Miley, Miley, Miley… Where to even begin with this review? Back in 2013 when the pop star swerved hard into the world of hip-hop with BANGERZ, there were a lot of mixed feelings afloat. We can all agree that cultural appropriation for the sole purpose of exploitation is not only tasteless, but extremely disrespectful. In the case of Miley Cyrus, there’s no denying that this triple platinum record held up as one of her most sonically diverse projects to date, and the hits speak for themselves. The execution of creative freedom is a complicated and often compromising process, but as fans we should ultimately want the artists that we gravitate toward to evolve throughout their career.
Fast-forward to 2017 and suddenly Cyrus was openly criticizing the toxic nature of hip-hop in a cover story for Billboard. In the interview, she expressed how she felt alienated by all the superficial materialism and graphic sexual language. “That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little,” she said. “It was too much ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’—I am so not that.” At the time, Cyrus preferred listening to songs that aligned with her free-loving hippie spirit like Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” Almost immediately, she was dragged by critics who demanded that the “culture vulture” shut up and stay in her lane.
“I have always and will continue to love and celebrate hip-hop as I’ve collaborated with some of the very best,” she wrote in a post on Instagram that has since been deleted. “At this point in my life I am expanding personally/musically and gravitating more towards uplifting, conscious rap! As I get older I understand the effect music has on the world & Seeing where we are today I feel the younger generation needs to hear positive powerful lyrics!”
And so she pivoted back to her wholesome country roots and sort of abandoned political controversy. “Malibu” initially won people over and the dawn of a new era of Miley seemed promising, but 2017’s Younger Now turned out to be a complete snoozefest that didn’t even go gold. When speaking about her next big project to Vanity Fair earlier this year, Cyrus detailed how she combined elements of pop, psychedelic, and hip-hop. “In the same way I like to kind of just be genderless, I like feeling genre-less,” she said.
It’s worth mentioning that Cyrus came out as pansexual in 2015. That same year, she founded the LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit Happy Hippie in an effort to “rally young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations.” Since then, she’s opened up about her personal experience as a queer person in a “hetero relationship” (she is now married to Liam Hemsworth) in many interviews.
She Is Coming sees Cyrus leaning into her sexuality in a more aggressive manner. She reconnects with Mike WiLL Made-It along with Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow to produce different tracks on the EP. Ghostface Killa, RuPaul, and Swae Lee are also randomly tapped for guest features. However, these collaborations are not enough to carry this hot mess express that is running without any sense of direction. All sex jokes and puns aside, this project is flaccid.
There’s a line in “Mother’s Daughter” that is extremely relevant for the worldwide fight for women to have autonomy over their bodies – “Don’t fuck with my freedom/ I came up to get me some.” Obviously a tribute to her mother, Tish, this song seems like it might have been rejected from the Captain Marvel soundtrack and with good reason. The thing is, Cyrus has more freedom and sexual liberation than the average person – her white privilege is on, dare I say, a nuclear level. Throughout the track, she goes so far as to identify as a freak, witch, Nile crocodile, and piranha.
I’m still trying to figure out if “D.R.E.A.M. (Drugs Rule Everything Around Me)” is a cry for help as Cyrus sings about how popping molly turns her red-eye flights into UFOs and makes all the girls look like her godmother, Dolly Parton. But it’s an addicting tune that will instantly get stuck in your head with a playfully bouncy beat until Ghostface Killa drops in with a completely detached verse. Substance abuse is a serious issue, though and it’s hard to tell if Cyrus is glamorizing or calling attention to it.
Don’t be surprised when you hear this track on the next popular teen drama (although it probably won’t make the cut for 13 Reasons Why because of Selena Gomez). One of my colleagues has renamed the track “Fentanyl Fantasy,” declaring it as a PSA for the opioid epidemic. It weirdly aligns with Cyrus’ character in the fifth season of Netflix’s Black Mirror, a successful pop star who is forced to be an inauthentic version of herself in a dystopian future. (Something tells me that this is the dark side of Hannah Montana that Disney didn’t want us to see…)
“Cattitude” had potential to be a solid female empowerment anthem, but the delivery falls flat on its ass. The only highlight is RuPaul’s ruthless intro on the track where he declares “Miley Cyrus/ Bitch, you look like you done already done had yours/ You better go take your country-ass indoors/ And put some damn clothes on/ ‘Cause don’t nobody need to be seeing all of that/ The library is officially open.” The image that came to mind when I listened to this song is that clip of Cyrus foolishly attempting to death drop on a stage in London to RuPaul and Todrick Hall’s “Dem Beats.” Truly impossible to forget.
“Turn up your gratitude, turn down your attitude,” she growls. “I love my pussy, that means I got cattitude/ If you don’t feel what I’m saying, I don’t fuck with you.” We get it, you’re raunchy… Anything else? While we’re all here, let’s briefly talk about how Cyrus goes out of her way to bring up her 2015 feud with Nicki Minaj at the MTV VMAs with the line “I love you, Nicki, but I listen to Cardi.” Was that really necessary?
“Unholy” is right on trend with the emo rap movement which couldn’t be further from Cyrus’ commercialized world. The raspy twang is seductive though as Cyrus expresses confusion over the fun aspect of partying fading from view. But not even Swae Lee could save “Party Up The Street,” a natural disaster if I ever heard one. The closing track “The Most” is a reminder that ballads are one of Cyrus’ biggest strengths because nobody belts out love songs quite like her. It’s a shame that these beautiful moments get lost in all the chaos.
She Is Coming is rusty and honestly should not have come out of the studio in this condition; that there are two more EPs lined up seems like a total waste of resources, but here’s hoping that She Is Here and She Is Everything will be more polished projects. Cyrus can continue to claim that her influence allegedly comes from her surroundings and the people that are a part of her close-knit community, but there’s not even the slightest sign of a genuine connection on any of these tracks. She’ll always be a talented singer-songwriter with a voice that could kill, but none of those fine-tuned skills come into play on this material, and it’s far too late for redemption. In her own words, “swish swish, motherfucker.”