‘Younger Now’: Cyrus’ treacly adult pop fantasy
It’s a fine time to be Miley Cyrus.
After she spent a good part of the past five years as one of celebrity’s most-maligned figures, Cyrus’ new album Younger Now (out Friday), arrives on a sunbeam of twangy pop, telling of a particularly serene period in the singer’s life.
As the back story goes, Cyrus got re-engaged to actor Liam Hemsworth, after splitting in 2012. That breakup inspired much of 2013’s hip-hop-channeling Bangerz, with her 2015 follow-up, Dead Petz, chronicling the experiments that came after.
Now, it’s all rainbows and sunshine, often literally, as Cyrus duets with godmother Dolly Parton on the singsongy Rainbowland and cavorts with Hemsworth in Malibu. Parton’s presence looms large over the album, which pairs Cyrus’ husky vocals with the golden guitar tones and vintage swing she inherited from her country roots.
This is an artist born into music royalty, who freely borrowed from black culture for Bangerz and stepping outside her contract to record the near-unsellable vanity project that was Dead Petz before reclaiming the country music crown that had been waiting for her all along.
Now Cyrus is reborn as a wholesome heroine with her man at her side, with Younger Now presenting a near-lobotomized vision of her adult bliss. The title track kicks off the album with a soulless string of self-improvement mottos, the kind of empty words Cyrus might have mocked on Bangerz.
When Cyrus’ voice drops into a sassy snarl as she dishes on downer relationships on Week Without You and Bad Mood, it’s clear that drama is behind her.
The album’s most personal moment is She’s Not Him, a mea culpa that’s ostensibly about one of the women Cyrus was involved with during her breakup with Hemsworth.
The final track on Younger Now wraps up the album’s starry-eyed gaze and casually privileged worldview in a neat little bow. Inspired, which Cyrus says she wrote about Hillary Clinton, offers platitudes about the environment before getting to a word salad of a chorus, with such lines as “We are meant for more / With a handle on the door / That opens up the change / I know that sounds so strange.”
Don’t listen too closely and the song sounds simply lovely, with Cyrus’ soaring harmonies getting full string-quartet treatment. But as Cyrus sings “I hope you feel inspired” on the final track, it’s difficult to believe her.
Miley Cyrus’ Younger
Now, a shift back to her roots, is out Friday. KEVIN WINTER, GETTY IMAGES, FOR IHEARTMEDIA