Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz Is A Long, Strange Trip Worth Taking
Last night, Miley Cyrus closed the MTV VMAs, which she hosted, by performing her new song, “Dooo It!” with a bunch of drag queens and Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. After two and half hours of finding Miley really grating as a host, and enjoying seeing her dragggggged by her fake white girl dreads by Nicki Minaj, Miley’s ode to smoking weed and, like, peace and shit struck me as, well, kind of terrible. I was frankly feeling like I had very little fucks left to give about Miley and her “LOOK AT ME, I SMOKE WEED AREN’T I CRAZY??” antics (girl, you’re in California — marijuana is basically legal and as edgy as having a margarita, have some chill). So when she announced that she had dropped a full album, called Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, available for free on her website, I was like, “Well, this is sure to be a hot mess.”
And it is! But it’s also some of the best work Miley has ever done. It’s utterly unmarketable, “Dooo It!” is the closest thing the album has got to a single and it’s still not even remotely close to what the radio will want to play. I have a strong hunch a huge chunk of Miley’s fans — both the ones who hung on from her Hannah Montana days and those she wooed with her foray into hip-hop on Bangerz – will hate it. Miley apparently had no interest in recording something that was suited for radio, didn’t care that it wouldn’t make her richer because she has plenty of money, and didn’t let her record company have a listen until it was complete, to which I’m pretty sure they said, “Really, gurl? We’ll pass. Have fun though!” And all of this is what makes me like it more. It is the perfect example of how Miley can follow her urge to be experimental, to stretch herself musically and give the finger to the “establishment,” while staying in her lane.
That last part is important, because it’s the thing about Miley that I find most challenging to my inclination to really like her. Bragging about smoking weed and freeing the nipple aside, I, for the most part, dig Miley’s don’t give a fuck attitude — much of it, especially when it comes to her sexuality and gender expression, is genuine and positive and affirming for those fans who also feel like they don’t quite fit. Her outspokenness on those issues is refreshing and empowering and cool. I also respect her commitment to making work she is proud of, whether it sells or not.
But Miley loses me each and every time she applies her no fucks ‘tude to issues outside of her lane, in particular, her extremely squicky attitude towards race. From her appropriation of Black women’s bodies as props on her Bangerz tour, to her ill-advised and tone deaf comments about Nicki Minaj’s “angry” VMAs response, Miley is at her very, very, very worst when she uses her free-spirited, rebellious confidence as an excuse to be blind to or downplay her own privilege. Smoking pot and loving peace doesn’t make Miley a hippie, and it sure as shit doesn’t make her a good ally either.
But back to the album! And Her Dead Petz makes clear how much time Miley has been spending with Wayne Coyne, as his trippy weirdo fingerprints are all over it. The album is super mellow — there’s not a banger on it — with many of the songs almost bleeding into each other, a long strange trip into the depths of Miley’s flower child candy raver soul. There’s an ode to her dead blowfish, Pablow. There’s a song all about licking pussy (“Bang Me Box”). There are songs about being fucked up (“Fuckin Fucked Up,” “I’m So Drunk”). There are some tingly emotional moments, like the slightly dancey love song “BB Talk,” and the twinkly sweetness of “Karen Don’t Be Sad.” Both “I Forgive Yiew” and “Slab of Butter (Scorpion)” are both grimy goodness.
Like, I’m on my third listen, and almost against my will, I am falling in love with this album. I don’t know what to say. I did not expect this. I AM NOT EVEN HIGH RIGHT NOW, YOU GUYS. I don’t even necessarily expect that the rest of you will like it — in fact, I’m pretty sure that a lot of people will be like “this shit sucks” after one shot, and that’s fine. It’s free! Who cares? I’m just glad to see Miley marching to the beat of her own drummer, but in her own goddamn lane.