By EMILY HERMAN Arts & Entertainment Editor
Without any advance notice, Disney pop star turned activist thrill-seeker Miley Cyrus released Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, a 23-track album co-produced by The Flaming Lips, on her Soundcloud account Sunday following Cyrus’ hosting gig at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs).
With an accompanying music video — a four minute and 26 second close-up of Cyrus’s face with glitter, milk and sprinkles streaming in and out of her mouth — Cyrus closed the award show by performing the album’s opening track “Dooo It!,” repeating the anthem-like chorus of “Yeah I smoke pot / Yeah I love peace/ But I don’t give a f*** / I ain’t no hippie” alongside an army of spandex-clad drag queens.
That chorus sets the tone for the rest of the album, in which Cyrus proves through candid, plainspoken lyrics that she’s a peace-loving stoner millennial who doesn’t care what anyone thinks, or at least would like you to think she doesn’t care.
Although she covers it up with heavy production, Cyrus’s voice is still as rich and twangy as ever; the entire album sounds as if T-Pain dropped acid then remixed an acoustic Joni Mitchell set.
Despite this, a handful of the songs on this album are actually solid and relatively normal-sounding pop tracks. For instance, in “Karen Don’t Be Sad,” which follows after “Dooo It!,” Cyrus cheers up a girl named Karen who’s feeling down on herself with a 1980s-style ballad that sounds like something Napoleon Dynamite might slow dance to at his prom.
The song where Cyrus best weaves deeply personal lyrics with catchy melodies is “BB Talk,” in which she shares her indecision about ending a relationship with a guy who baby talks in bed and likes excessive PDA.
The song’s spoken verses are intensely young — so young that anyone over the age of 25 may not relate at all when Cyrus talks about receiving texts with “the queen emoji” and sending “the monkey, you know, the ones with the hands over the eyes.”
Other songs on the album worth listening to include the ever-so-slightly R&B-tinged “Bang Me Box,” in which Cyrus gets very explicit about what she’s looking for in bed and “Lighter,” a sweet, gentle song about marijuana-laced romance.
Beyond these tracks, much of the album is musically and lyrically bizarre; you may find yourself re-listening to verses just to confirm something you heard. Many of these lyrics are too sexual or explicit for print, but they’re all about as puzzling as “I feel like a slab of butter that is melting in the sun,” which appears in both “Milky Milky Milk” and “Slab of Butter (Scorpion).”
The two songs that are actually about Cyrus’ actual dead pets — “The Floyd Song (Sunrise)” and “Pablow the Blowfish” — are the album’s lowest points. In the former she contemplates how she “can be glad now that my flower is dead” in reference to her dog, Floyd, who died suddenly in 2014.
In the latter Cyrus gets uncomfortably emotional over a dead fish, even audibly crying at the end of the song. The chorus is simply “Pablow the Blowfish / I miss you so much / Pablow the Blowfish / I miss you so bad.” Cyrus continues by singing that watching her friends eat sushi after Pablow’s death ruined her appetite, and then suggests that Pablow hook up with a seahorse named Sadie in the afterlife.
There were other moments throughout the album where Cyrus came across as more of an experimental high school freshman than a 22-year-old. The verse in “Fweaky” about hooking up “at your dad’s place / or at your mom’s / and if they’re both home we’ll go out on the lawn” conjured images of two teenagers sneaking around and getting drunk on a single bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.
The album also includes two wildly unnecessary interludes. Before “BB Talk,” Cyrus subjects her listeners to “F***in F***ed Up,” a 50-second track of little more than the words “f***ed up.” In “I’m So Drunk,” Cyrus, auto-tuned beyond the point of recognition, repeats the phrase “I’m so drunk I can’t even explain what I feel right now” five times.
For all the sideshow lyrics, a handful of songs on the album were just plain boring. Surprisingly, these included Cyrus’s collaborations with rapper Big Sean (“Tangerine”) and experimental pop artist Ariel Pink (“Tiger Dreams”), which appear back to back on the album. Combined, they were an 11-minute snoozefest.
Intrigued listeners should know that this album is long; with the exception of “F***in F***ed Up” and “I’m So Drunk,” most of the songs hover around the four to five-minute mark. Eccentric as they are, many of the songs could have potentially been compiled into an exceptional mixtape or shorter album.
Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz ends with “Twinkle Song,” a simple piano ditty in which Cyrus wonders “what does it all mean?” After 23 songs, this writer is wondering the same thing. Perhaps the answer would become crystal clear on an acid trip, accompanied by a six-pack of Smirnoff Ice.