Miley Cyrus’ sixth studio album is a return to her roots, abandoning the ridiculous persona that coloured her previous two albums and somewhat problematically distancing herself from the hip-hop genre as a whole, saying the materialism associated with it doesn’t represent her anymore. Younger Now reverts back to some country-tinged, mostly acoustic pop music, Cyrus’ voice still surprisingly impressive but the instrumentals bland and uninspired.
Cyrus speaks a lot of her engagement to actor Liam Hemsworth, who reportedly inspired her lifestyle change. While her music did improve slightly from her disastrous Dead Petz era, for Cyrus to be taken seriously once again she needs to find more genuine personality, or even the smallest spark of innovation.
“Week Without You” is the only time we break up the monotony here, as it stands as the greatest song from the set. We switch up the simple acoustic rhythms for a swung tempo and doo-wop influence as Cyrus describes her life in the four years spent apart from Hemsworth. A classic lyrical twist in the song’s final chorus shows the joys of the single life stop being fun, as Cyrus starts wanting him back. She actually sounds interested and engaged with the music here, digging into the groove of the song and having fun singing along to and riffing off of the piano solos in the background.
The slightly improvisational tone of the instrumental and actual musicianship displayed on this track really caught me off guard, showing that Cyrus does have some serious talent that she often has no idea what to do with. Her voice is at its best on lead single “Malibu”, sweet and emotive with some great harmonies to go along with it. It’s a shame the climax of the song turns into nothing more than some weirdly dissonant guitar picking and handclaps.
One of the biggest issues with this album is the colorless and safe musical backdrop that rarely changes from song to song, diminishing the effectiveness of promising melodies by being content to plod along and remain stagnant in the background, taking away most of the concept of dynamics from the project. A song like opening track “Younger Now” sounds like one of Cyrus’ career great songs when performed live, as it is quite smartly written and allows her voice to steal the spotlight, but hearing the full studio mix with its bland acoustic chords and packaged backing vocals just sucks out all of its energy.
Too many of these songs sound like they are set to the same set of acoustic chords, switching up the rhythm of the strumming and calling it a different song. The whole album was produced by lesser-known Dead Petz collaborator Oren Yoel, who adds some pretty awful melodies to some of the worse tracks here as well. The chorus of “Miss You So Much” begins with repetition of some strained high notes before somehow turning a pivotal “here” into a two-syllable word just to fit.
Even though Cyrus isn’t as visibly embracing drug culture as much with her updated image, some of the laughable lyrical content of her previous two albums persists here, offering some Jaden Smith-esque, starry-eyed musings on the state of the world. Closing track “Inspired”, which Cyrus describes as her “Hillary Clinton song”, seeks to empower her listeners as she lists her dreams for the world … “Starting with the bees, or else they’re gonna die. There will be no trees or air for us to breathe”.
She also continues the unfortunate trend of artists attempting something like activism without actually saying anything of consequence. On the incredibly derivative “Rainbowland”, she teams up with godmother Dolly Parton over the same bouncy country-pop twang we’ve heard before to imagine a future where all the prejudices people face have magically evaporated. “Wouldn’t it be so nice?”, she sings. In other places Cyrus seems more focused on shoehorning in awkward rhymes that telling the story of the song. The only writer on the project, she definitely needs some help at this point.
There isn’t really much to talk about here – the only thing that isn’t forgettable about Younger Now are Cyrus’ outlandish lyrics. Now that it has been made evident that Cyrus’ previous era was nothing more than appropriation to jump on a rising sound, too much of this project just feels similarly fake – and not even in an entertaining way anymore.
Favourite Tracks: Week Without You, Thinkin’, Malibu
Least Favourite Track: Miss You So Much