While she started off singing pop music, Miley Cyrus has showcased her incredible vocals in a variety of genres throughout her career. On March 10, when she released her eighth studio album Endless Summer Vacation, it was no surprise that it displayed the star’s many powerful facets as an artist—be it as a popstar, balladeer, or soulful rockstar.
Cyrus has been a legend in the entertainment industry since her iconic role on Disney’s Hannah Montana in 2006. Bringing her career full circle, the album is accompanied by a special feature on Disney Plus, Miley Cyrus: Endless Summer Vacation (Backyard Sessions). The 42-minute film includes an exclusive interview, including Cyrus’ insights about the album as well as private performances of select songs, all filmed at Frank Sinatra’s former home, the site of her iconic Flowers music video.
In an Instagram post, Cyrus shared a clip from the Disney Plus special in which she says, “The fun thing is if you’re a friend of mine, if you’re close to me, and you listen to this album, it sounds like a conversation with me.” She encapsulates her truth in this album, tugging on emotion while embracing a variety of different sounds. Cyrus says her greatest songs and records “connect me and whoever’s listening, in a way that feels like an intimate, honest conversation.”
Cyrus owns the album and her ability to seamlessly blend the myriad sounds that she’s tried. “I’ve been calling this album the Cinderella shoe, because it’s just a perfect fit and it feels like it’s only mine and it could only be mine,” she mentions in the special.
The first track is “Flowers,” a hit single that Cyrus dropped in January as a sneak-peek to the rest of the album. In its debut week, “Flowers” claimed the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It stayed on the chart for 7 weeks and returned to No. 1 when the album came out. About a week after its release, Spotify announced that the song became the most-streamed song in a single week across the platform’s history. The album’s last song is a demo version of “Flowers,” stripped down to just light synths, and showcasing Cyrus’ incredible vocals.
“Flowers” clearly dominated the charts for a reason; not only does it have a catchy, upbeat tune, but its lyrics flaunt about the power of putting yourself first and leaving a relationship that is not meant for you. Is it even possible to disagree with that? The song opens with, “We were right til we weren’t / built a home and watched it burn” and then leads into all of the joys Cyrus can experience on her own, without someone by her side. The encouraging lyrics paired with the cheerful and fast-paced tune spin the song’s origin from grieving a lost love to embracing the empowerment of being on your own.
Numerous tracks on the album, in addition to its lead single, subtly (and unsubtly) point to Cyrus’ past marriage to Liam Hemsworth. While fans have shipped the pair since their 2010 on-screen-turned-off-screen love story in The Last Song, their relationship was clearly not as perfect as it seemed. Long-standing rumors of cheating seem to be confirmed in “Muddy Feet,” a confrontational song featuring Sia. It has a grunge feel to it, and you can hear the anger in Cyrus’ singing. She remarks “you smell like perfume that I didn’t purchase / now I know why you’ve been closing the curtains.” You can hear the rasp and soul in her voice as she sings “I’m about to do something about it.” Cyrus claims her power by putting her foot down and refusing to settle.
“Jaded” has a comfortable and cool vibe that is easy to play on repeat. Cyrus tells her side of their relationship through calm and collected vocals. The song feels reflective. The lyrics seem to be another nod towards Hemsworth: “I could’ve taken you places / you’re lonely now and I hate it / I’m sorry that you’re jaded.” While the lyrics are loaded with emotional history, Cyrus delivers them in an angelic tone throughout.
A similar, soothing aura can be heard in “Rose Colored Lenses.” Cyrus fantasizes about living in a dream world where the love she describes could and would last. Her vocals are light and heavenly, complementing the idea of a wonderland that she depicts throughout the song. The chorus, she says, “We could stay like this forever / lost in wonderland / with our heads above the clouds/ fallin’ stupid like we’re kids / wearin’ rose colored lenses, let’s just play pretend.” Cyrus sings like she is in a peaceful daze, especially so when the line “Let’s stay like this forever” repeats multiple times as the song comes to a close.
If you’re looking for a classic summer song, check out “River.” It’s cheerful and optimistic beat makes it one of the more fast-paced tracks of the album. Cyrus expresses, “You’re just like a river / heart beats so loud that it’s drowning me out.” She shared a clip of her Disney Plus special via Instagram, explaining the meaning behind “River”: “It was a time in my life where I was going through just a lot emotionally and personally, and I guess all my songs kind of evolve. They can start as something that was a trouble, like, it just feels like it’s an April shower. It never stops raining. And then it started raining down like love.” Here, Cyrus explains how she processes emotion in both her life and songs. While a song can first encapsulate the sadness Cyrus felt, time allows her to feel the song in a positive light. She ends by subtly hinting that the song could be about her ex: “Sometimes we just need a dancefloor banger, AKA they don’t want me to talk about how the fact the song is about [censored].”
Closing out the album is one of Cyrus’ most emotionally charged songs yet: the eleventh track, “Wonder Woman.” Inspired by her late grandmother, it’s a piano ballad about a woman who perseveres though she is struggling and in pain. She expresses her wonder woman’s ability to put on a happy face around others, while she breaks down on her own: “When her favorite record is on and she’s dancing in the dark / she can’t stop her eyes from welling up, up / She makes sure that no one’s round to see her fall apart / she wants to be the one that never does.” The power and depth in these lyrics is perfectly reflected in Cyrus’ voice.
Endless Summer Vacation encapsulates the most iconic sounds of Miley Cyrus. Each song is a unique demonstration of Cyrus’ ability to blow any genre of music out of the park. In the album, Cyrus experiences, embraces, and accepts the reality of life and what it brings, while at the same time making her own meaning. Not only can listeners hear Cyrus’ story, but they can feel it through her songs. Endless Summer Vacation speaks not only to Cyrus’ incredible ability to take life as it comes at her, but also to take these moments and use them as motivation to live life to its fullest.