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Album Review

Oh, Miley. You've been Hannah Montana. You've been a "wrecking ball." And, this time around, you're Younger Now.

Miley Cyrus' sixth album delivers a fresh-sounding combination of pop, rock and country. Along the way, she sings confessional songs that reference on-again, off-again, on-again fiancé Liam Hemsworth, as well as her short relationships with Stella Maxwell and Patrick Schwarzenegger (though none of these people are mentioned by name). She also reflects upon the changes that have made her who she is today at the ripe old pop-icon age of 24.

Miley said in an interview with MTV that her latest album has facilitated freedom and healing: "I can be proud of all the Mileys I've ever been instead of trying to run away from the 11-year-old one or feel like I'm not Hannah Montana. I am stoked that was a part of my life. I'm not afraid of who I used to be. No one stays the same."

This album certainly showcases the fact that Miley's done anything but stay the same. Among other diverse musical moments, it finds her reaching for her good ol' Tennessee roots in a song featuring her godmother Dolly Parton. And at times, it finds her learning to be a healthier version of herself, too.

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On "I Would Die For You," Miley delivers exactly that message: "I'd give up all I have in exchange for who I love more than anything/ … I would die for you." She also realizes that sometimes words can be "like a knife," and that she doesn't "always choose just so wisely." We also hear this biblical allusion to Gal. 6:7: "I've heard you reap what you sow." And "Miss You So Much" gushes, "If you fall I'd pick you up, and I'd drink your tears/ … I don't want gold, nothing more than you."

"Love Someone" ponders what real love is, even as it talks of getting distance from the counterfeit variety: "I never give up/ … All I do is give and all you do is take/ … To make somebody stay/You gotta love someone." On "Bad Mood," Miley admits she sometimes has those. She also wonders what life would be like if two people weren't "held together by a string" and she wasn't "balancing too many things." That said, she's not going to tolerate being treated poorly, either: "You know it's gone on way too long/And you know it's wrong/But I know I'm strong/ … I've had enough." "Thinkin'" also takes a guy to task for not being present enough, which has Miley wondering if he's cheating on her ("We ain't got nothing, if there ain't no trust/ I'm not sure, but I got a hunch/And now you've got me thinkin' way too much").

"Younger Now" recognizes the reality of change. "Even though it's not who I am/I'm not afraid of what I used to be," Miley confesses. "No one stays the same/ … Change is a thing you can count on/I feel so much younger now." "Malibu" touches on similar themes, commenting on the calming influence of someone who loves her: "And sometimes I get so scared/Of what I can't understand/But here I am/Next to you."

"Inspired" thanks her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, for helping her realize, "We are meant for more/You're the handle on the door/That opens up to change." She also begins to see life through a larger lens ("Is anyone watching us down here?") and notes that death, as hard as it is, nevertheless "reminds us of time and what it's worth."

"Rainbowland" likewise expresses optimism about each person's potential to make the world a better place: "'Cause I know if I tried, we could really make a difference in this world/ … We are rainbows, me and you/ Every color, every hue/Let's shine through/Together we can start livin' in a rainbowland." But …

Objectionable Content

… given the LGBTQ movement's appropriation of the rainbow as a defining visual symbol, it's hard not to hear "Rainbowland" as an anthem celebrating that movement, especially when Miley (with Dolly Parton) counsels, "Let's dig down deep inside/Brush the judgment and fear aside/ … All the hurt and hate going on here." Obviously, "judgment" and "hate" are negative things; but it seems likely that this song is, at least in part, aimed at cultural conservatives and Christians whom Miley perhaps deems judgmental and hateful because of their convictions.

"Miss You So Much" chastises someone who is "so full of s---." S-words turn upon elsewhere, too, as well as the word "h---." Also in this track, Miley practically worships someone she loves: "You're my god, you're my faith/On my knees, I look at you and revere."

On "She's Not Him" Miley thanks a woman with whom she had a romantic relationship (likely model Stella Maxwell). She begins, "I want to start by saying thank you/I'm gonna miss you, honey." She also praises her former partner's physical features, saying, "Those eyes, that tongue, those teeth, that face, that body." But at the end of the day, she admits that this woman is no match for a man Miley still loves: "Still no way you can take his place/ … I just can't fall in love with you/ Cause you're not him." She also tells this woman, "You don't deserve all the bulls--- I've put you through."

"Week Without You" wonders if infidelity might be the result of a weeklong separation: "If I spent a week without you/ … I think that I'd start going out/Get caught kissing other dudes/It feels like I'm always just crying and sleeping alone."

Summary Advisory

Like it or not, we've all done things we look back on and regret. And on Younger Now, Miley Cyrus admits that that not all of her past actions have been healthy or wise, that change is necessary to keep becoming the best version of yourself.

That said, Miley doesn't completely distance herself from some problematic elements of her recent past. Profanities creep in at times. And one song in particular focuses, unapologetically, on a high-profile, same-sex relationship she had—reinforcing our culture's conviction that any kind of romance is equivalent to any other.

Those moments are really unfortunate here. That's because more often than not, Miley Cyrus seems more serious about growing up and changing in positive ways than she's been for a long time.

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Debuted at No. 5.

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September 29, 2017

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