“Miley, what’s good?” jabbed a ferocious Nicki Minaj on stage at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards after recent comments Miley Cyrus made about Minaj to Vanity Fair. The answer is not Cyrus’ album, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, which was surprise-released at the end of the awards ceremony on Aug. 30.
In an attempt to out-Beyoncé Queen Bey herself, Cyrus joined the wave of artists (Drake, Skrillex, D’Angelo, U2) dropping their albums with no prior warning. In a surprising change of pace, however, the album was made available for free to everyone with access to the Internet via Cyrus’ own website.
A surprising move on the part of Cyrus, considering she is signed to a major label, RCA Records, and is undoubtedly tangled in contracts controlling her musical output and ensuring a hefty profit. That is, until the listener presses play, and it becomes very clear why the album was released for free.
Starting with the album opener “Dooo It!,” Cyrus chants, “Yeah I smoke pot, yeah I love peace / But I don’t give a f**k, I ain’t no hippie” while a throbbing bass line emphasizes her assertion. Though the song sprawls from what can only be described as a headache-inducing electronic breakdown to a strangely introspective pre-chorus, it is one of the more polished and finished songs on the record.
It’s one of the only songs with a hint of the kind of hooks expected from a modern popstar. Much of the rest of the album is a dreamy, drug-fueled haze that by the end feels strong enough to have given you a contact high. Cyrus croons over five-minute long ballads and trippy electronic beats, leaving any form of innuendo behind in favor of unadulterated, in-your-face obscenity.
In the rare moments that it works, such as songs like “Bang Me Box” and “I Forgive Yiew,” when Cyrus’ drug trip produces lines so absurd that they’re comical, (“You’re lucky I’m doing my yoga or you might be dead” and “It’s like you’re a zookeeper setting animals free” come to mind), there’s a glimpse of an interesting and creative artist beneath the attention-seeking public antics. However, these moments are few and far between on the album’s sprawling 23-song tracklist.
The majority of the album is spent on ballads that sound rough and unfinished. While songs like “Karen Don’t Be Sad” have a strange magic to them, others sound like Cyrus just sang whatever came to mind while in the studio in whatever stage of intoxication she was in thinking it sounded good.
Dead Petz is the manifestation of the “we-get-it-you-smoke-weed” internet meme. Which seems strangely fitting, considering the album’s release was overshadowed by a meme of Minaj calling Cyrus out at the VMA’s. The odds of any of its songs ending up on a future Miley Cyrus tour setlist years from now are slim to none.
Cyrus must not have learned a lesson from the underperformance of Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP in 2013 – know your audience and stick to writing catchy singles tailored for pop radio. The world doesn’t like when their popstars venture into too-weird territory.