Pressing play on a Miley Cyrus album is like putting your hand into a lucky dip. You’re not sure whether you’re going to hear a well-crafted and heartfelt song (a la The Climb), or pull out something a bit more controversial – like the infamous Wrecking Ball film clip.
Given this, I approached her latest record Younger Now with some apprehension. The great news is that this offering is more gentle, and somewhat more tween-friendly than her 2015 Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz (yes, really) and 2013’s Bangerz.
Gone are the drug references, and the ideology of partying like it’s the end of the world has been put on the backburner. Instead we meet a mature woman who has grown a lot over the past four years.
Instead of club-happy beats, Miley strips back everything in this album, embracing her retro and country-inspired roots. The cover depicts her in a 1960s-70s inspired jumpsuit with hair to rival James Dean, and this captures the nostalgia of classic rock and roll laced through the album.
This recording is not so much a tribute to her past, but a monument to Miley’s becoming. She recently opened up to Billboard saying she is now clean from alcohol and drugs, and the difference in her music is palpable. This is a happy, inspiring set of tunes that makes you believe in redemption, recovery and healing.
The fact Miley opens Younger Now with the title track, saying, “Feels like I just woke up, like all this time I’ve been asleep,” highlights her journey from derailed child star to a healthy artist who now knows what she wants in the world.
This theme continues throughout every track, particularly in lead single Malibu, which doubles as a love song to her partner and the growth in herself.
Ending on Inspired, you’re taken back to the Miley of the 2000s, when she stood solitary on stage with a guitar. The rawness in her soaring voice is backed by violin, and it’s clear she is a superstar.
I did struggle with the heavy country sentiments evident through many of these tracks. This is most obvious is in Rainbowland, a duet with Dolly Parton, however she balances this out somewhat with the electric guitar lines in I Would Die for You and the grunge of Thinkin’.
Not as poppy as her early albums, the diverse spectrum of genres makes for a richer overall sound, and this album carries an authenticity others lacked.
While Younger Now is a lot tamer than Miley’s previous two albums, aspects of this will still raise eyebrows.
Some songs carry an explicit tag for language, and She’s Not Him will discount it entirely from some people’s collections. There’s also a strong sense of the artist praising her lover, going so far as to say, “You’re my God, you’re my faith,” which goes directly against her Christian upbringing.
These elements can’t be ignored and, from the Christian world view, they do impair the record, yet you can’t deny the musical capability of Miley that is present throughout Younger Now. This shows the 24-year-old has the ability to make iconic music in the years to come.
Younger Now isn’t perfect by Christian standards, but when it comes transparency and honesty about her purpose and place in life, you can’t fault it. People will relate to the experiences Miley communicates in this album, and this makes it a powerful and well thought out release worth your time.
Younger Now is available on iTunes now.