We’ve long defended the artistry and intent of Nashville-raised pop megastar Miley Cyrus, who, over the past year or so, has really made strides in shaking her “former Disney kid turned shock-value pop star” reputation. Not only has Cyrus become an advocate for homeless LGBT youth, going to far as to start a foundation to aid in this cause, but she’s spoken out on issues of sexuality and acceptance in the mainstream media, proven her broader artistry by teaming up with some of the most relevant and creative musicians in the industry and by covering some inarguable classics, and has generally flexed a level of humility, self-awarness, and lack of ego that is rare amongst her peers.
Further challenging you to question her coolness, Cyrus, who definitely triumphed last night as MTV’s first VMAs host in several years (and one of few non-comedians to ever land the gig), ended the event with a surprise performance and free, digital release of her long-rumored Flaming Lips-helmed fifth album, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. Miley’s Flaming Lips associations go back several years, and this LP has been buzzed about since around the time of her last, 2013’s Bangerz. We first got a taste of the team-up on the Lips’ 2014 Beatles cover effort With a Little Help from My Fwends, where Miley tackled “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life,” but on Dead Petz, the famed psychedelic group take a backset on what is first and foremost a Miley album, albeit a Miley album with their production and co-writing sensibilities on most every track (eight of the album’s 23 songs make use of other producers).
Recorded on a budget of only $50,000, Dead Petz is most certainly the first time Cyrus has been allowed to experiment fully, and reportedly will not count towards her record deal with RCA. While the results may be somewhat uneven, the fact that a major popstar would produce something like this, not contrived “experimentation,” but actual, organic, risky, and real music, speaks so much to Miley’s priorities, as do the LP’s small stable of guests: Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel, Big Sean, and Ariel Pink. A far-cry from her Hannah Montana days, Cyrus is seemingly on the cusp of transitioning into something that hardly resembles her pop persona at all, but, given her profile and built-in audience, she’s in a unique position to take something small and experimental, and put it in front of more people that similar artists would ever otherwise reach. Among a whole host of other reasons, is why her career feels so important.
Listen to Miley’s entire new album for free right here, and watch her music video for first single “Dooo It” below!