Since the VMAs last Sunday, in one way or another, one artists’ name has been on everyone’s lips; Miley Cyrus. Having hosted the event and creating moments that people would surely be talking about till the next VMAs, could anyone have known that to top it all off she would “pull a Beyonce” and drop a surprise album?
After all the outlandish costumes, onstage confrontations (Miley, what’s good?) and performing with 30+ drag queens for the finale, what else was there left to do? At the very last moment of her performance she announced that Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz was available to stream for free on her website. This is her latest full-length work to drop since her last release Bangerz almost a full 2 years ago in October 2013. In many ways, you could refer to “…Dead Petz” as a follow up or sophomore album to Bangerz due to the “re-branding” or “new image” Miley unveiled when she released it’s first single “We Can’t Stop.”
In even more parallels to Bangerz, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz can also be seen as the “come-down” or “after party” to the rager that was Bangerz and it’s “turn-up” inducing tracks like “SMS (Bangerz),” “Do My Thang,” “Love, Money, Party,” and the now iconic”We Can’t Stop.” Now of course there were the introspective tracks like “Adore You” and the smash hit “Wrecking Ball,” but on “…Dead Petz,” there’s not a “banger” to be seen.
Although the single “Dooo It!” that she performed at the VMAs has a bit of an anthemic and party vibe, it’s far removed from the messages of her previous work. What we’re seeing is a more mature and informed thought process for this “after-party” if you will. On this album, Miley wants to make clear that the Bangerz party is definitely “over” and she’s “clear-headed” about what’s going on around her. Throughout the album she comes off peeved and fed-up with how certain relationships and other circumstances have unraveled in her life. However instrumentally and lyrically, for the better half of the whopping 23 tracks, she has mellowed out since her previous musical effort (if you can believe that) and things tend to stay in the mid-tempo range sonically. She revealed in the press that her record label was more or less “out of the loop” about the making and release of this album and that the album itself only cost about $55,000 to make. Those in the business would certainly call this a “lo-fi” or low budget effort, but she was not on her own in this “music for music’s sake” crusade. She had help from The Flaming Lips, Big Sean, Ariel Pink, and Sarah Barthel of Phantogram. A star-studded lineup no doubt about it, but did that make the songs any good?
The answer is, most of the songs, yes. It’s apparent just 3 songs into the album that there is not a radio single in sight, which would be fine for any avid fan of Miley. If you’re still lukewarm about the whole “Miley Cyrus phenomenon” then I will tell you up front; this album is not for you. Although the first track and lead single “Dooo It!” does have some wider appeal than the rest of the tracks (and is a personal favorite of mine) I think Miley is taking notes from new buddy and Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne by trying to deliver a body of work as opposed to an album full of singles. I believe overall that she succeeds at this with the way that most of the tracks have common tempos, themes, and moods. The triple whammy in the middle of the album is the tracks “BB Talk,” “Fweaky,” and “Bang Me Box.” These 3 tracks are Miley trying to bring you “sexy” and “alluring” bedroom music and instrumentally she triumphs. However, vocally, she’s stumbling a little. Actually, throughout the whole album, the vocals are not the “power-house” bravado we’re used to hearing live and on her previous album. That could be due to the “lo-fi” constraints once more, but we know that Miley was looking to give more feelings and opinions on this particular musical effort which she does. For every throwaway track, there is one that hits hard with cathartic lyrics and performance or vulgar romp-and-stop. Tracks like “Slab of Butter (Scorpion),” “I Get So Scared,” and “Tangerine” deliver these nuances perfectly and are highlights of the album. Yet, the most bizarre tracks come at the tail end of “…Dead Petz,” which are actually the tributes to said “dead pets.” “Pablow the Blowfish” gets his eulogy in the form of a piano ballad (with Miley crying at the end) and “The Floyd Song” about her beloved dog.
With some tracks only clocking in at a minute or so like “F*&%ing F*&^%ed Up,” “I’m So Drunk,” and “Miley Tibetan Bowlzzz,” my suggestion would’ve been to cut this album in half for a more “focused” project. However, I believe that we are seeing a transition in Miley’s songwriting and visuals that could lead to something greater than what we see here. I will say that after repeated listens to this album, it does get better and you appreciate or few more things here and there than when you initially listened to it. She was brave to put this out and do it in the way she did, and for that, I applaud her.
By Trent Lira