Album Review: Miley Cyrus - Younger Now

Written by Maddy Howell

In recent years, Miley Cyrus has become the queen of perfectly timed controversy. Whether it was nude photoshoots, feuds with fellow pop stars or her infamous love for twerking - Cyrus was the orchestrator of her own career downfall, and she liked it that way. Starting out as the biggest Disney star of her generation, Cyrus was quick to shed her squeaky-clean image, with layer by layer of media-pushed innocence being stripped away, resulting in affairs riding entirely off the rails on 2013 album, 'Bangerz'.

Having since re-joined forces with fiancĂ© Liam Hemsworth and following on from a drug-induced record detailing the memories of her dead pets, the world has been left wondering: “what will Miley do next?” The answer comes in her latest reinvention, and from the self-inflicted wreckage of her career, it seems Cyrus has somehow managed to pull out an unsullied slab of simplistic, well-crafted country pop.

To many, the idea of Cyrus ever returning to her roots seemed all but plausible, but unpredictability is undeniably her finest virtue. Opening on sounds of echoing rainfall, ribbiting frogs and delicately melancholic guitar notes, title track Younger Now puts the days of extravagant partying and drug abuse behind Cyrus, instead favouring a more reflective, nostalgic reliving of her youth. Her voice tinged with regret as she chimes: “Even though it’s not who I am // I’m not afraid of who I used to be,” it becomes perspicuous that when stripped of all the grand production and lust for controversy, Cyrus is an artist in her prime.

Rainbowland presents Cyrus taking on a duet with godmother Dolly Parton, in a singalong attack on Trump, shrouded in Nashville-tinged ambiguity. With its equivocally indirect but obviously positive political message, it’s here that we first see Cyrus’ privilege at work. Whilst faultless in its ability to be vibrantly catchy, the track falls short of delivering a true “woke-pop” anthem, with all the dainty, idealistic imagery leaving the track seemingly apolitical for those unwilling to delve further.

It’s when stepping aside from offering political hot-takes and instead focusing on giving an insight into her personal life that Cyrus operates best, as stomping break-up track Week Without You demonstrates. With sassy snarls of: “I know that I gave you my heart // But you stomped it to the ground,” the track proves itself as a straight up middle finger to those who don’t care to make an effort, confirming Cyrus has yet to lose the beguiling emotive edge she’s become known for on her ballads.

Love Someone is further confirmation of this matter if any was needed, with Cyrus’ brazen angst evident on brutal lines such as: “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I’d ever be your wife.” With this entirely unsubtle criticism directed at her other half, Cyrus finally pulls through with some unrestrained emotion, offering a much-needed dose of energy on an album that is (for the most part effectively) lacking in pace.  

Lead single Malibu drops the pace again predictably in a perfect indicator of Cyrus’ transition to a more mellow, serene sound, removing herself from her previous image note-by-note. Written whilst taking an Uber home from her first-day recording for hit tv show, The Voice, the track is an all too wholesome guitar-led dedication to her home in Malibu and the times she has spent there. It’s harmless, generic pop-rock, proving to be an ambient listen, but a disappointing waste of Cyrus’ potential.

For the most part, 'Younger Now' acts as a diary of Cyrus’ conflicted emotions following her make-up with Hemsworth, with Miss You So Much acting as an ode to a close friend who overdosed, whilst I Would Die For You acts as a hopeless romantic ode to her fiancĂ©. She’s Not Him potentially details Cyrus’ relations with one of the women she was involved with during her time apart from Hemsworth, declaring: “There’s still no way you could take his place,” in a scathing vocal-dominated ballad.

The album draws to a close on the Clinton-dedicated, Inspired, presenting Cyrus’ with a clear focus on viewing the world through her rose-tinted glasses. It’s a textbook example of a privileged musician’s outlook on current affairs, with her soaring vocals detailing observations about the world around her. Backed by a full string quartet, it’s hard to truly believe the sentiments Cyrus preaches, but it’s a perfect final turn on her path to a new exemplary image.

'Younger Now' is the album we all expected from Cyrus when she escaped Walt Disney’s grasp, presenting her indulging in her country birth-right and basking in her freshly re-affirmed love. The record exists in a realm outside the real world, with its sickly-sweet melodies and ‘love trumps hate’ ethos proving all too optimistic to be deemed honest. Withdrawn from Cyrus’ shock-factor and volatility, 'Younger Now' is an album for the dreamers, with its under-produced yet luxuriate nature rendering it the quintessential backing for those needing a moment to cast aside their worries.