Miley Cyrus’ ‘Endless Summer Vacation’ unmemorable, lacks defined substance

Fagner Guerriero

Miley Cyrus released the LP “Endless Summer Vacation” on March 10, a continuation of her failed attempts to distinguish herself as more of a musician than a celebrity.

Cyrus has never been known for purely musical statements. Apart from a few cuts, her songs have always fallen into a strange category of listenable if played by someone nearby but seldom playable by one’s own will. It might be safe to say that since stepping down from the Hannah Montana role, the singer has been featured more on TMZ than in music magazines. She has always been more recognizable for the ups and downs in her personal life than for her raspy timbre or lyrics.

Her new album, “Endless Summer Vacation,” seems like a new attempt to change this, something she’s attempted since 2019. After the lukewarm reception of the bland “Younger Now,” Cyrus began to show a more constrained image that owned her strong public persona through music. “Mother’s Daughter” and “Slide Away” were great additions to her discography and paved the way for an imminent rock-influenced album..

But while 2020’s “Plastic Hearts” had a few highs, such as the glorious emancipation anthem “Midnight Sky,” a sultry pop-rock collaboration with Dua Lipa and the tear-jerking rock ballad “Angels Like You,” “Endless Summer Vacation,” the new LP, falls flat with nothing more to hold on to than the empowerment jam “Flowers.”

The publicity strategy for the lead single worked in its favor. “Flowers” became a massive hit, spent six weeks at number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 and garnered multiple streaming records on Spotify.

But strip down the gossip surrounding the song, and you will find nothing more than self-help lines and disco-tinged bass lines. Layer it all back on, and the song works against the rest of the record — with nothing else to extract from the LP, at least according to public forums under viral tweets.

The rest of the material leaves little to no space for interpretation — it’s all too literal and dry, even when it’s metaphorical. “Heart bеats so loud that it’s drownin’ me out, livin’ in an April shower,” she sings on the pulsing second single “River,” an electrifying techno-pop that edges close to ‘80s new-wave but has nothing more to offer than familiar synth runs and Cyrus’ raged, sharp voice.

Lyrically, “Endless Summer Vacation” is unimaginative and sometimes, incoherent.

Writing “Flowers” as a response to Bruno Mar’s “When I Was Your Man” was quite a clever conversation starter, but the second song “Jaded” seems to demolish the ‘I-am-enough’ mantra of the album opener.

All the other tracks suffer from the same problem. The verses are way too simple—even Hannah Montana had songs with more meaningful and well-thought-out storylines…yes, I am looking at you, “The Climb.” Succinct lyrics can sometimes help create more sunset-filtered and serotonin-boosting arrangements, like “Rose Colored Lenses,” or more nocturnal, daring productions such as “Handstand”, as long as the whole thing makes sense. That is not what happens here.

One would think the record would be somewhat the opposite of Lorde’s “Solar Power,” a summer-themed record with some depth in its lyrics but no room for solstitial joy in its melodies. Unfortunately, “Endless Summer Vacation” fails in the music department as well.

The melodic structures go nowhere, and besides the omnipresent guitar strumming that alludes to laid-back sounds, there’s not a lot of leisure to be found in the project. Instead, some songs feel placed on the record for no reason beyond filling out a track list.

With more shade than sunlight, some of the songs sound too gloomy for what the album proposes. “Muddy Feet” feels too hungover-y and “Wildcard,” though one of the best songs on the record, strays away from what one would expect from a festival album.

“Endless Summer Vacation” promises a good time but delivers dull moody moments instead. Is it horrible? Not necessarily. Is it good? Not really. And that’s the problem; the lack of defined substance makes it unmemorable.

After a while, the record starts to feel more like the photo of a beach sunset in the brochure of a travel agency than the real thing itself. An album ago, Cyrus seemed to be on to something. Was she really? Or were we reading too much into her covers, giving her too much credit for emulating her influences and including Stevie Nicks and Billy Idol on her last album? Well, at least she’s back on the charts. Good for her.