Final grade: 7/10
Ahgrim: “Endless Summer Vacation” starts out incredibly strong. Following the global #1 hit “Flowers,” Cyrus delivers a seven-song set of bold and polished brilliance, with no song sounding alike.
Her versatility shines in the first half of this tracklist, which slides from pop to country, then R&B to experimental alien music, just before she transforms into a pre-Y2K club diva. Despite Cyrus’ shapeshifting abilities, it all sounds coherent.
But after “Violet Chemistry” that momentum wanes dramatically. Cyrus loses steam in the “pm” part, just when I expected her to take it up a notch. “Muddy Feet” is a failure, “Wildcard” is a snooze, and “Wonder Woman” should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
Overall, Endless Summer Vacation is still a triumph for Cyrus with a lot more gems than duds. And to be fair, as she proved with Plastic Hearts, she’s earned the right to do as she pleases.
At its core, Endless Summer Vacation is an album about evolution. Cyrus seems to collect nuggets of maturity and self-sufficiency at the end of every twist and turn, like gold coins in a video game. There may be side quests – defeating bosses and rescuing princesses – but at the end of the day, the title screen bears her name. Even when it seems like Cyrus is addressing a lover or ex in a song, she’s always the star. Your needs come first.
This is an amazing place, and it’s clear that she only got here through hard emotional work. Cyrus spends much of this tracklist grappling with her past — and she comes out of the fight relatively unscathed, battle-weary but still standing, holding hands with all of her old self.
Larocca: The concept of splitting the album into two segments – “am” and “pm” – might have been smart in theory, but in practice it resulted in an unbalanced listening experience.
Cyrus’ clarity and confidence are strongest on the morning songs – with the exception of “Handstand,” every track on the early side is a precious new gem in Cyrus’ burgeoning discography. “Rose Colored Lenses” and “Jaded” are particularly stunning and showcase the best that Cyrus has to offer. And “Flowers” is of course a real hit.
But by frontloading all of her best tracks, Cyrus gets tired as she heads into the night, which makes me wonder if her questionable tastes will develop from delirium on “Muddy Feet,” “Island,” and “Wonder Woman.” could have sleep deprivation.
That doesn’t mean the night is a complete wash, though. “River” is one of the sickest tracks here and already a major highlight in Cyrus’ larger catalogue, and “Violet Chemistry” is intoxicating. I just wish the night hadn’t died after leaving the club – what happened to a while?
But overall, this album has a lot of what I’ve come to expect from a Miley Cyrus album: oomph, spice, incredible vocals and that classic juxtaposition of being a free spirit struggling to give yourself to someone else.
Cyrus expertly navigates her inner conflict, asserting her self-sufficiency or submitting to her codependent tendencies, with a sharp pen, meticulous attention to detail, and multiple throbbing beats. She may not always find the right balance, but eventually she doesn’t care or has time for what went wrong – she just keeps going like a rolling stone.
Worth listening to:
“A Thousand Miles (with Brandi Carlile)”
*Final album score based on tracks per category (1 point for “worth listening”, 0.5 for “background music”, 0.5 for “separate decision”, 0 for “press skip”).