely the same as that of her 2010 emancipation album.
While “Mother’s Daughter” forms a bridge between the rebellious Can’t Be Tamed days and modern Miley, the all-too-abrupt “Unholy” (2:10, really?), crafted by XXXTentacion producer John Cunningham, finds the superstar dipping back into her infatuation with hip-hop and reflecting the fuckery of the fame game she’s played ever since.
“I’m sick of the faking, the using, the taking / The people calling me obscene / You hate me, you love me, you just wanna touch me / I’m only trying to get some peace / So let me do me,” she rants on the drugs, sex and alcohol-fueled banger, which plays like a Bangerz-era comedown with an underlying plea for some humanity: “I’m a little bit unholy / So what? So is everyone else…”
If you thought the substance intake has even slightly slowed since Miley was in the club, high on purp with some shades on over five years ago, think again: “D.R.E.A.M. (Drugs Rule Everything Around Me),” which samples Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rule Everything Around Me)” and features Ghostface Killah, is a dreary, drug-addled, freshly tattooed hands-in-the-air anthem, like a cross between “We Can’t Stop” and Lykke Li‘s depressed trap-pop opus, so sad, so sexy.
“Hit the Goose, raise a toast, pop the molly / I can go toe-to-toe, like I’m Ali / We’re all tryna fill the lonely / Drugs rule everything around me,” she cooly declares.
You get the sense that Miley’s feeling more than a little isolated in her fame bubble, seeking some normalcy in the form of partying like her peers.
The Mike WiLL Made-It and Swae Lee-assisted “Party Up The Street” makes it even more clear: the girl’s not done having a good time. But “Party” is one of the EP’s most left-of-center offerings. It’s closer in vibe to Dead Petz than “Party in the U.S.A,” unraveling gently across a summery beat and, later on, gorgeous strings as Miley supplies a subtle assist to the Swae Lee-dominated, reverb-heavy, thoroughly relaxing production.
One song on the EP sticks out like a sore, uh, meaty tuck: if you happened to catch the overly eager pop star frolic among the queens during her appearance on the premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11, you’d know “Cattitude” feels almost inevitable – it’s essentially Miley in peak fangirl mode, or a Todrick Hall track, RuPaul feature and all.
It’s full of cocky, cringe-y rapping, “SMS (Bangerz)” style, and corny as hell, although playfully self-aware. Ru opens the library and reads Miley immediately: “Put some damn clothes on…nobody need to be seeing all of that!” Like her recent social media explosion of Disney Channel #TBTs, Miley’s not taking herself too seriously – maybe to a fault? That flippant “I love you Nicki, but I listen to Cardi” line is getting her skewered on the Internet for pitting the two against each other.
Also, the Supermodel of the World says the foulest shit on this track: “Bust my pussy nut while I’m fingering your butt.” Pardon? All that self-censoring for the increasingly mainstream Drag Race audience clearly caused RuPaul to pop off in the studio.
Across all sounds and styles over the years, from her squeaky-clean pop days (“The Climb”) to her most out-in-outer-space (“Lighter”), Miley tends to deliver when it comes to earnest balladry. As much as she loves to behave like a bad-ass, she shines when she lets the walls break down. “Wrecking Ball,” anyone?
“The Most,” this EP’s closer, is no exception to Miley’s successful sensitive streak.
Co-penned and produced by “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” collaborator Mark Ronson, the vulnerable ode to, presumably, her beloved Liam Hemsworth for constantly reeling her back in despite her wild child ways is a lush, somewhat country-tinged, Younger Now-ish beautiful breath of fresh air after a steady stretch of druggy bops and drag queens.
From empowering to irritating to introspective, She Is Coming sounds like the work of a can’t-be-tamable twentysomething with two middle fingers in the air, still figuring it all out. So what? So is everyone else.
While SHE IS COMING is undeniably the stuff of Miley (as her best friend Lesley would agree), it doesn’t feel like she’s quite there yet – at least, in terms of establishing a defined “era.” If anything, this sounds more like a transition phase; a collage of previously explored musical moments while finding footing in this brave new trap-pop world.
Maybe she’s just feeling it all out. Maybe she’s picking the hardest hitters from each EP for the final project. Maybe a cohesive collection isn’t the goal at all. There’s still much left to see and hear before drawing conclusions: SHE IS COMING, after all.
Until SHE arrives, let’s just enjoy the ride.
This EP is featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist. Subscribe!
You can also subscribe to MuuTunes on Apple Music.
Photo credit: RCA Records