Miley Cyrus’ experimental project Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz was met with polarizing reactions from critics all over. That was enough to draw my attention to the project, I was curious about the nature of this album. I hadn’t heard anything about it from anyone I knew who listened to Miley Cyrus, something had to really be different about it. At first glance the album seemed unnecessarily long, one hour and thirty mines, over twenty songs long. I am used to listening to long albums, but those albums are either progressive rock/metal, it isn’t at all new to me. Since the artist in question is a pop artist, I had my doubts about the quality of this album, it seemed very likely to be filled with fluff. That was before I discovered she had been working on on it since before Bangerz. My doubts subsided, because if you spent that long working on a project it might be justifiably long, right?
After listening to Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz over five times, certain trends or moods started being apparent to me. The best way to conceptualize this album is to divide it into four sections which have different moods and features. It is I think the best way to understand it and approach it. So below are the sections and my thoughts on them
Here the music is spacey, spacious, dreamy and desolate in tone. Her voice floats about and the emotion in whatever she sings is sunken and black & white. The music requires a careful attention to detail because if you aren’t paying attention it feels as if everything is melded together, it gets murky and cloudy, a bit confusing and high-like. It is as if you are high with Miley, fucked out of your own brain. The way the music is structured here, where certain instruments come in and go and her delivery is awkward, misplaced and static. Miley bends your expectations and isn’t afraid to leave you dry and stunned. This makes this section a high experience, not sure you want to stay or leave or let her wreck your psyche/hypnotize you, but you go with it anyway.
The music here gets dynamic and structurally surprising. At first it sounds like pop, mere pop, but it so multifaceted, it builds to climaxes that dazzle and it is instrumentally technical in both deliverance and form. The pieces here dispel the melancholy of the first section, aspects of the music here are easily distinguishable and contain an attitude. The music starts shifting from the predominantly acoustic features of the first section. The music lives here, organically moving and changing. The composition here is tumultuous and infectious. Miley even writes some interesting metaphors, lyrics that complement the moods and shifts of the music. The unpredictability is still there, certain elements you wouldn’t think would go together go together, and her voice is genuinely an instrument as much as it delivers a myriad of meanings and feelings.
The music takes a very emotion-centered approach, experiences and feelings become the center. It isn’t about interpersonal matters, passion or lust like the previous section 2. It is about the affective side of things, the blue and black side of things and the nostalgia picking notes. The dynamic side of music from section 2 still creeps in here and there but it is in the low broody side of things, mid-tempo and achy.
The subject matter gets serious and interesting here, with a few light surprises here and then. In fact, this is the intelligent side of things. Intellectual, social and the aesthetic stimulation of things. You feel this is the climax. She talks interesting subjects like climate change, then she gets allegorical, metaphorical, satirical and post-modernist quite a bit. The music here is mostly stripped and minimalistic but that just accentuates the subjects, images and meanings Miley hurls at you. And this is undeniably clever and impressive.
To an extent some of the characteristics of each section present in others, there isn’t a sharp difference between these sections or else it wouldn’t feel like one album. It is the predominant moods and tendencies that I am focusing on.
In the end this album is really impressive, a pleasant surprise from Miley. I think the bulk of critics went into this albums with expectations, and expectations are deadly. Some called this a “vanity project” which I think is a stupid argument because that isn’t a necessary condition for bad quality or a valid criticism of the content. I never thought I would tear up because I was listening to Miley, and I did because this was genuinely good, a side of Miley which is authentic, raw and uncompromising. Like I hinted before, Miley should work with fewer people, then she can come out and express herself as an artist like she did here. Involving a ton of people in a production of an album is only going to drown the artist in the artist. It worked out great here and I feel lucky to have listened to this album. It is an aesthetic triumph and she should be proud of it.
With all that said I wouldn’t recommend you introduce this to your under age child.