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Album Review

What does a 22-year-old former Disney star do for an encore after swinging naked on a wrecking ball? Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz answers that question.

Definitively and provocatively.

Profanely and graphically.

Dazedly and confusedly.

Miley's surprise fifth album, which she financed herself and released for free online, was pushed out to an unsuspecting world hot on the heels of her nearly nude stint hosting MTV's 2015 Video Music Awards. For the record, she says its title was inspired by the death of her beloved dog, Floyd.

The 23 tracks the album contains are not like anything we've ever heard from Ms. Cyrus before. Pop it isn't. Instead, she worked with 54-year-old muse Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips to produce what often sounds like a trippy, psychedelic, drug-fueled experiment that's anything but radio friendly … sonically or lyrically.

"Yeah, I smoke pot, yeah, I love peace," Miley drawls on album opener "Dooo It!" "But I don't give a f---, I ain't no hippy." Such is the introduction to Miley's defiantly hallucinatory sojourn into the land of Dead Petz.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

"The Floyd Song (Sunrise)" poignantly grieves (it would seem) the loss of Miley's dog. "The sunlight insists on gladness," she observes. "But how can I be glad now my flower is dead." Another dead pet song, "Pablo the Blowfish," finds Miley realizing too late that her desire to keep a wild blowfish in a tank would have disastrous results. Confessional "I Get So Scared" finds Miley admitting her fears about never getting over a devastating romantic fracture.

On "Cyrus Skies," Miley sings, "I've been alive/But I've been a liar/There's some kind of love/That's so much higher." She later adds, "I feel protected by things I don't understand." Meanwhile, "I Forgive Yiew" finds her saying philosophically, "Life's a bunch of tests, and we're doin' our best/Searching for something outside ourselves to bring us happiness, yes." Similarly reflective lyrical flourishes turn up on "Tiger Dreams," where Miley sings, "I keep tryin' to understand where we are goin'." Some misguided notions about good and evil on "Evil Is But a Shadow" express a longing for "the light of the true." "1 Sun" tells us, "And we only have a little time to show how much we love." "Twinkle" repeatedly asks, "What does it mean?" and then suggests that meaning is found in unconditional love.

Objectionable Content

The marijuana-and-profanity-filled first lines to Dead Petz's first song put us on notice: Whatever inhibitions Miley once had are now utterly washed away in a torrent of celebrity self-indulgence. Outright obscenities of the worst sort can be found on many of these tracks. Ditto graphic references to drugs, alcohol and sex, including lesbian encounters, described in anatomical detail too explicit to quote in this review.

Perhaps the single line that captures Miley's attitude best is this one from "Slab of Butter": "The only laws I obey, the ones I'm makin' for myself/ … Self-control is not something I'm working on." Indeed. That song also brags repeatedly, "I'm 'bout to get f---ed up, wanna get f---ed up?"

"I'm So Drunk" repeats this slurred line five times: "I'm so drunk I can't even explain how what I feel right now." When it comes to critics voicing spiritual questions about Miley's excesses, she says dismissively, "Those religious f---s wouldn't understand." Meanwhile, "Fweaky" says about casual sex, "It never felt so right to be so wrong." Miley also mentions that the couple "drank all night and we done a bunch of pills."

On "BB Talk," Miley crudely instructs a lover to stop talking like a baby and just get on with the hard-core sex part of things. "Bang Me Box" talks about the various seuxal positions Miley's fine with a lover trying out on her. "It's like you're a zookeeper setting animals free," she croons, "You release me like a tiger that's been locked in a cage." "Karen Don't Be Sad" counsels a lesbian friend (or lover) not to let those who have questions about her choices get to her ("So Karen, don't be sad/ … Don't let them make the rules/ … You know the truth is true/ … You know you're only letting 'em win/By letting all their lies and hate/Destroy you from within").

Miley suggests an unbiblical dualistic spiritual worldview on "Evil Is But a Shadow." "Tangerine" says of the sun, "The sun is a giant space tangerine/It shoots rays of hopeful golden morphine/ … Shooting beam/As I stand before this holy sphere."

Amid a graphic sexual description of female arousal, we get this line, "While I'm singing all the verses from the Tibetan Book of the Dead." Grief gives way to a longing for death on "The Floyd Song (Sunrise)" when Miley intones, "Death, take me with you/I don't wanna live without my flower."

Summary Advisory

Miley Cyrus is determined to live her life wholly on her own terms, sometimes seeming to think she can even construct her own personal reality. In a recent interview with The New York Times, she said, "'I created my surroundings, my own world. What seems like fantasy or trippy, it’s not to me. It’s my actual reality."

And what is Miley's "actual reality" actually like?

If we take her at her word here—and there doesn't seem to be any reason not to—it's full of uninhibited sex with people of both genders, lots of marijuana smoking and a rejection of any suggestion that she is accountable to anyone but herself.

There are hints here and there, however, that her grand narcissistic adventure isn't going so well. Miley's occasionally honest about deep heartbreak, and in her quietest moments she ponders questions for which her hedonistic pursuits provide no answers. "Why does everything I love have to die?" she asks on "Pablo the Blowfish."

In those scattered and isolated moments, Miley may in fact be inching back to the hard reality that she can't control nearly as much as she'd like to think she can. Most of the time, though, she's just fine trumpeting orgiastic sex and soul-numbing inebriation as the end-all answers to everything.

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August 30, 2015

On Video

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Adam R. Holz