On August 30 Miley Cyrus performed a new song, “Dooo It,” while hosting the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. Then she posted it online along with the 22 other tracks that comprise Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, her fifth album. With production credits from The Flaming Lips and artist/digital marketing guru Ryder Ripps, it’s another step in the transition from Disney child star to fully-fledged pop artiste. Spatial, Jahiliyya Fields, Aïsha Devi and Whirlpool Productions’ Justus Köhncke debate whether her transformation convinces.
While Spatial is a purveyor of various forms of UK bass music, he also enjoys a good pop album. But he doesn’t hear Miley checking her pop privilege on ‘Petz’.
“Childhood fame can be viewed similarly to the problem facing all digital natives: every growing pain is documented, which makes it less believable when audacious moves are made to establish an identity. It’s not surprising that Miley Cyrus kicked her sugar-sweet Disney legacy hard in an edgier direction. That punk attitude could’ve had currency, as shunning the industry machine by self-releasing an album is a great, if luxurious, stance. It would be easier to buy into her avatar if the attempts were better realized or more sonically daring. Much of the lyrical content is juvenile, even for the most hormone-ridden adolescent. The posturing seems plastic.
Ignoring the lyrics, ‘Dooo It’ has party-starting production swagger but feels out of place amidst later songs’ faux-psychedelic Flaming Lips karaoke. ‘Slab of Butter’ and ‘The Floyd Song’ are as palatable as forgettable, like many of the songs. ‘Cyrus Skies’ fairs better and sounds more completed. It won’t surprise you to hear that the record has little resonance with me, but it’s disappointing to see a pop star with such privilege fail to make the most of an interesting gesture. I’d have hoped that 2015 pop music could be more exciting.”
Aïsha Devi makes very weird pop music, so it’s no surprise to read that she thinks Miley Cyrus does not.
“Here I am, at the end of the album, a bit anxious cuz I feel no nucleus, no substance, no cohesion—just a collection genres in each track. Hazy melancholia, rough filthiness, bold disharmonies and badass riot vibes emanate all over. I kinda get the intention, but I’m lost in the artificial result. Why does intimacy sound so fake? She has carefully chosen her subversive entourage; Wayne Coyne and his acolyte producers assaulted the LP with musical recipes and injected psychic intensity like a motto. But on a creative level, it’s a bit of a fail, because each of Miley’s tracks is less powerful than its reference. I’m staying out of my endorphin stimulation zone here. There’s no music to talk about. It’s a boring demagogic parody.
Miley doesn’t go political; she accessorizes her persona with gadget-statements and usurped identities. Miley wants to be Grimes, Lady Gaga, Peaches, Madonna, Siouxsie Sioux, M.I.A., La Cicciolina, Alice Glass, Lana Del Rey and FKA Twigs on one record. But she’s Miley, an uncomfortable cartoon avatar compulsively impersonating existing icons and never generating her own content from deep in her bones. She is the goddess of obsolescence. I acknowledge her attempt of parasitizing the hit factory, but if a Disney queen’s dream is about becoming an outcast, she should go sincere, drop the apparatus and faire-valoir entourage and seek her very own essence to sound genuinely real and amateur.”
Jahiliyya Fields recently released his LP on L.I.E.S. with a press release that references Alvin Lucier and Jacques Lacan—which qualifies him to talk about what is and isn’t serious music. Guess what he thinks ‘Petz’ is?
“Music Criticism should be on that show about disgusting jobs, so I will be brief and without guile. This album sounds like the Flaming Lips and Miley singing/cursing/weeding ADHD lyrics interspersed between bouts of weed insight into the nature of narcissism. There are some Axis: Bold As Love licks spread about over some softly grind-y synths and beat machines. The ‘serious music’ gravitas keeps this album firmly commercial, and one of the other producers actually adds a spoken trademark to each of his cuts, which sound too compressed. As the long album unfolds, some deeper cuts emerge as well crafted psych-synth-pop. ‘Tangerine,’ with its wide-panning space ambiance, is the closest to an actual trip. The Lips and Miley sound like they had fun in the studio. I had to shut it off when it sounded like a talent show at the end.”
German house producer and Kompakt veteran Justus Köhncke isn’t afraid to celebrate ‘Petz’ while others shun it. Maybe it’s because he gets the joke?
“Miley Cyrus dropped an astonishingly captivating, intimate, heartfelt and hyperultramegamodern pop album out of nowhere. It was produced rather cheaply in her garage with a lot of help from her Flaming Lips buddies and some hip-hoppers like Big Sean, who co-stars on the pychedelic pop masterpiece ‘Tangerine’. I actually don’t enjoy her voice that much; I prefer Grace Jones, Róisín Murphy, Karen Carpenter, Donna Summer—you name it. But because she bypassed the usual vocal production techniques like Melodyne or Autotune and instead drowned her voice in an ocean of psychedelic processing and dropped it in as razor-sharp, reverbless microsamples—oh my God—as a nerdy producer, I’m down on my knees. Petz offers the humor missing in big pop these days, hence “I’m So Drunk”, a miniature diddy that lives up to its title but easily could be extended to make a seven-minute club banger. Listening to Dead Petz makes me crave a dub/instrumental version. I would BUY that immediately. And I want to remix ‘Tangerine’ so badly. Miley, can you hear me?”
This article will appear in the Fall 2015 issue of Electronic Beats Magazine. Click here to read more from the magazine.
Published September 28, 2015.