On a new six-song EP, Miley Cyrus tells us in less than twenty minutes that she’s learned nothing new in the last few years. Commitments like marriage often spark a creative rush in young artists (see Kacey Musgraves), and a misstep like her gaffe in spring of 2017 criticizing the entire genre of hip-hip — from which she still happily borrows whenever it serves her — can sometimes lead to introspection, correction, and deeper understanding. But, sadly, and I write this as a bonafide Miley fan (I liked Dead Petz!), that is not the case on She Is Coming, just as it was not for her last full-length, the middling Younger Now.
Cyrus’ new EP is a scattershot collection of songs that tout mindless partying, drugs, and gesture weakly at sexual freedom by awkwardly deploying raunchiness. Even stranger, “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart,” one of the best songs she’s released in years, isn’t included here. Sure, it’s an early single for Mark Ronson’s own solo project, but it isn’t unheard of for artists to split custody or share a successful joint single to help bolster one party’s otherwise floundering career.
What’s worse, no one in Miley’s camp seems to have advised her that the song’s retro country, ’70s rock, and dancefloor mashup is a sweet spot, not only for Miley’s vocal range, but for her audience, aesthetic, and attitude. Nothing on her new EP leans into a style that was just proven successful with a dance chart hit, which is, in turn, further proof of her own lack of self-awareness about where she fits.
Within the first ten seconds of the opener, “Mother’s Daughter,” Miley Cyrus has compared her sexual desire to a piranha, and unfortunately, it doesn’t get better from there. And though “Mother’s Daughter” is a gesture toward a maternal connection, aside from the assertion that she’ll “make it,” we don’t get much information about how the pair are connected. A final ad-lib of “swish swish, motherf*cker” seems to be a reference to Katy Perry’s failed to single of the same name, and honestly, these two songs belong in the same pile of cobbled together pop castoffs.
While anthems of hedonism like “Unholy” feel rightly justified from those experiencing the crushing anxiety and helplessness of being in marginalized in America, Cyrus’ is devoid of either a reason to drown out the outside world, or the flush of joy that sparks partying for pleasure that her classic, “Party In The USA” best encapsulates. And after trashing hip-hop just two years ago, Miley is back on the wagon for “D.R.E.A.M.,” featuring none other than Wu-Tang legend Ghostface Killah, who plenty of her fans probably don’t know the significance of, but on repeated listens this song does have some sparkling, late-night appeal.
After four months of listening to the glistening Thank U, Next tracks properly blend the impulses of pop and hip-hop, it’s a bummer to hear something so jagged make its way to release. Yet, you have to give Cyrus credit for understanding the pop-meets-rap ethos is potentially the wave of the future for young female stars like her and Ari, and perhaps if she spent a bit more time refining it, her instincts here would eventually pull through.
RuPaul gives a lesson in bad b*itch energy on the wince-worthy “Cattitude,” where the self-proclaimed genderfluid Cyrus raps about her pussy, attempting to go head-to-head with the world’s greatest drag queen… and coming up short. But again, who could withstand trading bars with and, as the kids say, keeping that same energy, as RuPaul? It’d be a lofty feat for anyone, and though she’s out of her league, I once again have to give Miley credit for even attempting.
The more distasteful element of the song is when she falls prey to hip-hop’s endless, misogynistic habit of pitting its queen bees against one another by setting up another tired Cardi versus Nicki barb. Though she attempts to namecheck Cardi as a fan on the final poorly-rapped verse here, her rhymes are much more akin to Nicki’s flows, they lack Cardi’s elasticity and enunciated passion, and land as flatly as Minaj’s 2018 Queen did. (No shots, Nicki will be back)
Naturally, the EP’s high water mark comes in the form of a collab with Swae Lee and Mike Will Made-It, and longtime Miley listeners will remember it was the former who almost singlehandedly made Bangerz the flawed but enjoyable album it was. I could listen to Lee’s melancholy meditations about parking on “Party Up The Street” for the entirety of summer and still not be sick of it. Andrew Wyatt, aka Miike Snow, also lends his signature sing-song gloominess to this standout, but between Mike Will, Swae Lee, and Wyatt, it barely sounds like a Miley song.
Strangely, the EP’s other high point is a grim ballad where Cyrus admits to being a difficult partner, or very convincingly sings her way into the role, casting her lover, (audiences will fill in new husband, Liam Hemsworth, here) as a savior figure who resurrects their toxic relationship again and again through unconditional love. It’s another rote trope from a woman who we know has the capability to push the boundaries of gender and commitment conversations to their limit; how great would it be to hear a song about how time spent apart, and her attempts at a sexual awakening, changed things between Cyrus and Hemsworth? Despite the shaky premise, the song actually works, blending smeary synths with Cyrus’ rough, thick alto, which works better in its raw, lower registers.
On the EP’s album cover, Cyrus sports a cropped tee emblazoned with the first half of the Sex Pistols album title, Never Mind The Bollocks, a heavy-handed attempt to invoke the rebellious spirit of these punk rock icons. One of the most well-known songs off that record is called “God Save The Queen,” and Johnny Rotten infamously sneers “God save the queen / we mean it man,” decidedly not meaning it. But if Rotten listened to the album this cover graces, he’d probably consider Miley more queen than Pistol. But no one asked her to be a Sex Pistol acolyte, or a drag queen, or a rapper. We want Miley to start being Miley, is she coming?
She Is Coming is out now via RCA Records. Get it here.