NEW YORK, Sept 30, (Agencies): She transitioned from wholesome TV kid to pansexual media sensation — and now Miley Cyrus is reinventing herself again.
On “Younger Now,” the sixth album in her already storied career, the 24-year-old dips back into country — the music of her father, singer Billy Ray Cyrus.
But the album, which was released Friday, is despite its oxymoronic title no straightforward return to her childhood — or the innocent days of her country-singing “Hannah Montana” Disney persona.
Instead, Cyrus finds through country storytelling a window to relay a maturing life story of discovering love, heartache and a political voice.
“Younger Now” begins with a title track in which Cyrus declares she has no regrets over a scrutinized life — whose memorable moments include scantily clad twerking and joyful hits from a bong.
“I’m not afraid of who I used to be / No one stays the same,” Cyrus sings, adding: “I feel so much younger now.”
On the title song and the album’s first single, “Malibu,” Cyrus crafts a modernized take on 1970s pop-rock, a gentle electric guitar riff carrying a mid-tempo beat.
“Malibu” climaxes into the most rocking track on the album, a beat coming in after Cyrus describes a journey of building trust and love on the sun-kissed California beach.
By the third track, “Rainbowland,” she goes full country — collaborating with her godmother and fellow Tennessee-born cultural figure Dolly Parton.
However sensational her on-stage antics or divisive her artistic choices, critics of Cyrus are hard-pressed to dismiss her voice, whose rich timbre and four-octave range make her one of the more versatile singers in pop.
On “Younger Now,” Cyrus shows off her lower vocal range and dusts off her country twang which, while it never vanished, she has downplayed as her career developed.
But in showing her new maturity, “Younger Now” also turns the page on some of the spunk that gave Cyrus her musical success.
After the frenetic hip-hop energy of her defining 2013 album “Bangerz” and the playful psychedelia of 2015’s “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz,” “Younger Now” is a mellow affair.
Much of the lyricism appears to reflect on Cyrus’ on- and — now reportedly — off-again relationship with Australian actor Liam Hemsworth.
“I know that I gave you my heart / But you stomped it to the ground,” Cyrus sings on “Week Without You,” a country tune tinged with a doo-wop harmony.
Some fans online suspected that “She’s Not Him” — with the lines “I just can’t fall in love with you / You’re not him” — was an explanation by Cyrus, who identifies as pansexual, of her feelings for New Zealand model Stella Maxwell, with whom she has made out in public.
Cyrus ends on a more subdued note, with a mournful violin behind the guitar featuring on “Inspired.”
The song pays tribute to her father. But Cyrus has said she wrote the songs to come to terms with Donald Trump’s election after the singer, like many celebrities, campaigned for Hillary Clinton.
Questioning how “we can escape all the fear and all the hate,” Cyrus implores the world: “You’re the handle on the door that opens up the change.”
Press-shy mega-songwriter Max Martin made a rare public appearance at last night’s annual Songs of Hope charity event to accept the Clive Davis “Legend in Songwriting Award” from the iconic record exec himself. The gala affair was held for the first time in the backyard of hit producer/label head Alex Da Kid’s sprawling Sherman Oaks home, as music publishers, songwriters and assorted luminaries gathered to raise money at the 13th annual fund-raiser. Hans Zimmer, Jack Antonoff, The Chainsmokers and pioneering immunologist Saul Priceman were also feted, with a silent auction that has raised $3.3 million for the industry’s pet Duarte, California, charity. The event had been held the previous three years at veteran industry exec Ron Fair’s Brentwood home before he moved cross-country to another Brentwood, this one outside Nashville.
“This is our opportunity to be philanthropic and to recognize the role of music in the healing process, as therapeutic,” said the event’s regular host, Grammy-winning producer/songwriter Jimmy Jam, who added his mother passed from cancer and his son suffers from diabetes, another disease the City of Hope is looking to cure.”
Added The Chainsmokers’ Alex Pall, “We’re honored to be here for a great cause. City of Hope is an incredible place. It’s cool to be honored with Max Martin and Hans Zimmer, who are two of our biggest inspirations, and Jack Antonoff is a colleague we’ve always admired.”
Among the items in the silent auction were meet-and- greets and tickets to Las Vegas shows for Cher, Celine Dion and Britney Spears.
Max Martin, a man of few words, followed an introduction by Clive Davis, culminating his own hectic week in which he premiered the documentary, “The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” and a new Johnny Mathis album for which he served as executive producer.
“To me, the doctors and nurses who fight this disease every day are the real legends,” said Martin.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing Martin Bandier presented his namesake Vanguard Award to Jack Antonoff for a year in which he co-wrote with Taylor Swift and Lorde and released his own album with his band The Bleachers. Bandier recounted meeting Antonoff “over a plate of spaghetti at one of my favorite restaurants, Patsy’s,” while Jack reminisced, “I wanted so badly to look like him with that hair and the cigar, and when I found out he was Jewish, I realized I could… This award means the world to me. It’s an amazing cause very close to my heart.” Jimmy Jam then expressed surprise to learn Marty wasn’t Italian.
Pandora head of publisher licensing and relations Adam Parness handed out the “Trendsetter” Award to The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall for their record-breaking streams and plays, as Taggart expressed his “hope to do something a fraction as successful” as his fellow honorees. “How inspiring you all are,” he said. “We feel like infants in this industry, so to be a part of this event is really humbling.”
Electronic Arts president of music Steve Schnur — one of the evening’s co-chairs with Spirit Music Group chairman/ceo David Renzer, attorney Doug Davis and UMPG North America President Evan Lamberg — presented the “Electronic Arts Composer of The Century” honors to Oscar-winning film composer Hans Zimmer, fresh off his own first multi-city tour performing his work with a full orchestra and an Academy Award frontrunner for his score to Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.”
Asked how it feels to be a rock star, Zimmer deflected the praise to his fellow musicians – a quartet featuring cellist Tina Guo, keyboardist Steve Mazzaro and violinists Lea Zeger and Molly Rogers followed the presentation with a poolside performance.
About his just-completed 42,000-mile, multi-city tour which launched with a performance at Coachella, Zimmer told Variety, “My friends kicked me out of my studio and told me I had to eventually look the audience in the eye and stop hiding behind the screen. We had this insane idea to do Coachella, which is where we finally broke out of the pigeonhole of film music and became simply music. Somebody had to drag an orchestra and choir out to the desert. My whole point was to promote the musicians I’ve been working with all these years.”
Finally, longtime City of Hope supporter Zach Horowitz awarded the “Beverly and Ben Horowitz Legacy Award” in honor of his parents to Saul Priceman, a leading researcher in T Cell immunotherapy.
Among those on hand: Halle Berry, Recording Academy head Neil Portnow, CAA’s Rob Light, Big Deal Music Publishing’s Kenny MacPherson, AlunaGeorge’s Aluna Francis, Diane Warren, and Banksy cohort Mr. Brainwash. The event raised $400,000 in addition to a $1 million donation announced by Horowitz.