Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz
To be honest, when I heard that Miley Cyrus “had dropped a surprise album,” I was a bit skeptical. I was even more skeptical when I heard Wayne Coyne was involved. Don’t get me wrong, I love the saccharine, post-post-production glitz that is Miley Cyrus’ brand of pop, and I love The Flaming Lips’ deep space sonic trips. But together? It seemed like a mix doomed to clash.
From the first note of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, I wanted so badly to hate it, but I couldn’t. The album is a weird hybrid of pop, reverb-heavy neo-folk, and performance art. And it’s genius. Clearly pulling a lot of threads together (Beyonce’s fame-supported surprise release, Lady Gaga’s faux performance art, Ke$ha, a general indie-scene ennui, Samuel Beckett, etc.), Miley Cyrus remixes the contrary and often contradictory messages that barrage the average 20-something into a gross, amorphous blob of sound and so shows us the shuddering juxtaposition between society and individual. Cyrus picks up on both the art students interacting with pop celebrities and pop celebrities interacting with art. Perhaps, the post-Disney starlet is trolling both sides of the art world.
But more than just an intellectual think piece, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz has definitely stunning moments and the album hits a variety of resonances (perhaps due to Cyrus’ interests splitting time between Flaming Lips-esque space pop and Mike Will Made-It pop grime). The album starts with the song “Dooo it,” which kicks the album off well as it touches on the disjointed somewhat cliched youth “rebelliousness” most feel. The song itself has a hypnotic instrumental track that does a lot of heavy-lifting as Cyrus spins some pseudo-surrealist lyrics (which with a video that alludes to Beckett’s “Not I” makes an interesting juxtaposition).
From the initial track, Miley Cyrus tends to favor Coyne-tinged whooshing space-pop. The album as a whole is stitched together by a slight narrative of a relationship (maybe one recently ended?) and drug-use and more drug-use. At the album’s most honest, there’s hard-hitting emotion behind the reverb-heavy pop. The album’s fifth song, “Space Boots,” is the epitome of this aesthetic. It blends some of the most compelling moments of Cyrus’ voice and lyrics with a Coyne inspired backing track.
From there, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz favors a dancier, grimier vibe, most likely the “Mike Will Made-It section” of the album. Smoother and sleeker, this side of the album feels more like a contemporary pop album than other sections. That said, there’s still a weirdness to it that, despite it’s mass-market feel, will undoubtedly affect its broader appeal.
Perhaps one of the smarter songs of the album, “Bang Me Box” has an infectious groove and a vaudevillian string of innuendos. The song would be another vapid pop-sex diddy if not for a moment in the second verse. Cyrus talks about her unnamed lover “tak[ing] [her] picture, position[ing] [her] body,” which, in light of both celebrity obsession and how the government can’t seem to leave female bodies alone, can only come off, due to the song’s other absurdist lyrics, as political satire. It’s a somewhat neo-feminist move on Cyrus’ part and another example of the album’s constant remixing society’s messages.
In all, the album makes a bold mockery of contemporary American culture but not without an almost naive honesty. Beyond its art-performance-pop feel, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is a good listen if SSSION-like pop is your thing. Plus, the internet will be obsessed about for a week, so you might as well.