We Listened to Miley Cyrus’ Album So That You Don’t Have To (Unless You Want To)

Miley's Insta Antics
The real show wasn't on MTV; it was on Miley's Instagram.

Maybe you heard that Miley Cyrus surprise-released a new album last night. Maybe you heard it’s called Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. Maybe you heard that it’s streaming for free. Maybe you’d like to know what you’re getting into before you hit “play.”

Dead Petz is, to put it mildly, a beast of an album: 23 tracks in all. Only two of those are short interludes. Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips worked very closely with Miley for the writing and producing of the album, and producer Mike Will Made It also has his hand in several tracks. It is a lot to take in.

But I took it in. I listened to the whole thing, start to finish, and I have some thoughts to share with you. The following is in no way meant to be a definitive review of the album — it’s been out for just over 12 hours, and again, I only listened once. I basically wrote what came into my mind as I listened, and the result, I grant you, is not all that sophisticated. Still, let me share with you my impressions. My hot take begins now…

“Dooo It!”

This is the song Miley sang to close out the show. Miley smokes pot. Miley loves peace. Miley doesn’t give a fuck. A natural extension of Bangerz’ drug-fueled trap aesthetic but even more “in your face.” Grade: B

“Karen Don’t Be Sad”

We’ve already entered ballad territory. The Flaming Lips/Wayne Coyne influence becomes incredibly apparent starting right now. Shades of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. “So Karen don’t be sad,” Miley wails. “The world can still be beautiful, but that part’s up to you.” And we go out on a repeated “Don’t let them win…” which is a very Miley sentiment. It’s kind of beautiful, but in a weird way. Grade: B+

“The Floyd Song (Sunrise)”

A song for Floyd, Miley’s dog who was killed by coyotes last year. She was memorably and understandably very upset by this tragedy. Again, this sounds like a Flaming Lips song. Slow and hazy, lyrics about sun and death. A fair amount of vocal processing, which I could do without. Grade: B

“Something About Space Dude”

Acoustic guitar. Distant, spacey vocals. A sense of pulsating. A very slight song that — and I hate to be this repetitive this early on — really just sounds like a Flaming Lips record featuring Miley as a guest vocalist. Grade: C

“Space Boots”

This is as close as we’ve gotten so far — and we’ve got a ways to go — to a straight-up pop song. It maintains the interstellar-psychedelia of the previous numbers, but Miley’s vocals are front and center here. And she sounds great. Imagine Miley doing “Space Oddity” and you’re halfway there. Grade: A-

“Fuckin Fucked Up”

A 50-second interlude that functions, essentially, as an excuse for Miley to to say “fuck” a lot. Grade: D

“BB Talk”

We begin with a spoken word intro. (The talking will return often throughout the song’s four-and-a-half-minute runtime.) Miley talks of sleeping next to one dude while thinking of another and of realizing that she perhaps “never fell out of love with him in the first place.” There is a sung chorus, but the majority of this song is talking. Is she talking about Liam Hemsworth? Patrick Schwarzenegger? We’ll never know. So much talking. At one point, she talks about specific emojis. Grade: D+

“Fweaky”

Hands down my favorite song so far. Miley’s voice, once again the star of the show, is very sultry, deep — and also fragile and slightly cracked. The melody is almost lullaby-like, but with lyrics like “after we drank all night and done a bunch of pills,” it’s hard to imagine many will be singing it to their babies. Grade: A

“Bang Me Box”

Miley wants you to bang her box. You know this because it’s Miley and because it’s the title of the song and also because she sings the lyrics, “I want you to bang my box.” It’s sexy, a little funky, but not everything I expected from a Mike Will Made It prodiction. Grade: C

“Milky Milky Milk”

A buzzing, shaking, and at at times discordant jam in keeping with the influence of The Flaming Lips. Best lyric (on the album?): “I’m sucking on your nipples, licking milky, milky stars.” Grade: B

“Cyrus Skies”

The best way I can think to describe this track is to say it’s a Miley-specific update on mid-to-late ’90s trip-hop. Shades of Portishead (and Garbage when they go slow). It could be the strangest Bond theme ever recorded.  Her voice deep sexy is the best part of the song, and it is the best it has sounded on the album (so far). Grade: A-

“Slab of Butter (Scorpion) (Feat. Sarah Barthel of Phantogram)”

We return to the urban flavor of the Bangerz era as a loop informs us: “I’m about to get fucked up.” Then begins a sprawling, belching, gulping rock number. It works surprisingly well, but it overstays its welcome after a while. Grade: B+

“I’m So Drunk”

Another interlude. Darker and heavier than most of the album so far. Miley’s so drunk. What else is new? Grade: C-

“I Forgive Yiew”

A perfect amalgam of Miley’s collaborative efforts with Mike Will Made It and Wayne Coyne. Breezy and catchy. So far, there has not been much here in the way of single material, but this could potentially pass. It’s no No. 1, but still — it would do in a pinch. Grade: A

“I Get So Scared”

Is this the most vulnerable Miley has been on Dead Petz so far? I think yes. Miley sings of her fears that she “will never get over you.” One feels almost as if he is floating while listening to the hazy guitar riff. Again, Miley sounds best when her voice is not hacked to bits by technology — here it is clean, clear, and wonderful to hear. Grade: A-

“Lighter”

Some ’80s synths and drum machine beats. But with an ear toward the future. This is no 1989, after all. Imagine having a dream that you’re slow-dancing at a prom in the year 2026; this is the song that’s playing. At almost five-and-a-half minutes, a little long. Grade: B+

“Tangerine (Feat. Big Sean)”

A bit aimless, but just as appealingly floaty and spacey as the rest of the record. It doesn’t really go anywhere, and at five minutes long, with its slow, hypnotic tempo, it may make the listener feel sleepy. Nap, anyone? Grade: C

“Tiger Dreams (Feat. Ariel Pink)”

This song features an ominous doorbell-sounding sound. Highlight. Otherwise, it is, like the song before, meandering and overlong. Grade: C+

“Evil Is But a Shadow”

If this song had not come after 18 songs that sound just like it, I may have liked it more. Everything is starting to blur together now. Grade: C

“1 Sun”

Oh. This. This is the one. This is the song. This is fantastic. You can sing along to this. You can pump your fist a little to this.  “We only have one sun, one moon, one me, one you,” the chorus goes. It is one of very few tracks not produced by Wayne Coyne or Mike Will Made It, which is probably why this track really pops. Grade: A+

“Pablow the Blowfish”

We’ve heard this song before, this ode to Miley’s dead blowfish, Pablow. It is crushing, it is beautiful. “How can I love someone I never touched?” Miley asks in the first line. Yes, she’s singing about a fish, but it will ring true to anyone who’s ever felt anything for another living creature: human, fish, or otherwise. For Grade: A+

“Miley Tibetan Bowlzzz”

Miley wails over a vaguely exotic orchestral track, Tibetan bowls plinking and plunking here and there. Pretty, but not exactly pertinent. Grade: B-

“Twinkle Song”

After, like, 20 tracks of Flaming Lips-inspired-and-produced psychedelia, Miley changes tacts at the end of the album — and it pays off. Her voice is her strongest asset, and it sounds gorgeous here where it is allowed to take center stage and soar. For all of her crass flash, Miley shocks me most when she strips everything away and writes and sounds like this. Grade: A+

Some Brief Thoughts on the Album As a Whole

If you come to this album expecting radio hits or club bangers, you will be sorely disappointed. If you come to this album already stoned out of your gourd — as Miley would want it — you will probably love it. It is certainly overlong, and at times the Flaming Lips influence is too repetitive and, simply, too much. I admire Miley for completely stepping away from the pop world, for trying something new; but I wish that this something new worked more often than it does (or that she had edited more). Most disappointingly, Miley’s voice — a legitimately unique and spectacular force — is often obscured or buried underneath the busy production and layers of autotune and vocal effects. When her voice breaks through, though — and it does throughout the album, not just at the end — the music is something to treasure. Overall, it feels more like an experimental muscle-flex, a side project-status work from Miley, who is maturing into a truly fascinating young artist. Preliminary Album Grade: B

Good Tracks: “Cyrus Skies,” “I Get So Scared,” “Lighter,” “Karen Don’t Be Sad”

Best Tracks: “1 Sun,” “Pablow the Blowfish,” “Space Boots,” “Twinkle Song,” “Fweaky”

Listen to the album here.