There are very few pop artists with the staying power of Miley Cyrus. Maybe it’s because we’ve had the opportunity to be reintroduced to her so many times. Over the past 17 years, since she burst into millions of homes as a young woman who just wanted the best of both worlds, we’ve gotten to know a rebel, a rock star, a pop queen, and a backyard, acoustic girl next door.
With her new studio album Endless Summer Vacation (out today, March 10th), Cyrus has shared yet another side of herself. She’s 30 years old now, but she’s far from settled; the fire that has always burned in Miley that makes her so entrancing, alluring, and unpredictable is still going strong. And, if there’s one thematic takeaway from Endless Summer Vacation’s 13 tracks, it’s that she’s never going to allow anyone to dim that light.
This era follows Cyrus’ Plastic Hearts, a 2020 rock-forward project that boasted collaborations with Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks. Cyrus describes Endless Summer Vacation, on the other hand, as her “love letter to LA,” and that vision is evident in every corner of the record. Listening through the album feels like living a few days in sunny SoCal with Miley: Waking up with “Flowers,” taking a top-down beachside drive accompanied by “Rose Colored Lenses,” falling in love under the moonlight with “You,” stumbling in and out of the club to “Handstand” and “River,” and then starting the process all over again with the latter half of the LP.
It’s no secret that some of the album (the record-breaking “Flowers” in particular) was inspired by Cyrus’ divorce, but it doesn’t feel strictly like a breakup record. It feels richer and broader than that, a general story of reset and rediscovery that encourages the listener to indulge in their own whims. “I wanna cut off my hair and kick off my boots/ Dance in the wind just to do it again,” she sings on “You.”
In some ways, Endless Summer Vacation recalls Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour; not in the themes, necessarily, seeing as Musgraves’ beloved LP was about reveling in a love that feels like it will never end, but in its genre-fluidity. The two albums also share a strong perspective and a trust in the central voice telling the story. Endless Summer Vacation, though, comes absolutely alive in the moments when Cyrus lets her trademark vocals fly, unleashing her full power on the listener. And, thankfully, that’s what happens throughout most of the album.
The record is a reminder of that very vocal prowess that has carried Cyrus through so many aforementioned eras. The chorus of “Wildcard” is one standout, while the entirety of sex-powered waltz fantasy “You” is another. She leans furthest back into her Tennessee roots, appropriately, on her collaboration with the wonderful Brandi Carlile, a troubadour’s tale of acceptance titled “Thousand Miles.”