‘Younger Now’: Cyrus’ trea­cly adult pop fan­tasy

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - MAEVE MC­DER­MOTT

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

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