How much of a surprise release is this, really? After a disappointingly unremarkable turn as the host of the MTV Video Music Awards – which this year drew a record low number of viewers – Miley Cyrus revealed the release of this: a previously unannounced free album available for streaming only. No word yet on a physical or download formats that may compensate Ms Cyrus for the $50k she took out of her own pocket to fund this oddity of an album.
Whilst uninteresting in its “surprise” form, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is fascinating in function. It feels authentically Miley; a committed statement of her fluctuating artistic intent. Helmed by her steadfastly supportive mentor and now co-writer Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz makes 2013’s Bangerz seem as out of touch with the 22-year-old media meteorite as her long-time abandoned purity ring-wearing Disney child star material.
Having been at this fame game for over a decade already, this album is a well-earned eruption of inventive freedom. In many ways, Cyrus has proven how easy pop notoriety is to earn these days; make a pledge to lewdness, have Terry Richardson document some of it and there you have it! Everyone will still be talking about you and MTV still using you as ratings bait two years later (a lifetime in pop years, of course).
Now for something more interesting than the chart crushing likes of ‘We Can’t Stop’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’…
As opening track ‘Dooo It’ details, smoking weed and not giving a fuck are two overpowering forces in Miley’s universe. So it’s only to be expected that Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz and it’s 23 tracks is awash with rambling stoner structures (or lack thereof), but it’s certainly not an unpleasant trip. Once past the coarse aforementioned opener, and deliberately provocative likes of ‘Bang Me Box’ and ‘Milky Milky Milk’, plus the hyper self-aware ‘BB Talk’, there’s a kaleidoscope of dreamy, slow burning numbers to get lost in. Sure, there’s a feeling of being stuck on loop sometimes but the free form nature of the likes of ‘Tiger Dreams’, featuring Ariel Pink, the gently confessional ‘I Get So Scared’ and soothing ‘Evil Is But A Shadow’ prove neither radio nor MTV approval are on Miley’s agenda right now. The Lady Gaga ARTPOP aping ‘1 Sun’ is as close as Cyrus edges towards palatable pop.
After what feels like a very long two years of the least subversive rebellion possible (as if a young, white, skinny woman with a proclivity for sexual fluidity and a permanent Hollywood wax isn’t every male music big wig’s greatest commercial wet dream come true), Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is a striking example of Miley literally putting her money where her mouth is. Pretty much every move Cyrus has made since cutting her hair off and sticking her tongue out has made her seem like a pop culture Frankenstein-like monster, but a tearful piano ballad about the innocence and death of a fish (‘Pablow The Blowfish’) finally shows someone genuinely not playing up to every industry expectation.
What happens next with this material is where things will get really interesting. Whilst Cyrus’ label RCA have stated they are “pleased to support Miley’s unique musical vision” they didn’t provide any budget for Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz and this self-release will not impact her multi-album contract. But can Miley go one better: can she take this material on tour? And – this is getting carried away now – but what if she can inspire even just one other A-list name to spew out a collection of songs as artistically accurate as this. It would make next year’s VMAs a hell of a lot more compelling.