Miley Cyrus Welcomes Change and Finds Her Roots on ‘Younger Now’

It’s been ten years since Miley Cyrus released Meet Miley Cyrus, her debut album that was included as the second disc alongside the Hannah Montana 2 soundtrack. Cyrus has progressed leaps and bounds since that record, which is evident from her newly released and self-written sixth album, Younger Now.

It wasn’t the first time people had heard of Miley Cyrus when her debut release came out in 2007. She was already a household name at only 15 years old, and was selling out concert arenas as her television alter-ego, Hannah Montana. Her dad, country musician Billy Ray Cyrus, and her Godmother, the legendary Dolly Parton, provided her with first-hand musical experience during her childhood. She grew up in the industry, and landed her big break when she got her Disney Channel TV show that ran from 2006 to 2011.

Unlike some of her more cautious Disney peers, Cyrus broke away from her childhood image almost immediately with the release of her controversial 2010 album Can’t Be Tamed. It marked the beginning of a long road to self-discovery for the raspy-voiced, rebellious teenager who lived the majority of her youth in the public eye.

Now almost 25, Cyrus seems the most comfortable she’s ever been. She has finally found her footing in the industry, and has carved a stand-out sound that’s all her own. Younger Now draws on her country roots and years of mainstream pop experience, while incorporating an Elvis-inspired theme throughout–one of Cyrus’ main inspirations. The two opening tracks, “Malibu” and “Younger Now,” were the lead singles released before the album came out. “Malibu” is a refreshing and upbeat ode to her home in California and boyfriend Liam Hemsworth, while “Younger Now” is a reflective and self-assured pop spectacle.

The Dolly Parton assisted “Rainbowland” opens with a recorded voicemail that Dolly left for Miley. It’s a positive inclusivity anthem that would have been an excellent opening track. Placement aside, the song is a highlight on the record, and is Cyrus’ uplifting response to the current political climate in the United States. “Week Without You” showcases the deep, sultry side of Cyrus’ voice, but lacks in production on the tail end of the track. It’s a great song, but doesn’t seem to go anywhere melody wise, leaving something to be desired. Live performances of this song (on The Tonight Show and at the iHeart Radio Music Festival) have shown that Cyrus isn’t afraid to change up the melody and how she uses her voice on it, which is refreshing, but it would have been nice to hear on the recorded version as well.

“Miss You So Much” and “I Would Die For You” are ballads that exude genuine love and emotion. “Miss You So Much” is a song Cyrus has had on the back burner for some time, and is making its debut on this album. The lyrics are some of her best to date, with lines like “you can take my blood, take my bones, my heart is yours, I volunteer. But how can I miss you so much, when you’re right here?”. It’s a powerful statement where she is completely giving herself to her partner, and lines up perfectly with the following track, “I Would Die For You,” which is a stirring proclamation of love. Despite the songs slower pace, it would make for a good single.

And what would a Miley Cyrus album be without at least one radio-ready pop banger? “Thinkin’” just may be that track. It’s repetitive (in a good way), danceable, memorable, and fun – despite the subject matter of someone not sure if they can trust their partner. If Cyrus’ label and management play it right, this could be a huge hit for her in the near future.

Immediately following that are the two most stand out tracks on the album “Bad Mood” and “Love Someone.” Cyrus’ rock and Elvis influences are heard most prominently on these songs, and her songwriting and vocal prowess are at their peak. The heavy, brooding beat on “Bad Mood” is irresistible to the ear, perfectly complimenting her moody, ranging vocals. “Love Someone” brings out the classic rocker side of Cyrus. She belts out the lyrics “to make somebody stay, you gotta love someone” with such passion and intent that it’s hard to imagine her singing anything other than rock and roll. Her voice fits the genre so effortlessly.

The album closes on a more low-key note, with the songs “She’s Not Him” and “Inspired.” After her short separation from Liam Hemsworth, following his cheating scandal a few years ago, Cyrus had a brief relationship with model Stella Maxwell, whom the song “She’s Not Him” is allegedly about. Cyrus has talked extensively about her pansexuality and openness about being attracted to anyone who she feels a connection with, so the song is a triumph for those in the pansexual and bisexual community. Ultimately, she expresses in the song that while she enjoyed her time in the relationship, the girl she was with just wasn’t the one, and she missed her past lover. She found her way back to the person she truly loves, and the song depicts an emotional crossroads in her life.

“Inspired,” which was released as a promo single after “Malibu,” is a hippie, earth-loving ode to humanity, slightly reverting back to the sounds that were starting to emerge during Cyrus’ experimental last album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. It’s a beautiful song, despite its slightly cheesy lyrics. After the devastating Manchester attacks earlier this year, she performed the song at the benefit concert alongside Ariana Grande.

Cyrus’ ability, as a vocalist, to adapt from country, to pop, to indie, to rock is rare among singers working in the music industry today, and she is finally showing her versatility with the vocal-heavy songs on this record. In the past, Cyrus generally focused on one genre per album, whether it was pop (Can’t Be Tamed), hip-hop (Bangerz), or psych-pop (Dead Petz), she has been all over the map. With Younger Now, the megastar has settled into a niche of her own, and sounds better than ever. Already a Grammy nominee for Bangerz, she is likely to snag another one (or more) this time around, and may be in it for a win.

Grade: A

Recommended tracks:
“Bad Mood”
“Miss You So Much”
“Love Someone”

(Featured Image: Sony Music)

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