There’s a certain genius about Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, but it’s not so much in the music as it is other aspects. Miley Cyrus has become a definition of pop music, even if she’s done anything and everything to defy those rules. So when she announced at the VMAs last month that her new album was available to stream online for free, what awaited the curious was predictably unpredictable.
Recorded completely independently (but with the support of) her record label, Dead Petz is a psychedelic ride through mellow pop beats and lots and lots of sex and drugs – but we would know to expect that based on her public persona and online presence anyway.
The biggest surprise is just how off-side everything about this project is: the music, the lyrics, the production. Try to imagine any pop star from the last decade or so doing as warped and unconventional a record as this and it’s impossible. What gives Miley the ability to do it without hurting her brand is that it’s already largely uncontrolled – she does what she wants. The downside being that, because of that lack of control, the element of surprise is largely non-existent with this album – it’s just another case of She’s just being Miley.
One of the noticeable qualities in the music is how much breathing room most of the songs have that likely wouldn’t be there if this were a major label album. With such a chill sound, this works in favour of letting the songs flow without being rushed or prematurely cut down.
With that said, there are many aspects of the record that could be reigned in. Miley’s tendency to do whatever the hell she wants works against her. A lot. It’s not that she necessarily needs a filter (despite what many think), but she’d be doing herself a favour if she were more strategic in how she played with her ideas. The very end of Dooo It!, for example, is the nail in the coffin of a track that isn’t good to begin with, even if it has one of the album’s few hooks. Beyond that, there are points when she rambles or drags a point out too long. On that note, skip or delete BB Talk and Fweaky.
With 23 tracks, there’s a lot that can and should be skipped, but there are a few worth using. The trilogy of Karen Don’t Be Sad, The Floyd Song and Something About Space Dude at the beginning is oddly appealing, while a trilogy of songs in the second half includes the pleasantly conventional-sounding Lighter – a breath of fresh air at this point, Tangerine – which actually gives me Frank Ocean vibes when Big Sean steps in for a verse toward the end, and the highlight Tiger Dreams – those alluring bells and that ominous drum echo.
The pace over the duration of Dead Petz is generally pretty slow and the lack of hooks and strong melodies leaves little to stand out. While that could be a bad thing, it kind of works in its favour of making it a relatively easy album to listen to. Most of the focus is on the production that ranges from minimal to enticing to just strange. It’s not even that it necessarily has to be classified as simply either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but what it is is intriguing – and I would say that’s good. Take the best 10 or 11 tracks and this could be a pretty solid, almost landmark album for the modern day pop star.
1. Dooo It!
2. Karen Don’t Be Sad
3. The Floyd Song (Sunrise)
4. Something About Space Dude
5. Space Boots
6. Fuckin Fucked Up
7. BB Talk
9. Bang Me Box
10. Milky Milky Milk
11. Slab Of Butter (Scorpion) [featuring Sarah Barthel of Phantogram]
12. I’m So Drunk
13. I Forgive Yiew
14. I Get So Scared
16. Tangerine [featuring Big Sean]
17. Tiger Dreams [featuring Ariel Pink]
18. Cyrus Skies
19. Evil Is But A Shadow
20. 1 Sun
21. Miley Tibetan Bowlzzz
22. Pablow The Blowfish
23. Twinkle Song