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Album Review: “Endless Summer Vacation” by Miley Cyrus

Cyrus delivers a work of pop excellence on her eighth full-length album.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

On her eighth studio album, “Endless Summer Vacation,” released March 10, Miley Cyrus confidently cements her pop songwriting as a force to be reckoned with.

After a few stylistic albums, including the pop-party anthems of “Bangerz” and the ‘70s rock-influenced “Plastic Hearts,” Cyrus settles into a blend of styles that feels authentic to her unique voice on “Endless Summer Vacation.”

Cyrus challenged the music industry over the last decade to separate her from the Hannah Montana character she played on Disney Channel as a teenager. Still, her past albums never delivered in the way “Endless Summer Vacation” does.

“Endless Summer Vacation” combines the stylistic techniques of the past seven albums into a captivating collection of pop ballads. The result emulates the painful journey of Cyrus’ messy divorce from actor Liam Hemsworth.

Throughout the entirety of “Endless Summer Vacation,” Cyrus does not shy away from explicitly naming the discretions that occurred in her marriage. On the chart-topping lead single “Flowers,” Cyrus slyly references the fire that burned down her and Hemsworth’s home and intertwines it with a reverse of the lyrics of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.”

“Built a home and watched it burn. I didn’t want to leave you, I didn’t want to lie. Started to cry, but then remembered I can buy myself flowers,” Cyrus sings on the track.

On “Jaded,” Cyrus sings a rock melody of remembrance that recalls Stevie Nicks. Cyrus addresses her remorse and pain with the lyrics, “We went to hell but never came back. I’m sorry that you’re jaded. I could’ve taken you places. You’re lonely now and I hate it.”

As the album continues, Cyrus presents her most cohesive album to date without sacrificing any experimentation or creative drive. On songs like “Handstand,” Cyrus delves into a more atmospheric realm that relies on melodic instrumentation and distorted vocals.

Keeping listeners on their toes, in the song “Thousand Miles,” Cyrus reaches back to her roots by incorporating a country string section and brings in alt-country star Brandi Carlile for a stunning vocal melody. “Thousand Miles” feels reminiscent of “The Climb” from “Hannah Montana: The Movie.”

As the album concludes, Cyrus offers up two more varying sounds in “River” and “Wonder Woman.”

The song “River” fires up a dance-floor-ready pop melody that demonstrates Cryus’ ability to write catchy songs that cross the boundaries of genre. “River” uses guitar-laden production with a looping chorus to create the perfect song for any summer party.

Conversely, the song “Wonder Woman” tells the story of Cyrus’s late grandmother. The song is a touching tribute that will remind longtime Miley listeners of the 2006 song “I Miss You,” which she wrote for her late grandfather.

On “Endless Summer,” Cyrus successfully mixes vulnerable songwriting about her grief-ridden divorce with liberating pop melodies, honoring her illustrious career in the process. The pop star conveys an aura of self-acceptance and peace, and it finally feels authentic.

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