The musical evolution of Miley Cyrus may not have been seamless – actually, it’s sometimes been messy. However valid her criticism of misogyny in hip-hop was two years ago, it wasn’t a good look from an artist who’d been accused of appropriating black culture with 2013’s Bangerz album and twerk-heavy tour. But at the same time, it’s hard to deny that Cyrus has shaken off her Disney Channel beginnings with some aplomb.
A decade after she scored a hit with the country-rap novelty ‘Hoedown Throwdown’ (“Pop it, lock it, polka dot it!”), she’s back with a new EP, which features the couplet: “Wake up in the middle of a breakdown / Have sex on the table with the takeout”. And because we know Cyrus so well by now, it’s only mildly shocking. ‘She is Coming’, described by the artist’s label as “the first of three six-song EPs that will make up one collection titled ‘SHE IS: MILEY CYRUS'”, finds her pivoting back to hip-hop-influenced pop after 2017’s Younger Now, a largely satisfying return to her country roots (lest we forget, her dad is ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ legend and unlikely Lil Nas X collaborator Billy Ray Cyrus).
Co-written with Alma, grinding opener ‘Mother’s Daughter’ is a female empowerment anthem featuring a simple and effective rallying cry: “Don’t fuck with my freedom!”. Trap jam ‘Unholy’ comes off like Cyrus’s response to the criticism she received during the Bangerz era. “You hate me, you love me, you just wanna touch me”, she sings knowingly. And the dusky narco-R&B of ‘D.R.E.A.M.’ (“Drugs Rule Everything Around Me”) has Cyrus admitting that after she’s chosen to “pop the Molly”, “all the girls in my room look like Dolly”. Hey, who hasn’t hallucinated their iconic Godmother while high as a kite?
But the EP’s second half stops it from feeling like a kind of belated post-‘Bangerz’ comedown. ‘Cattitude’ teams Cyrus with a potty-mouthed RuPaul for a ballroom-influenced banger which features the instant classic Drag Race-style read: “I love you Nicki, but I listen to Cardi.” Swae Lee duet ‘Party Up the Street’ is an appealingly sparse tropical party tune, while closing track ‘The Most’ provides the album’s most emotional and purely melodic moment. Co-produced by Mark Ronson, it almost feels like a (slightly cooler) cousin to their smash collab ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’.
Naturally, ‘She Is Coming’ has a few messy moments along the way, too. “I blow through ya / Like a hot wind out in the bayou, ya,” she sings clumsily on ‘Mother’s Daughter’. But like Cyrus, it’s shameless, strange and supremely entertaining.