Miley Cyrus announced the release date of her new album on Tuesday (Aug. 8), and the cover art is already raising a lot of questions about the content of the album.
Younger Now will drop on Sept. 29, and though Cyrus hasn’t stated that it will be country, judging by recent comments and the western appearance of the cover, it’s looking more so than anything she’s put out since “The Climb.”
Only two singles from the album have dropped so far, and neither one is overtly country, although they are far closer than anything from either of the last two albums she released.
The first single from Younger Now, “Malibu,” was released in May of this year. It features Cyrus’s undeniably talented vocal prowess in a much more down-to-earth sound than the synth-heavy rap and pop combos she has lately been known for. “Malibu” is a love song written for her fiancé, Australian actor Liam Hemsworth. It’s jubilant, and optimistic, even goofy at points.
The second single, “Inspired,” came out in conjunction with Pride Month back in June. Although “Inspired” is twangy and features violin, its lamenting lyrics, current affairs subject matter and Cyrus’s fervent vocalization comes across as more folk than strictly country.
The daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, and the goddaughter of Dolly Parton, Cyrus grew up surrounded by prominent country musicians. Her dad once told a story about Waylon Jennings teaching her some guitar chords at their kitchen table. Cyrus was practically born with Nashville connections that many struggling artists would kill for. Yet she largely abandoned country music when she came into her own.
In an interview with Billboard, Cyrus admitted that while she doesn’t resonate with country fans, she has deep Nashville roots. When speaking about working with Blake Shelton on the TV show The Voice she stated that Shelton’s fans don’t take her seriously as a country artist.
“One, I haven’t given them that music,” she acknowledged. “But I’ve got a tattoo of Johnny Cash’s autograph that he gave me when I was a little girl that says, ‘I’m in your corner.’ Dolly Parton is my [expletive] godmother. The fact that country music fans are scared of me, that hurts me.”
Few mainstream pop artists in recent years have been as controversial as Cyrus. In 2013 she rocked the music world with a provocative VMA performance. She then spent the ensuing years distancing herself as much as possible from her previously wholesome image.
“…That’s what I did because I felt it was part of my political movement, and that got me to where I am now,” Cyrus told Billboard. “I’m evolving, and I surround myself with smart people that are evolved.”
Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, told Billboard of the album, “This is Miley leaning into her roots more than I’ve ever heard. For her, this is honest.”
It remains to be seen whether country fans will embrace this new album, or Cyrus herself. Based on her past work, one thing is for certain: country or not, Younger Now is sure to be… interesting.