As befits a young adult stepping out into the world on their own, Miley Cyrus has tried out multiple personas and sounds since stepping out of the shadow of the big mouse and the Hannah Montana alter-ego as a teenager in 2007. Mostly these explorations have remained firmly entrenched in pop-music, often perfectly encapsulating the sonic zeitgeist of the day. That is except for her 2015 excursion into psychedelia with Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, an album that failed to rate critically or commercially.
It’s been two years since that bold experiment, and four since Wrecking Ball tore its way up the charts, and Cyrus has returned with her sixth studio album, Younger Now. While the record sees her return to the pop-fold, it does so with a heavy country bent that may jar those who loved Bangerz or her earlier pop-rock offerings. Singles Younger Now and Malibu open the record, and both tracks are inoffensive to the point of being non-descript. They are solid songs, but neither feels likely to burn themselves into the listening public’s consciousness.
The legendary Dolly Parton – who happens to be Cyrus’ godmother – features on Rainbowland, and the two women’s voices work very well together. Throughout Younger Now, it becomes clear just how suited Cyrus’ vocals work in a country/Americana setting, with a husk and twang that is capable of imparting great emotion. So it is shame for the delivery on Miss You So Much to be pushed towards being a mumbled drawl, especially when a track like closing number, Inspired, plays to her vocal timbre so strongly.
While Younger Now doesn’t really work as either a pop or country album and is too ham-fisted to be an effective country-pop record, it does seem to signal a burgeoning maturity within Cyrus as an artist. If nothing else, the album indicates that Cyrus may be ready to move beyond being a former child-star and flavour of the month and become a performer with staying power.