Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Miley Cyrus – Malibu

All the stars explode tonight…


Alfred Soto: Supposedly written in a half-hour card ride, and I hear it. Courtney Love already wrote the finest song about Malibu, but the world needs more from someone old and smart enough to understand the scene, its behavior, its language: what would it sound like to use the Malibu ethos to write a valentine to Thor? Miley Cyrus is that person. I like her unsteady warble too. But this “Malibu” has too many received gestures. 

Claire Biddles: Every time the chorus hits, I start daydreaming about Hole’s “Malibu”: Recognisable as an ode to the same place as Miley’s, but with the bland, washed-out Instagram filter removed. The drive to escape is there, but so is the rotted desperation that came before.

Olivia Rafferty: Miley really hits something special with “Malibu.” There’s an earnestness to the way the chords progress in each verse, flitting between hopeful and somehow wistful with each change. The ease translates to her vocals, which are breathy and contain a jewel of authenticity. For all the beautiful build-up, the teasing and coaxing of those verses, something gets lost as the refrain turns into some kind of Mumford-cum-vlogger music. Still, I’ll listen again and again for those verses.

Katie Gill: Take a shot because Miley Cyrus is reinventing her image yet again, going to a more laid back, sort of folky and breezy sound. There’s been plenty of articles written about how Cyrus just so casually cast off her appropriation of black culture with this new single, so I won’t tread ground that’s already been covered, but as pretty much the only person who liked the weirdness and unconventionality of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, her following that album up with something sweet and gentle yet not all that exciting is… kind of disappointing?

Micha Cavaseno: Enough has been said about the supposed “she return to whiteness” narrative from plenty of people who resent the garishness of Miley’s “rebel period,” starting with the ratchet-kin vibes of Bangerz before briefly sliding into the trash/psych/brat vibes of Dead Petz. More creepily, “Malibu” feels in many ways like a millennial version of the classic boomer-rehab angle. After falling head over heels in gaudy pursuits of rebellion, now we get a calmer, more relaxed Miley who gets to provide some sort of wisdom after surviving… what, exactly? Doesn’t matter. After years of making music that admittedly was sonically oversaturated with flash and bang, we get Cyrus with her voice and guitars to both cast aside the supposed plasticity of her early Disney beginnings (like “The Climb” ain’t a great MOR ballad), or the shamefulness of her “wilderness years” to settle down and be a real person. Its dullness is supposed to endear her to the parents who just want their kid to settle down and get themselves together and the adolescent who no longer feels the old rushes like they used to. It’s a deliberate drain and squeeze in such a predictable fashion.

Katherine St Asaph: At this point there is probably literally nothing Miley Cyrus could release that people would like. In her Hannah Montana days she was a metonym for the Disneyfication of pop, in her Bangerz days she was a metonym for the faux-twerkification of pop, in that Dead Petz minute-and-a-half she was a metonym for the excess of celebrities. This is the curse of the metonym: you’re a household name, but you can record Disney Channel pop-punk, watery inspiro, stompy electro, straight-up pop fizz, party sulking, weird-ass piss-takes or conspicuous country authenticity, and it’ll all be written off as Pop All Sounds The Same And Is Awful. So sure, “Malibu” is as calculated an image move as “Can’t Be Tamed” was: the prodigal pop star, returning to happy-hippie guitars and milquetoast morality and Liam Hemsworth. That’s not the problem; pop is the construction of feelings via calculation. The problem is that “Malibu” wants to be a Katy Rose record, but is too contrite.

Thomas Inskeep: No, this doesn’t have the excitement of Bangerz, but I really like (what I assume is) the natural twang that Cyrus lets dictate her singing here; this amenable, lightly countrified pop-rock suits her (as, apparently, does domesticity). The only glitch comes in the choruses, where the beats threaten to encroach on the proceedings, but fortunately they settle down before that would happen.

Will Adams: What does it say about Cyrus’s career that the best case scenario for her post-VMA shenanigans era would be skewing as inoffensive as possible (I won’t speak too loudly; Katy Perry might be taking notes)? It’s a quagmire: Bangerz is one of the decade’s worst pop records and I’m happy to never return to it, but “Malibu” comes at the cost of Cyrus roundabout shitting on any hip-hop that isn’t Kendrick and providing yet another mixup between authenticity and plainness for a year already chock full of them. The sun-streaked guitars and Mumford stomp are rote, the lyric mushy, and the end result pat.

William John: What’s worse — Miley Cyrus continuing to maraud and profit as a cultural minstrel, or Miley Cyrus denouncing that same appropriated culture altogether and then gravitating towards an authenticity as dictated by the white establishment? It’s hard to divorce “Malibu” from this context, and to view it through any lens other than one heavily clouded by cynicism. Cyrus’ melancholy twang has always been her biggest strength, and it’s nice to see it highlighted here (one would hope it is further exploited by Nashville songwriters either on this album or the next) on a pleasant enough guitar stomper. It’s all vacuously fine, but in the way she’s released this single Cyrus has positioned herself as a condescending cultural tourist. That in turn weakens not only the song’s likability, but its credibility too.

Reader average: [4.25] (8 votes)

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2 Responses to “Miley Cyrus – Malibu”

  1. Either Alfred’s joke went right over my head or he got the wrong Hemsworth

  2. this bad