Review Summary: Miley, what's good?A. Dead Petz
is hard to ignore. Dropped after her hosting stint for the VMAs as some sort of party favor (or maybe as some sort of apology), Dead Petz
landed with a crash.
A surprise release
With Dead Petz
, size matters. Twenty-three tracks, clocking in at an hour and half, twice the length of a typical pop album.
A really long
surprise release? Exciting!
Honestly, that cover is kind of cool.
The studio version of “Dooo It!” is a much more pleasing affair than its train wreck VMAs debut made it out to be.
But should that really be a surprise? For anyone that’s paying attention, Miley Cyrus has proved time and time again that she’s a more than competent musician. Looking as far back as her Hannah Montana years, some of her work is pop-perfect. Can’t be Tamed
the Album sort of sucked, but “Can’t be Tamed” the Single…
If I could do so without feeling guilty, I’d go back and rewrite my review of Bangerz
and rate it a little higher and praise it a little more.
I. Dead Petz
is an experimental album because sometimes the synths drone in odd places and strike discordant chords with the general melody, but most of the time, Dead Petz
is experimental because it doesn’t sound like anything she’s done before.
Actually, this may be Cyrus at her most “un-tamable.”
The first half of Dead Petz
is refreshingly good. The tracks here are heavy and noisy, but there’s an exuberance here, a fun in their creation, that sounds like the best of Bangerz
. Miley sounds more at home, like the need to shock us, for now, has finally worn off. The country guitar tangled with a synth-heavy smooth atmosphere of “The Floyd Song (Sunrise)” and “Something About Space Dude” turns into some fun, heavy stuff like “Bang Me Box” and the really, really
weird “Milky Milky.” Sometimes her singing sounds purposefully bad, but t comes with a sense of playfulness. Mike WiLL Made-It’s “I Forgive Yiew” sounds like a better Bangerz
bonus track. It’s got more attitude than most of the record, and a musical middle finger is welcome because at least it’s flushing the record with some personality.
If she had lopped off the latter half of the record, Dead Petz
could have made a good case for Miley’s artistic flexibility. Not great, but good.
But then things get boring.
N. Dead Petz
hits a slight bump with the lazy, inoffensive “Lighter,” but the four-track slog following it is a slow, languid, often grating trip. The messiness that made its first act so appealing is suddenly a burden. Even a guest verse from Big Sean on “Tangerine” doesn’t punch anything up. “Cyrus Skies” has a chorus that sounds like a plea: “I feel alive!” We don’t.
Things wake up briefly in the album’s final run at “1 Sun.” It’s an upbeat and noisy track that shakes off the stupor that “Cyrus Skies” made nearly suffocating. It’s a rallying cry for the…environment? She pleads with us, “Can’t you see all the clouds are dying?” I’ll take a dance-ready tree-hugging anthem, sure.
Perhaps the most bewildering track, “Pablow the Blowfish” is an ode to her dead pet fish, and it’s genuinely sweet and a little heart-wrenching. Or so it would seem, until she cuts her crying short and slaps some piano keys and chuckles out a sardonic “Damn.” She’ll go on to repeat that same piano slap and toss-off on the next and final track, “Twinkle Song,” which showcases some of Miley’s strongest vocal work on Dead Petz
. Is that a spoiler? Are there spoilers in music? It mostly just spoils the conclusion of the record. One instance of pulling the rug out from under us like that is an amusing, tongue-in-cheek moment that reminds us that Cyrus really like to mess with us, and it’s fun when we let her. Twice in a row smacks of a failure of editing, as if she couldn’t decide when a kiss-off like that was more effective, and so we have both, commenting lazily on one another.
And then it’s over. Somehow, after coming out of the longest pop album I’ve ever listened to…a pop album that went where Cyrus has never gone before…a pop album that twists and turns and repeats itself and then lashes out in abrupt flights of fancy…I’m left thinking, Is that it?
I think it’s easy to pigeonhole Miley’s shtick as “Sex Sex Sex (Drugs!)” because that’s what she shoves in our faces, but I wonder if a more apt description is that she’s the master of Too Much Information. At the moment, our culture is hung up on feminism and sex-positivity, and Cyrus is warping that because she knows it makes us uncomfortable, more so because we got to watch her grow up. She bares everything. With Dead Petz
, it really may finally be too much.
Something about this album is unsatisfying. It wants to be a chance for Cyrus to exercise creative control, to finally be the most personal of personal statements. She sings a lot about Sex sex sex (Drugs!), but she also sings a lot about heartbreak, and the universe, and death. Dead Petz
is not an Album so much as it is a Project. She’s actively working towards making something totally different.
This record does not exist outside of the shadow of BEYONCÉ
(A surprise release
? Exciting!). And while it’s not quite fair to compare the two artists, I think it is fair to compare what they achieved by delivering their work. Beyoncé gave us an album that pushed her sound in new directions and also gave us some of her most gripping, personal work, and the surprise brought attention to the frankness. Cyrus doesn’t try to do any of that, and the surprise is just a gimmick.
In my review for Bangerz
, I said that I thought most of the vitriol for female pop stars came from a problem with hating women, rather than a problem with hating pop music. With Cyrus, I still think that this holds true.
I don’t think it’s fair to attack Cyrus for being a “slut.” Who cares?
I also don’t think it’s fair to call out Cyrus for not being a role model. Who cares?
But I’m starting to think it is
fair to hold Cyrus accountable for her provocations, because at this point…who cares?
I keep thinking about how unimpressive and redundant her attempts to shock us as a VMAs host were, and how it stunk of “been there, done that.” On “Dooo It!” she proclaims, “Yeah I smoke pot!” And it’s not provocative in the least, because by now, we know
. She keeps meeting our expectations, not surpassing them. Not a single track on Dead Petz
reaches the heights of Bangerz
. That doesn’t make it a failure, but it’s disappointing that it isn’t a triumph.
Ultimately, Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz
falls short because despite its gargantuan status, it’s inconsequential. It serves as a talking-point to contextualize her work before it and anything she does after it, and not much else. It’s just sound and fury.