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I suppose it is kind of preposterous that one imagines himself important enough to write down his opinions for others to read. Chattering superciliousness is one of the most infuriating things about academics and so-called intellectuals, generally, who feel compelled to share their thoughts. But here it goes, anyway.

Book Review of Do No Evil




The following review is from Kirkus, the nation's premier book reviewer:

"An effective integration of ethics, morality and business principles. In a logical progression, Berumen offers a historical review of major thinkers in philosophy and ethics, including John Locke, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Thomas Hobbes and many others. He develops a framework for universal morality in which moral imperatives--rather than being matters of subjective opinion--immutable. The basis for universal morality, however, must be the avoidance of death and suffering, not just the general pursuit of good--"Being good is not good enough to be moral." The author also dissects current ethical debates, including extensive discussions, of social justice, animal rights and the environment. He explores the free-market economy, acknowledging what he believes to be the superiority of capitalism over socialism--"My theory shows that capitalism is not only ethically permissible, but also that socialism is more difficult to justify on ethical grounds"--and he highlights the principles of individual ownership and property as anchor points in his argument. He balances his argument by noting that the rights to property must be limited, and that morality provides a check on unrestrained capitalist pursuits. In the final section, the author elucidates the many layers of the managerial and corporate environment, deftly analyzing the fiduciary, social and moral relationships between the players in a corporation.

A fresh, convincing ethical examination. "

Selected Links for Reviews/Purchase: 

America's First Fascist President

It has been nearly two years, now, since I first went on record and predicted Donald Trump would become a major political force and the eventual nominee of the Republican Party, and, perhaps, even president. And so it has come to pass. Many of my friends at the time thought I had lost my mental bearings. I have not in the meantime changed my mind about either Trump or Trumpism.  I was personally less than enthusiastic about the alternatives, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, though I much prefered either of them over Trump. As much as I worry about Donald Trump in the White House, today, I am nearly as worried about an ominous undercurrent in the US that is at once large and powerful, and one that will likely remain with us for the foreseeable future. It is a clear and present danger to the nation and, hence, it represents a danger to the world. It is nothing less than a Fascistic movement in the country and, at least for the time being, the leader of the movement occupies the most powerful position in the United States. 

When I was young, it was a commonplace on the political left to brand our rightist opponents as Fascists. More often than not, it was used as a facile pejorative, and without much real thought to the lexical or historical meaning of the word. We knew it was bad, representing things that we eschewed, and to identify the opposing right with brutal authoritarian regimes seemed appropriate enough to us, and why not the worst kind. What, after all, could be worse than Nazis, that is, if one wanted to brand something as evil! The appellation was often overused and used inaccurately. It thereby lost much of its significance over time, so today, when it is used appropriately, it is sometimes characterized as hackneyed. In more recent years, it has not been uncommon even to hear rightists use the term to describe leftist thought or activists. Bill O'Reilly, the erstwhile loudmouthed, bully-broadcaster on Fox News, was guilty of this kind of abuse ... to cite just one recent example, he called David Silverman, the leader of an American atheist group, as being  fascistic for his steadfast positions against organized religion and his support of separation between church and state.

I have long said Trump was a Fascist, and his core followers are either Fascists or enablers of Fascism, which to my mind is a distinction without an important difference. Others reject this, describing him as a mere populist or garden-variety authoritarian, because, after all, the unlettered and historically ignorant Trump would not even be able to define Fascism. Therefore, how could he be one? And his followers, they would have us believe, are just gullible innocents oppressed by their circumstances and victimized, effectively beguiled by a demagogue, and held hostage by his hateful rhetoric. I believe this is complete nonsense. I should like to posit that Trumpism is indeed closely linked to the ideas of historical Fascism; that Trump himself has all of the essential qualities of a Fascist leader; and what is more, that his partisans, wittingly or unwittingly, are a part of a fascistic movement. It does not matter that they do not know the etymology or the history of Fascism, or that they have not read about and are unable to articulate the theoretical underpinnings of historical Fascism. They in fact support many of its main ideas, and for all practical purposes, they are therefore, themselves, Fascists. Much like the millions of Germans who denied that they were Nazis after the war because they were not card-carrying members of the Party, we can no longer allow this faux and obfuscating distinction (i.e., I support Trump and Trumpism, however, I am not a Fascist) to be swept under the rug and ignored.

Contrary to a now common description, Trumpism is not simply a form of populism, although it shares some of its characteristics. Some liberals, especially in the political, academic, and pundit classes, are seriously guilty of whitewashing and, thereby, diminishing Trump and Trumpism's insidious character by referring to it as populism, and then by qualifying it further by speaking of the several grievances of its largely white, uneducated constituency. It enables them to evince sympathy for the perceived legitimate complaints and anger of the (supposed) underclass, thereby avoiding any accusations of elitism, while remaining critical of Trump himself, essentially offering excuses for the reprehensible behavior ... hate, violent overtones, jingoism, racism, and misogyny ... of his supporters. Always looking for sociological explanations for their fellow man's depravity, liberals' abiding sense of fairness and caring for the downtrodden (who themselves often enough could care less about the liberals or their views) can sometimes obscure their perceptions of the reality of venal, evil forces. This was true in the 1930s, and it is just as true now. Rational men on both the right and the left at the time completely misunderstood what Hitler understood well, namely, that much of politics is not a rational calculation and there is a dark underside of human nature that can be exploited, especially when one can dehumanize someone seen as responsible for one's real or imagined privations. We see some of this misunderstanding today. One consequence of this kind of faith in rationalism is a tolerance of the intolerable by distancing his supporters from Trump, himself, and from TrumpismI think this is a mistake, and, at least sometimes, even disingenuous and cynical, as though they represent potential voters for the right side, our side, and thus we cannot afford to alienate them

I wish to call them out at every turn, for the fact is that Trump's followers' views are deplorable, much as his opponent Hillary Clinton said, and Trump is the catalyst and lens for refracting their vile beliefs. Trumpism would not be possible without them. He is the catalyzing agent. It matters not that some may even be our friends or relations.  I make an exception only for the mentally incompetent. Liberals and conservatives both need to call a spade a shovel and stop excusing the inexcusable. 

Populism has taken various forms on the political right and left in different times and in different parts of the globe. It has a long history, at least dating back to Pericles in Athens and Julius Caesar in RomeBroadly speaking, in modern times, populism is a political movement that centers on economic grievances, primarily, though not exclusively, by workers, the less affluent merchant class, and small farmers, against the economic, social, and intellectual elites who are perceived as the causes of their privations. Andrew Jackson might well be the best example of an early populist leader in the US, and to date, the only truly populist president. The Populist Party of the 1890s consisted of farmers and some labor unions that denounced a system, whereby, in the words of David M. Kennedy and Lizabeth Cohen’s  American Pageant (2005), “the fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few." One of the great populist leaders of this era and into the early 20th century was Williams Jennings Bryan, a charismatic, religious orator, and sometimes presidential candidate, who railed against capitalist elites, as exemplified by his famous "Cross of Gold" speech. Huey P. Long, Sr., "The Kingfish," a governor and senator from Louisiana, led a populist movement in the Great Depression, and, had he not been killed in 1935, he might well have become president. Populism regained currency, again, in the 1950s. The historian Richard Hofstadter and sociologist Daniel Bell compared the anti-elitism and populism of the late 19th century with that of Joseph McCarthy's grievances against communism and American power elitesIn the late sixties and early seventies, George Wallace led a third-party, populist movement that centered on race segregationAnd the modern Tea Party has many elements of populism with its focus on white, male grievances with both racial and anti-immigrant overtones.

Bernie Sanders' candidacy also capitalized on some populist sentiments against the elites, with much emphasis on the real and imagined burdens of white youth and the various real and imagined malefactions of the wealthy, and it is therefore not altogether surprising, after his primary loss, that there has been a small number of converts to Trumpism, and there are some sentiments or grievances that are similar ... or if not out-and-out converts, there are people who rationalize (mistakenly, I believe) that Trump could be no worse than the alternative. This is a delusion, and a false sense of principle, when it is actually the opposite of principle, for he is much worse.  Politics is a practical affair, and principle can get in the way of principle, which is to say, ceteris paribus, when the ideal has little or no chance of succeeding, the next best thing, or the least worse thing ought to prevail. Al Gore lost the presidency resulting in a war that still has not ended, among other things, due in part to a kind of ideological narcissism on the part of those voting for Ralph Nader in Florida. 

To no small degree, the Tea Party movement was a precursor of Trumpism, and it cannot be denied that Fascism and Trumpism have characteristics of populism, and particularly in the sense that people are rallied against others who are seen as the root cause of their various misfortunes, whether the power elites in government, corporations, or "the other" represented by other nations or ethnic groupsBut there are also some significant differences between populism and Trumpism. None of the aforementioned populist movements were truly fascistic in nature, whereas, Trumpism most certainly is. 

I hasten to state that Fascism is not a systematic doctrine. It is difficult to characterize, and there is considerable debate to this day as to what constitutes true ideological Fascism. It is not an internally consistent doctrine built on a few principles such as one might find in the several socialist or free market doctrines, or in more traditional forms of authoritarian or totalitarian systems In many ways, it is quite incoherent as an ideology, and it consists of an admixture of ideas sometimes even in opposition to one another. At its root, I believe, is the power of the state and the individual leader, and the identification of the former with the later. It is best, I think, to look at some general characteristics that its several strands possess, but as much as anything, also to consider the actual behaviors of its leaders and followers from a historical perspective.

Fascism has many fathers in terms of its origins and evolution; but in terms of what I'll call European "movement Fascism", a phenomenon that reached its apotheosis with Hitler and Mussolini, it is principally rooted in fin de siècle Italian, German, and French political thought, and as an offshoot of various Italian and German social movements, but particularly in Italian syndicalism and pan-German nationalismAmong the most influential thinkers were Georges Sorel, Enrico Corradini, Georg von Schönerer, Wilhelm Riehl, Oswald Spengler, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. There are others, but most influential of all, that is, prior to Adolf Hitler––was Benito Mussolini, himself, who reduced and catalyzed the views of various thinkers into a well-organized political movementHitler, of course, took it to another level, and, in the process, he nearly led the world into the abyss.

There is a myth that Trump resembles Mussolini as a person. It is often repeated, but said by people who obviously know next to nothing of Mussolini beyond the swaggering character that they see in old newsreelsPerhaps in his exaggerated attempts at machismo this is true, but it really ends thereMussolini was a learned and well-rounded man, he had an advanced degree and wrote learned papers, including one on Machiavelli's Prince. He spoke several languages ... and he was a gifted orator with cogent syntax, the latter being a great distinction from Trump, who has the vocabulary of a middling grammar school student In contrast, Adolf Hitler's learning was eclecticAside from being a brilliant orator and dramatist, perhaps only equaled by Winston Churchill in recent times, Hitler was naturally bright and retentive. He also was a gifted street psychologist, a master of branding, use of media, and marketing, much as Trump appears to be. Also like Trump, he was intellectually lazy, and uninterested in systematic learning or scholarship. His venue was the coffee house and beer hall, not the library, much as Trump’s is television and social media. While both possess remarkable powers of intuition, especially into the darker sides of human nature, it is patently clear that Hitler was the brighter of the two, as measured by the logical construction of ideas and retention of information. What is more, unlike Trump, Hitler was exceptionally disciplined in managing his public persona, in control of his political machinations ... exposing himself only very carefully ... and very rigorous in conducting his personal relationsTrump is much more impulsive and reckless. The personality comparisons are not what are important about Trump ... for there are not many, really, and they are at best quite superficial. With that said, to therefore suggest that he could not be a Fascist because he is unlike Mussolini or Hitler, is specious. Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh were both communists, too, and while as most of us humans do, they had some things in common, they were fundamentally different as people. 

So what is Fascism?  First of all, let's nip one common misunderstanding in the budIt is does not fit in the traditional categories of right and left, which is not the way the self-styled intellectuals representing either ideological extreme would like to have it, namely, that Fascism represents the ideology of the other side.  The fact that this is even possible by both sides of the political spectrum partly explains why it can appeal to many. It is nearly always presented by academics as a species of far right-wing politics ... but that is overly simplistic ... it is much more complicated than that. It is more comforting for the typical intellectual or academic to put it that way, since he is more often than not of a liberal mindset. No less than an authority than Hitler himself thought Nazism, a species of Fascism, transcended left and right, borrowed from both, and was what he called "syncretic,” In the broadest terms, here are ten characteristics one will find in the three previously successful, large-scale fascistic movements in Europe. Taken individually each attribute may be found in other kinds of movements. But taken as a whole, in combination, I believe they typify Fascism.

1. Fascism is a form of hyper-nationalism that capitalizes on two principal things ... one, strong patriotic feelings, often founded on a mythical past that never occurred, and two, the vilification of groups seen as sullying the nation and detrimental to the national interest, often represented by an ethnic or religious group, modernism, cosmopolitan elites, and outsiders more generally. ["Make America Great AGAIN."] [I am putting America first.] ["I think the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control."] (...just to name three of many--but more to follow illustrating the same point.)

2. While there certainly are elements of anti-elitist populism, Fascism also seeks to co-opt people in power, for power is its ultimate objective, and because it is more than willing to use utilitarian means to attain its ends, it will curry favor with economic, political, and intellectual elites wherever and whenever it can to secure it. [Simply look at GOP leaders and moneyed donors, many who are rational and well educated people, who previously denounced Trump, then seek to curry favor with him when he's in a position of power, and the latter’s willingness to use all the tools at his disposal of the elites that his followers decry, e.g., global interests, the media.]

3. Fascism freely borrows from both socialist and capitalist doctrines ... for power is its goal ... and there is not a systematic economic doctrine other than that which is seen as necessary to attain power and to benefit the state, co-opting whatever economic power or centers of influence are necessary to attain those ends, whether through markets, corporate interests, or popular measures with the masses ... so it is perhaps no coincidence that Mussolini was once a socialist involved in the labor movement (which he would destroy), and that Nazism had a vibrant socialist wing in its earlier years ... one eventually quashed (the Night of the Long Knives) by the mid-thirties and replaced by a kind of quasi-capitalism, an economic system best described as state corporatism or crony capitalism. ["Well, the first thing you do is don't let the jobs leave. The companies are leaving. I could name, I mean, there are thousands of them. They're leaving, and they're leaving in bigger numbers than ever. And what you do is you say, fine, you want to go to Mexico or some other country, good luck. We wish you a lot of luck. But if you think you're going to make your air conditioners or your cars or your cookies or whatever you make and bring them into our country without a tax, you're wrong."] [From Trump's chief economic adviser, Steve Moore: "Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy. I’m not even a big believer in democracy."]

4. Conspiratorial and exclusionary thinking about groups and forces aligned against the movement is part and parcel to all fascistic movements, and plays a central role in the rallying cries of its leaders, whether the bogeyman is international Jewry, a particular ethnic group, the bourgeoisie, large corporate interests, liberal elites, Bolsheviks, or the media. [On Mexican immigrants: "They're bringing drugs,' crime and are 'rapists'."]["I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall.] [I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people (ed: that is, Arabs) were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."] ["Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population."] ["On The Wall Street Journal: 'They better be careful or I will unleash big time on them."]["We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated."]

5. When out of power, fascistic movements always declaim against the legitimacy of those in power as usurpers who, through their machinations, rig outcomes and are not the true representatives of the people or the nation. Trump declared before the election that a potential loss could only result from voter fraud and media rigging. We now know the fraud was committed by his allies, the Russians, and we should not be surprised to discover Trump and his associates were complicit in their machinations. Hints at violence if outcomes are not just (meaning a loss) are not uncommon, and he suggested as much. ["I think you'd have riots. I think you'd have riots. I'm representing many, many millions of people. In many cases first-time voters ... If you disenfranchise those people? And you say, well, I'm sorry, you're 100 votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short? I think you'd have problems like you've never seen before. I wouldn't lead it, but I think bad things will happen".]["Polls close, but can you believe I lost large numbers of women voters based on made up events THAT NEVER HAPPENED. Media rigging election!"] ["Election is being rigged by the media, in a coordinated effort with the Clinton campaign, by putting stories that never happened into news!"]

6Every successful fascistic movement has been led by a charismatic and often bombastic demagogue who is seen as and who claims to be the embodiment of the nation, the vessel of the national will, and as the exceptional person--one without whom the nation cannot prosper or survive. The state and its leaders effectively become one["I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created."] [After delineating the ills of the nation: "I am your voice. I alone can fix it."]

7. Fascistic movements view violence as a just means of achieving its ends, whether outside of or through the state, and law and order are common code words. Calls for violence or hints of violent recourse against opponents are common. There is often an exaggerated, hyper-masculinity on parade, with glorification of toughness and strength and power. There is a display of an authoritarian bearing, and the leader’s followers are admirers of it. ["When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough."] ["When Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water."] ["If she gets to pick her judges – nothing you can do, folks. Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know."] ["Why can’t we use nuclear weapons."] ["You know what I wanted to. I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard. I would have hit them. No, no. I was going to hit them, I was all set and then I got a call from a highly respected governor."]

8. Despite the popular appeals to "law and order," a trope of authoritarianism more generally, the fascistic conception of law lies outside of any legislative or judicial proceedings or the kinds of protections or due process enshrined by a constitutional authority. Often the law is construed as that which us willed by the individual or individuals in power. ['It is a disgrace. It is a rigged system. I had a rigged system, except we won by so much. This court system, the judges in this court system, federal court. They ought to look into Judge Curiel because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace. Ok? But we will come back in November.'] ["The problem is we have the Geneva Conventions, all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight."] [On telling generals to violate the Geneva Conventions, US Constitution, and the Uniform Military Code of Justice: "They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me. I’m a leader; I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it."]

9A common attribute of fascistic movements is the creation of alternate realities, often with an adamant and repetitive disregard for the truth, even in the face of abundant veridical evidence to the contrary, especially when it serves the ends of the partisans or when said evidence conflicts with doctrine. ['An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.'] [(On unemployment: 'I've seen numbers of 24 percent — I actually saw a number of 42 percent unemployment. Forty-two percent. 5.3 percent unemployment -- that is the biggest joke there is in this country. … The unemployment rate is probably 20 percent, but I will tell you, you have some great economists that will tell you it's a 30, 32. And the highest I've heard so far is 42 percent.']

10. Symbolism is often an important aspect of Fascism, especially patriotic symbols that evoke feelings of group identity. The Nazis, in particular, made effective use of this. [An example, one of many, would be Donald Trump Jr.'s tweeted picture with the Trumps next to a green frog, a common alt-right/anti-Semitic and racist symbolOf course, all the standard patriotic regalia and lighting and music are part and parcel to the Trump campaign, as it is with every campaign; but there are insidious instances of using other racist and anti-Semitic memes and symbols.]

The foregoing is by no means an exhaustive list, but I believe it captures the essentials, and though right and left populist movements might share in some of these characteristics in various times and places, when taken as a whole, I think they are substantively different. I have bracketed just a small sample of statements by Trump himself, simply to illustrate and encapsulate some of the reasons why I think he meets these ten criteria. The amount of additional evidence of his fascistic nature and policies, along with his unsuitability and utter venality as a human being is simply overwhelming. The things I have remarked upon are all in addition to his hateful statements towards the disabled and women, an admission to committing physical assault, and to being a sexual predator. Not to mention his repeated failure to adhere to contracts with vendors; discriminatory practices as a landlord; and his use of racist tropes (e.g., birtherism). Then there were Trump’s threats to prosecute and jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton, if he won, or, if he lost, to not recognize the results of the election. The latter are among the hallmarks of authoritarian strongmen and authoritarian regimes everywhere.

While I think Fascism and what it conveys is an important descriptor, and one worth preserving and using when it fits, I will readily admit its overuse by the left has diminished its force and gravity. Moreover, it seems to many to be a dead doctrine, one now buried in the historical dustbin. It isn't. Setting that aside, though, the fact remains that the ascendancy of Trump and his craven Republican converts represent the most dangerous political phenomena in the US in the modern era.

The only silver lining is there is some potential that an intellectually and morally responsible center-right party will rise from the ashes, and the apparent destruction of the modern Republican Party, a party transformed (historical irony, here!) by the white flight of the post-Confederate Democrats after the Civil Rights legislation of the mid-Sixties, and an unholy alliance between self-dealing corporate welfarests and tax-reduction hounds, along with assorted disaffected racists, white Evangelicals, and white workers, a coalition cobbled together by Nixon and Reagan (the so-called silent and moral majorities, respectively), and with the help of considerable gerrymandering at the congressional level, courtesy of the likes of Lee Atwater, Newt Gingrich, and Karl Rove. And all the while,  the more rational Republican establishment was winking at the crass incitements of the unlettered by the Breitbarts,  Limbaughs, Hannitys and O'Reillys of the world, believing at the end a rational man can be inserted (e.g., a McCain or a Romney), whilst the rabble are once again returned to their trailer parks, guns, and religion. It did not happen this time. I strongly suspect both Nixon and Reagan would be rather appalled by the Frankenstein monster they helped to create--culminating in a hydra-headed amalgam of the Old Confederacy, Palinism, and Trumpism. It is no longer the party of Javits, Dirksen, Eisenhower, or T.R. (who left the party, despite today's ahistorical Republican hagiography of him), let alone the party of LincolnToday it is the party of the ultimate vulgarian, Donald Trump.

Even with Trump's impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment, or a defeat for a second term, I still worry about the possibility of violence, an intractable divide in our population, an impotent executive with a recalcitrant congress (that already lies in wait to foil a left of center president), and an unstable world with dictators, fanatics, and jingoists run amok, some considerable amount of which is of the United State's own making. But most of all, I worry about the here and now, for Trump has access to the nuclear codes. , It has become patently evident that he has an unstable and petulant temperament. It would be a mistake to be fooled by his apparent isolationism and pacific statements in the past, for his behaviors and language have always been hyper-aggressive, and he has an overwhelming need to appear tough–––and like many of those who are especially egocentric and thin-skinned, he manifests a singular problem with self-esteem, one veiled by a very fragile ego. This is a mixture that portends disaster with a such a person in charge of the most powerful military, police, and intelligence apparatus in the world. It is an odd thing that this old McGovern liberal has come to believe that the leaders of the FBI and military could be the only things that stand in the way of a president gone mad whilst the Congress and courts fiddle. I am not at all comforted by the military or state police being in such a positon, but there it is. It should have never gotten this far. One wonders how we can reverse this awful predicament ... ridding ourselves of Trump is not enough. We must eradicate Trumpism.  

Some have said that it couldn't happen here. Our institutions will prevail. Well, I suspect something similar was thought in the most technologically advanced, literate, and cosmopolitan nation on the face of the earth in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The nation of Beethoven, Kant, and Goethe. And it not only happened, it happened very suddenlyAnd in the process, both conservative and liberal forces were co-opted or eliminated. Had there been a choice for, say,  Pappan or Schleicher over Hitler in 1932-33, both imperfect men, much as Clinton or Sanders were imperfect ... but not Fascists, and both realistic alternatives at the time. Tens of millions of lives might have been spared.  I do not expect Trump will kill millions, though I am shaken to think that a man of his temperament is Commander-in-Chief But even in the absence of causing a military conflagration, I do think he could irrevocably alter the course of history in a dark and sinister way. It is therefore essential that we do everything we can to remove Trump from office and rollback Trumpism.  Liberals, moderates, and responsible conservatives must also defeat the GOP majority by the widest margin possible at all levels in 2018 to change the balance of power in the Congress and also in state offices. Only then can rational conservatives begin to rebuild a responsible opposition and center-right party. Trumpism is not your grandfather's conservatism by any stretch of the imagination. The principal goal must be to utterly discredit and toss out Trumpism, no, Fascism, from the nation before it spreads any further like the virulent cancer that it is.  

MB

Music for the Ages and the Ageless: Younger Now (the Album): by Miley Ray Cyrus

Some of us are old enough to remember when Sgt. Pepper's came out in 1967 there were fans of the Fab Four that were disappointed. Some of the discomfited were my friends. The album was different. Very different; radical in fact. Totally unexpected. No bubble gum yeah, yeah, yeah, I wanna hold your hand pop. No hormonal, plaintive teen-angst stuff begging for Help! It was adult! And full of meaning: Almost Dylanesque in that sense. The Beatles had hinted at maturity in Rubber Soul and Revolver, but nothing quite like this before. More than that, though, it was transformational, a little weird (then), but revolutionary, as the entire music world would realize soon enough. Nothing would ever be the same again in popular music. And today, some 50-years later, it is still widely considered to be the best album ever produced within rock and its several subspecies. More than any other in popular music, Sgt. Pepper's was the transformational work. And just to add perspective to contemporaneous music criticism: the venerable New York Times' music critic, along with many others, panned the album's orchestration, construction, and lyrics.  

Ushering in the new can be hard and even controversial at first. There really have not been transformational artists in pop-rock in the last two decades. Most everything in recent years ... in rap, pop-rock, metal, hard rock, and alternative--let's just call it all rock for simplicity, for that's each species principal tap root ... has been purely derivative rather than fresh, unique, and innovative. That doesn't make it bad music. It just means it is more of the same, a rehashing of similar styles, some better than others to be sure. If it is formulaic, saccharine, and heard in elevators, in which case, chances are, it's no longer rock n roll. And as for the singing, well, vocals are only one aspect of the art ... and there are plenty of good vocalists around, look in any church choir or glee club. But there is a difference between standard choirboy/girl singing, the kind of thing one would find at any good performing arts school or a large church, and making a listener want to get out his chair. Good rock gets you out of your chair.

While some wags seem to think music springs fully-formed from the head of Zeus like Athena, unfettered by exogenous influences, the fact is that all music "appropriates" from other cultures and what precedes it. There is a lot of nonsense afoot about "appropriation" right now, and mostly by those who know nothing of music history or who wish to preen as uber-aware on racial justice. Music is also inherently iterative and recursive, and its component parts are generally not new at all. The "newness" comes about from how it's put together,  how those recursive rules are utilized, such that when it's great, the whole of the song ends up being greater than the sum of the parts.  The blending and arrangement of its constituent elements is what makes it into something innovative ... whether adding country to hip hop, or EDM to psychedelia, or combining all of these things in a way that no one else has done.

Aside from instrumentation and technology, though, an essential aspect of great music is in the lyrics ... the words the artist chooses, the fit with the composition, and the emotion they evoke.  The means by which the lyrics are conveyed is of particular importance ... the vocalization, with all of the little hiccups, legato, phrasing, staccato, projection, intonations, head and chest voices, full voice, guttural sounds, and so forth, that accompany the vocals. And not least of all, it is the intention behind the piece. Of course, rock as a genre, by its very nature, is meant to upset, to cajole, to get people to move, think, rebel against the machine, want sex, want to dance, want to punch the sky, and made to feel. It is not granola or vanilla. It is hot sauce and chocolate with nuts. It works in contrasts with misery or delight, peaks and valleys. Not an even strain or even keel or steady as she goes. Rock rattles the soul.

Comes now Miley Ray Cyrus.  Permit me to encapsulate some history, which we know began with the adorable Disney character, little Hannah Montana: precocious and pretty, safe and virginal, watchable by youngins and parents alike. Talented, but entirely Disneyfied and derivative. And then, oops, there's Bangerz.  Or as Little Richard said back in rock's most formative years: "Good golly Miss Molly, sure like to ball.When you're rockin' and a rollin' can't hear your momma call!"  Imagine what the critics said about that! With Bangerz, parents' and their kids' wigs are flying topsy-turvy, each for entirely different reasons -- and Miley Cyrus emerges.  And many are of course outraged by this transformation. All of the sudden virginal Hannah is gone, and a young woman with the normal urges of a young woman (we fathers don't always like that) comes forth in music, and she even does it on a public stage and in video in a very explicit way!  Parents who thought Madonna was great 30 years before are suddenly sounding like pinched Puritans fresh off the Mayflower. Simultaneously, we learn then that this is an artist who can indeed both sing and rock out, and adopt and adapt various styles to her purpose, and we see even today people imitating what she perfected then, from Demi to Katy to Taylor. And on its heals, some side-show events soon occurred with Miley covering some greats in her backyard, and all without artifice or electronic aids, proving once and for all that this girl has an incredible vocal ability: a four-octave range with the ability to transition from contralto to mezzo soprano, smoothly,with resonance, and also from one genre to another with relative ease.

But then, what does she do? She goes and changes again! And again it irritates and alienates those who want more of the same. Some fans skip it as an aberration, even today some do, thinking it best forgotten. She gave the album away for free. Who does that?  Well, Miley Cyrus does. And here, in Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, we see she is not only a great performer, but also an artist .. and a musician that is to be reckoned with.  Petz is a psychedelic pot pouri modernized with electronica with hints of hip hop and country. The best writing on it is what she wrote herself. It also showed she is a formidable lyricist, and that she is to John Lennon's depth what Taylor Swift is to Paul McCartney's cleverness. Critics such as the most well-known Miley-hating screed, Pitchfork, saw it as a vanity project. But tell me, what kind of art isn't inherently vain? One wants others to see it or hear it ... it is an expression of oneself.  Art is inherently exhibitionist, and it is therefore "vain" by definition. 

Lo! yet another change: Younger Now. Which brings us to today and my main purpose, here. As one might expect, there's already been negative commentary from the peanut gallery--consisting of those stuck in the past and, predictably, don't want this "new" Miley. Heavens, it has country, they say. It's a craven appeal to the general public, to Nashville even, they say--God help us--or that her new sound (specifically in "Malibu") is creepily pure as one wag in the New Yorker said. USA Today, hardly the ex cathedra source of musical analysis for aficionados, but read by many, says it's at once sanitized and tame. Huh? And, oh yes, that she left the hood behind after exploiting it, as though every rapper were from Compton and didn't borrow English, iambic pentameter, and 4/4 beats ... among many other "cultural appropriations". We want Bangerzley back, they say. Here's the thing, though. Bangerzley never left! Nor did Hannah. Nor did Petzley. They are all there.  But with more.

This is the same Miley.  But it's a Miley who has changed and does not deny who or what she was, for who she was is still a part of what she is today. It is the becoming Miley. Much as we all should be: becoming--emergent--building on our past. It is Miley's acceptance of who she was, a past that does not wholly define her now. It is also an appreciation and re-absorption of a time (be it idealized or real) before the pressure of having to be something else, having to prove something to others, having to escape, to leap in the herky-jerky way from childhood to young adulthood ... a process we all go through one way or another ... and along with the comfort and happiness that eventually comes to many of us from not having to justify or excuse who one was then or who one is today, and becoming comfortable in one's own skin. USA Today and others missed that. But many more serious music critics are getting it right. Did we expect she should be the 15-year old virginal girl next door all her life? Or that forever she must appear as a 20-year old vixen in spandex and pasties? Or can we now just simply accept she is now a grown woman with an extraordinary gift for music, music that will reflect who she is at any given time, an authentic person, not simply a pop star, and that who she is will evolve over time, as is the case with all of us one might hope.

Younger Now, the album, is a musical masterpiece.  I don't use such an appellation lightly.  Consisting of 11 simple songs, Miley collaborated with the musical polymath, Oren Yoel, who was the producer and instrumentalist on the album. Miley performed all of the vocals on ten of the songs, including the back-up vocals, as she nearly always does. Miley wrote all the lyrics herself except for "Rainbowland," where she collaborated on both the writing and singing with her Godmother and country legend, Dolly Parton. Miley has given various explanations for the overarching theme of the album, including--as I said before-- getting in touch with one's inner child, the freedom before the onset of late-teen and early-adult angst. Another is that she sees some of it as speaking out against ageism and division, and with the hope of bringing people together. This is quite consistent with some remarks she's made on the political front ... seeking to unify through music, notwithstanding differences in opinions. She has a very definite liberal outlook on a host of issues, and has been outspoken; but she is wont to get along with those who don't share her view ... characteristic of her according to those who know her best, such as her musical manager Stacy Jones, for we are told she is pathologically authentic and preternaturally nice, wanting as much as anything to be liked by all and to like them in return.

Some of the album shows anger or emotional turmoil resulting from episodes in Miley's life ... and in at least in one case, in the life of a friend. Listening closely, one will find influences of multiple genres throughout the album, but I think it can best be described as more classical, early rock or rockabilly in terms of overall orientation. To be sure, there are big strains of country ... but also hints of hip hop, pop-rock, psychedelic, EDM, and alternative ... But it's Miley Cyrus most of all. That's important; and it's also the "beauty part," as old timers in New York are wont to say. It has her sometimes idiosyncratic idiom and grammar, her Tennessee twang, and, characteristically, it's also part autobiography. It also has the infectious punctuations ... the yeahs, and the ohs, and the guttural exclamations, breaks, and hiccups that characterize her vocals. One of the things that makes her music outstanding to me is that I can listen to it over long periods. There are other great vocalists and artists that I can listen to, but usually for only a few songs before I need something else. Miley, like only a handful of others, is someone I can listen to for hours at a time without a break. This album makes one want to drive and drive in the car, like the old days with my eight track ... not stopping til it's over, going around the block just one more time until it is and before pulling into the garage.

I'll make some brief observations about each piece, beginning with the two about which I've already written in separate articles, and at much greater length than I'll do here.

The eponymous song, "Younger Now," blends country, pop, rock of an older era, and electronica all into one, and it manages to lyrically convey the idea that, while Cyrus has changed, that she is not who she was, she still embraces her past, and it affirms what the Greek philosopher Heraclitus suggested long ago, that change is the only thing that is constant and the central principle of the universe. The obvious implication is that she will change again. Thus Cyrus writes, "no one stays the same," and she like Heraclitus proclaims the ultimate unity of opposites, "what goes up must come down." It also says something powerful about emerging from youth, which is, that once one stops working so hard to be and appear older, and quits grasping at the illusion of freedom from authority, in this case, the shackles of childhood and the rigors of television stardom at a young age, one feels a certain sense of relief, indeed, younger than those years of tumult and discovery most of us experience in mid-adolescence to the onset of adulthood, and therefore, "I feel so much younger now."  In other words, perhaps like she felt once before all the Sturm und Drang occurred, when she was a happy-go-lucky girl (as those who know her best say she was). The lyrics are simple, but beautiful, and packed with meaning. She sings smoothly, deliberately, and without showing off. There are no giant belts or glass-shattering notes. The volume is fairly fixed and the enunciation clear. Her notes are both precise and to the point without unnecessary embellishment.

"Malibu" is a love song, highly personal, as has been much of her music. It's upbeat with some definite foot-tapping, torso moving, and head bobbing back-beats. Lyrically simple, Miley’s voice is in wonderful form, and her accent is subtly present, as is her easy conversational idiom. This is not a power ballad, but it has a couple of soaring moments, notably a run with some progressively louder and higher ahhhs that caused some chills in my spine first time I heard it. Unlike so many in recent generations, Miley does not engage in gratuitous runs or melisma to cover for a lack of precision or pitch problems as has become all too common. She uses them sparingly, but when she does, she does so with ease. For much of the song, one can almost imagine her singing it lovingly to her lover as part of a conversation on a park bench. It's what the kids call a "bop".

"Rainbowland" is a joint effort with Miley's Godmother, Dolly Parton, one of the greatest songwriters and country artists of any era. Their writing styles and voices fit hand and glove, and it is bound to be a classic and loved by people of all musical persuasions.  It might be the song that has the greatest crossover appeal in the world of country, in no small part because of the inimitable Dolly .. although there are others that could well cross that line too. Miley comes by country honestly, for Dolly and her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, after all, are country royalty .. and she's sat on the knee of many a country legend since she was born. And it is simply undeniable that a great deal of Miley's work from the very beginning has had a distinctive country aspect in her presentation. In a recent interview with the Recording Academy, she said that she and Dolly wrote the song, "because we wanted to write a song that could really make a difference — that could speak to the current situation of not only our country but the world. It says 'We are Rainbows/Me and you/Every color/Every hue,' and it's about embracing everyone that is different."  Along with "Inspired," it is a song with a message, a plea, really, but not heavy handed and both sweet and persuasive.

"Week Without You" is a breakup song of sorts. Internet wags have already speculated that it has to do with Miley's breakup in 2013. Perhaps. I'll wait for Miley to tell us that. Maybe it's just the recapture of some of the things she recollects that she was feeling then, and with some poetic license that includes what one imagines they might have felt in circumstances that didn't occur, which, of course, is what songwriters do.  As method actors know, the same emotion can in fact underlie different events or thoughts or lyrics. More accurately, I think it's a hypothetical break-up, but within the context of how she might feel or might have felt. We all know she knows the emotion that accompanies a breakup; she can evince that emotion without being specific about the details of what really happened.  On the one hand she sings, "I know that I gave you my heart. But you stomped it to the ground, And that's what got me wondering what it's like, To not have you around."  As though she's only wondering, not acting on it. Then she says, "don't want to wonder what it's like ... To not have you around ...You know I'd miss you, baby." Which is why I say it's hypothetical, not historical. The song is sung at once matter-of-factly and plaintively. No vocal pyrotechnics, mostly staccato, but with a toe-tapping back-beat, with a smooth intro with piano and guitar, and with a very fifties kind of rock sound as one finds in other pieces in this album. It is lyrically and rhythmically tight, and Miley is using her very solid rock voice, which, in my opinion, is her best voice, one that only a handful of women singers can equal, and none of the current generation can surpass. This is really a perfect song.

"Miss You So Much" is one of the finest love songs ever written. By a 24-year old, no less. So accuse me of hyperbole. But I am right. It is also as country as can be, even more than "Rainbowland," and with just the right amount of pop elements to keep her traditional pop-rocker fans satisfied. And the lyrics are both tight and beautiful. It apparently is about a friend's loss of a lover who overdosed. It is a very moving piece, and one with which most people can probably identify. "They say love can drive you crazy, My dear, Wanna trap you in a locket. Or in a pocket. So I can keep you near. No I'd never hurt you, If you fall I'd pick you up and drink your tears. But how can I miss you so much, When you're right here." One might imagine someone at a gravesite. Or holding a picture. And who in the early stage of a romance with the love of your life has not felt similarly? ... that even when the one you love is by your side you cannot get enough, and your need for that person is insatiable. It leaves to the imagination what's going through Miley's or her protagonist's mind ... and that is what good songwriting should do.  Oren's steel guitar work is a perfect touch to this wonderful piece. 

"I Would Die For You" is part confessional and part commitment. It's a beautiful testimony to love, at once plaintive and at times forelorn. "You are everything to me, And I would die for you ... There have been times I was up all night, Crying in the dark so I sleep with the light on. I've heard I've got words like a knife that I don't always choose just so wisely. But I see trees in the colored leaves when I think about all we could be." Oren Yoel's backing guitar is just right. Miley gives a few hints of her upper range ... which is very large .. but there is nothing show-offy.  The background chorus (by Miley) is haunting.

"Thinkin" is a lover's complaint. It's about absence and longing .. "you ain't been callin me enough (nough nough nough)  now I'm longing for your touch (touch touch touch)."  It's about being pissed off, but wanting someone, nonetheless: "I don't know where you always go ... we ain't got nothing if we ain't got no trust." It is the kind of song you can expect a lot of young people are going to be lip synching very soon. I think it applies to both sexes of all sexual orientations at one time or another. "I been thinking way too much (much, much, much) ... you won't pick up the phone (phone phone phone)." I mean, who hasn't felt that at one time or another in a romantic thrall? This song has a very definite hip hop punch in the chorus ... "All I do is think about you" with countryesque refrains.  It's a great mixture of sounds.

"Bad Mood" is similar to "Thinkin" in the sense there's some anger, but there's confidence in it, and saying to her lover just exactly what the case is going to be.  "And I wonder what you would do, yeah, if you couldn't rely on me ... I always wake up in a bad mood ... You, know, it's gone on way too long, and you know it's wrong ... and when it gets rough I get tough ... I've had enough."  You can visualize Miley punching the sky, her eyes on fire, and poking someone in the chest as she lays down the law.  Oren's percussive work is splendid and makes it a fine head-bobbing piece. Kids are gonna be humming along on this one. It's driving music. 

And if you're looking for something with some classic rock guitaring by Oren, very reminiscent of 60s bands like the Kinks, and with even more pointed anger, from Miley, then"Love Someone" is your song.  Here Miley goes full Taylor Swift with some bluesy-to-rock vocals. "Ever since the day that I met you, I knew you weren't the one. But nothing ever stops me from forgetting packing all my shit and moving on ... to make someone stay you gotta love someone, You gotta love someone (Hey!)." This song is going sure to arouse some feelings on the part of anyone who is aggrieved with a failed romance with a self-centered and, what would appears to be, an unromantic lover. It's pretty clear this is not about the person with whom she is engaged to be married, and who has been her principal love interest since her mid teens.  

Much has been said about Miley's sexuality, not least of all by herself. She came out as pansexual in 2015. I won't speculate on who this song is about, but hints are readily available on the public record. "She's Not Him" is a love song and a lament of sorts, a dolorous kind of apology to someone who loves her. There's some Dead Petz elements to this ... both with Miley's vocal background and Oren's instrumentals.  It is about loving someone other than the someone who loves you, and in this case, there's a woman with whom she cannot fall in love, and a man who she does love, and try as the other woman might, it's not going to happen for her, because she cannot ever be him. "No matter what you say, no matter what you do, I just can't fall in love with you, cuz you're not him."  It's a sweet song, even a mournful and apologetic one, for she knows it's hurtful to another, someone she doesn't want to hurt, but she has no choice. "You don't deserve all the bullshit I put you through ... Every time you walk through the door, I swear to God you're more beautiful than before, but you're not him." Feelings are incorrigible, after all, and they can't be willed away.

"Inspired" was released as a single after "Malibu" and before "Younger Now," and its proceeds were donated to Miley's charity, the Happy Hippie Foundation. It is a wonderful piece, one reminiscent of Lennon's "Imagine" in its simple beauty and profound meaning. It is not a rock piece or what the young people call a "bop." She was motivated to write this when she supported Hillary Clinton for the presidency in 2016, though it's allusion to contemporaneous politics is not immediately apparent. And just like "Imagine," which nearly fifty years later we hear being played today, "Inspired" has not been a chart burner; however, it will undoubtedly outlive many that ultimately will be consigned to the dustbin of forgettable songs.  Lennon: "You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us., And the world will be as one." Miley: "How can we escape all the fear and all the hate? Is anyone watching us down here? Death is life, it's not a curse. Reminds us of time and what it's worth. To make the most out of it while we're here."  Every time I hear this song I am moved. And something else: Lennon knew how to make number one hits as well as anyone if not better; but he began to write for the sake of art in his late twenties and early thirties, and to a point where he no longer cared about the charts. It's pretty obvious that young Miley Cyrus is already at that point, let the chips fall where they may, she is going to do what she wants. And very frankly, that is one of the things that separates the proverbial wheat from the chaff in great musical artistry. Genius doesn't require consensus.  We who are not geniuses eventually come around.

The overarching theme of the album is surely autobiographical ... and if it is not in completely accurate in its details, I suspect it depicts real emotions about real events, and it's intended to evince and evoke those feelings. It is mostly old fashioned countrified rock n roll (which, after all, is rooted in rhythm and blues, Gospel, and country), though filtered through the lens of some modern electronic wizardry, and with hints of hip hop and other genres throughout. It also puts the lie to the notion that she abandoned hip hop, by the way, which she neither said nor did, but was falsely accused of doing, or of wearing "black" like some sort of costume and then throwing it away. Nothing could be further from the truth. That she incorporated some hip hop iconography in her music is little different than African Americans adopting rock iconography, as Prince did routinely, to cite one of many examples, moving back and forth among genres.  She abandoned misogyny and objectification and, as a husband, brother, son, and the father of a girl, I am grateful for that.  While I have my favorites, and some pieces are better than others, it is as good as an album can be. Pertinent, authentic, and often enough, simply riveting.

Here's the thing, folks. Miley Ray Cyrus is a formidable artist, one for this era and for eras to come.  Elvis is one of her musical heroes, and one can feel his influence throughout in the way she attacks the vocals and the visuals on video and stage.  I venture to say she is the natural heir to Elvis in presentation, perhaps more than any other artist in recent memory, and maybe ever. No male has pulled it off as well ... The King's chemistry is hard to describe, but there's a lot of it in this small package.  One of my friends referred to her as the musical lovechild of Elvis and Madonna. That seems quite apt to me. Lyrically, however, she has more in common with Lennon and Dylan. She has Elvis-like intonations and the charisma and revolutionary spirit of both Elvis and Madonna, who, I might add, were both castigated for a variety of reasons in their day, too, for not being good musically to being merely prurient. Those sages are dead and forgotten. Elvis and Madonna are secure.  I keep repeating this, but Miley Cyrus is only 24!  It is easy to forget how young she is given that she's been a public figure for a decade. But she came into her own just a few years ago. Lennon and McCartney were several years older when Sgt. Pepper's was released, and Madonna had yet to put out her first album at Miley's age.  Mark my words, this work will be imitated in short order. Much as Shania put some pop-rock in country, Miley is putting country back into pop-rock, much as it was some seven decades ago. There can be little doubt that she will be much more than a footnote when the history of this era's music is written. She's already a shelf of books unto herself, and I suspect she's only scratched the surface.

Michael Berumen 9-28-2017

Younger Now (song): Miley Ray Cyrus Paean to Change

Miley Cyrus has proved she is the only young woman in pop-rock today whose music is not fundamentally derivative. Nothing in music stands alone completely apart from the past, and all music relies on appropriation from it. However, the most seminal artists who set the stage for the future figure out a way to combine and improve upon the most worthwhile elements of the past to create something different. Music becomes sanitized, vanilla, overproduced, and formulaic in time, that is, until the next leap forward, and that leap is not always even noticeable at the time it occurs by many contemporaries, and often appreciated only when looking back with greater distance and clarity. Cognoscenti and people stuck in the music of their generation are often quick to dismiss or, in some circumstances, even revile revolutionaries, but I am sure that time will prove to be on my side in this case, and with the critics and the public alike. Miley Ray Cyrus is such a revolutionary, and her revolution began with Bangerz. Watch many of the videos of today and listen to the music. You will see the and hear much that first germinated there, though it is seldom remarked upon now. And like any proper revolutionary, she continues to explore, upset, provoke, and transform.

In terms of vocal style, songwriting, innovation, and presence, Cyrus falls in line with the likes of Elvis, Lennon, Bowie, and Madonna. I choose these artists for a reason. She has the magnetism and charisma of Elvis, and his innate vocal talent to sing with alacrity in multiple genres and with a broad vocal range, including the ability to croon a ballad, sing country, or rock out. She has the deep and provocative writing skills of John Lennon, and she is a master of idiomatic usage, with the solecisms and idiosyncrasies of common and regional parlance, as is done with mastery by all great writers from Shakespeare to Dylan. Bowie on the other hand was a musical chameleon, and he could innovate in one style and then, in a seeming instant, he'd change and innovate in a completely different one; young Cyrus is already onto her fourth significant stylistic difference.  And Madonna was the first modern female pop star who ably used all aspects of performance artistry, including vocals, writing, visuals, and choreography, thereby creating comprehensive performance art, and yet, unlike many who followed, her singular presence, a veritable force of nature, was always the dominant part of the presentation. One simply cannot take one's eyes off of her, notwithstanding what's happening peripherally, and the same is true of Cyrus.   More than one less capable artist uses staging to distract from what would otherwise be a mediocre song and vocal ability. But Cyrus is more than anything a vocalist and a songwriter, and she does not need props to make her presence known.

I have made the case for her genius elsewhere, one which was nascent in Bangerz, but became especially evident in Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. And now we have the first three songs from her album, Younger Now, including the eponymous single just released. The lyrics in her new album and this piece are all written solely by Cyrus, and the musical composition was co-written and co-produced by Oren Yoel.  Yoel, a multi-instrumentalist, did much of the instrumentation himself.  It is but more eating of the pudding that has served to validate my earlier arguments. Miley Cyrus is a musical genius, and she stands apart from her contemporaries, not because she is the best at some single thing, but because she does the entire thing in a better and more novel way, which is to say, she does things that no one else does.  The one, single thing I do think she does better than anyone else among her contemporaries, though, is write with a kind of simple profundity that only a handful of artists in pop-rock have been able to do, and Lennon and Dylan come to my mind.  She is only 24, and I am thinking of what they wrote at a similar time in their lives (yes, I was around then!), and I must say, she is equal to them at that stage in their careers, albeit, not as prolific.  I am excited about what lies ahead.

"Younger Now" blends country, pop, rock of an older era, and electronica all into one, and it manages to lyrically convey the idea that, while Cyrus has changed, that she is not who she was, she still embraces her past, and it affirms what the Greek philosopher Heraclitus suggested long ago, that change is the only thing that is constant and the central principle of the universe. The obvious implication is that she will change again. Thus Cyrus writes, "no one stays the same," and she like Heraclitus proclaims the ultimate unity of opposites, "what goes up must come down." It also says something powerful about emerging from youth, which is, that once one stops working so hard to be and appear older, and quits grasping at the illusion of freedom from authority, in this case, the shackles of childhood and the rigors of television stardom at a young age, one feels a certain sense of relief, indeed, younger than those years of tumult and discovery most of us experience in mid-adolescence to the onset of adulthood, and therefore, "I feel so much younger now."  In other words, perhaps like she felt once before all the Sturm und Drang occurred, when she was a happy-go-lucky girl (as those who know her best say she was). The lyrics are simple, but beautiful, and packed with meaning. They include nothing gratuitous or nonsensical. I was very much reminded of some of Lennon's early-middle work, and particularly some of his contributions to Sgt. Pepper's, arguably the most important album in pop-rock.

One of the regrettable trends in today's popular music is the advent of the overuse of melisma and gratuitous runs, beginning in the early nineties. This has morphed into gratuitous warbling around notes throughout a song that the amateur might consider to be indicative of great skill, when, in fact, it is often used to obfuscate a lack of precise pitch. There is a place for a run and for melisma, but they should be used more sparingly. Cyrus is more than capable of using many vocal techniques to full effect. She has a four-octave range, and unlike most females i the soprano range , she can comfortably perform as a lyric contralto, a rare and difficult area for most women. Her natural state is that of mezzo-soprano. In "Younger Now," Cyrus sings smoothly, deliberately, and without showing off.  There are no giant belts or glass-shattering notes. The volume is fairly fixed and the enunciation clear. Her Nashville twang is there, but it never overwhelms. Her notes are both precise and to the point without unnecessary embellishment. There is nothing flashy or jarring. It is just perfectly done for the task at hand.

The video for "Younger Now" is very possibly her best yet, which is not inconsequential given the excellence of both "Wrecking Ball" and "We Can't Stop." It was co-directed by Cyrus and Diane Martel. I was told that Cyrus did her own styling and makeup. Indeed, I think this video stands up well to the best of both Madonna and Lady Gaga, arguably among the greatest in videographic performance art. It is not full of whizbang pyrotechnics, however, and it is not particularly complex in choreography like, say, some of Beyonce or Madonna's work.  It does however make considerable use of symbolism and iconography, which is certainly reminiscent of Madonna's finest early work.

Obviously my interpretation of the video could well be wrong, but I'd be surprised if I were far off on most of it. It is to no small degree autobiographical. It begins with some natural sound effects: rain, crickets, and a croaking frog, which rumor has it is Cyrus' famous pet frog, Angel...and then a pass by some books on a shelf, including a very noticeable book about Elvis Presley, and then Cyrus waking up in bed, a child-sized twin bed as a grown woman, which I take to symbolize a new beginning, and a new person, while the past, she sings, all seems rather like a dream. She makes it clear that she is not the same as before, but that she likes and does not disown who she was before. One of the most interesting parts is Cyrus and a small puppet that strikingly resembles her younger self and stage persona, the virginal all-American girl that she left behind...and that, when she did leave her manufactured self behind, upset so many...and an image which she appeared for several years to wholly reject by acting opposite of it. Here, she seems at once charmed and bemused by her former self ... indeed, even shows shows affection for her former self. She includes children and old people in various places in the video, representing the fact that we all were young and are certain to grow old, but that the old have not forgotten what it was like to be young at the same time, as shown by their doing some things one might only expect a youngster to do, including even some gymnastics.  Cyrus shows herself in different eras: countryfied, rocking out, hip hop, pole dancing, and so forth, and she ends with a homage to the past in rock and roll, with some simple dancing surrounded by old and young dancers, rather reminiscent of dancing at the hop or American Bandstand in the fifties or early sixties (she is a noted admirer and expert on early rock, according to her longtime associate, Stacy Jones). This segment also includes a few moves that remind one of the hoedown-throwdown dance of Hannah Montana fame.

There is even an apparent allusion to her admitted sexual fluidity, including a big lip-kissing smackeroo planted one of the older ladies bedecked in a Bangeresqe outfit and hair style. In another segment she appears to be a life-sized puppet, which I take as an allusion to her Disney studio days and as a child star under the control of others, and perhaps even a subtle swipe at her objectification. Her attire ranges from country classic, a la her godmother Dolly Parton, as she cruises down the boulevard on a float, to Elvis in his earlier rocker stage to his latter Liberace-Las Vegas phase, complete with a rhinestone jumpsuit, stiff turned-up collar and huge belt buckle, and even Elvis-like coif, to simple, old-fashioned girlish femininity in a 1950's style get-up, with coquettish hair flipping and purposeful cuteness.

Cyrus makes several clear references to her controversial Bangerz era (which really only contained a couple of songs one might consider to be influenced significantly by hip hop), including one of her famous out-of-the-hood poses with a full-toothed grin straight out of "We Can't Stop," whilst surrounded by the old men and ladies in full Bangerz pose. This was a deliberate statement, having been accused of abandoning hip hop, and of course she was falsely accused of appropriating and exploiting "black culture," abandoning it, then disrespecting it. This was a complete misrepresentation of the facts, and it is perpetrated by those who know little of either anthropology or musicology, and completely ignore what she was really rejecting. and I have dealt with that issue elsewhere. It is enough to say here that what she abandoned was not a culture, but misogyny and the objectification of women, and she does not deny her own role in both, but now hopes to be a better role model for girls. That is called maturity. As for exploitation, that is almost laughable when juxtaposed with those in the hip-hop music industry who do it daily and give back nothing to anyone, as compared to what she does with considerable generosity. She has changed.

I am pretty sure there is still much to be discovered in this video that symbolizes different aspects of her life. In the meantime, in the absence of a blow-by-blow description from her, I must be content with some educated guesses. It is enough to say, here, that it is a remarkable video ... and, in fact, it is a work of visual and musical art.  And while many themes are incorporated, the constant one is the idea of change being a certainly ... and that that it is something to embrace.

To conclude, I am going to hazard a guess that the album to be released in September will be the pop-rock album of the year, if not in sales and awards, then most certainly in historical terms.  I did not use the Sgt. Pepper's reference casually before. And that, the judgment of history, is the more important thing in the final analysis. Cyrus is already very wealthy and famous the world over at a very young age. I know enough about her to know that what she does now is not really for material gain ... for a person of her wealth, she lives rather simply, and managing her charities and being with her family seem much more important to her than leading the life of a Kardashian. I think she makes music because that is the very center of her being ... and that her ultimate goal is to create great art. She has already done that.

Other Miley Cyrus Articles:

21st Century Pop Rock Queen: Miley Ray Cyrus

The Vicissitudes of Genius: Miley Cyrus and Her Critics

Miley Cyrus and Malibu: Coming of Age in Art and Life

Miley Cyrus and Malibu: Coming of Age in Art and Life

Miley Ray Cyrus’ legion of fans, most of whom literally grew up with her and her music beginning with her Hannah Montana days, were not disappointed with her new single, “Malibu,” the precursor to a forthcoming album. It may seem strange that a somewhat respectable boomer in his dotage--one who in 1964 was at the Hollywood Bowl Beatles' concert at age 12; the Monterey Pop Festival at 15 in 1967 with a cavalcade of 60s rock greats; who living as a runaway hippie in a Haight-Ashbury flophouse and hanging out at Golden Gate Park for several months that year, listening to the Airplane and Dead for free in the park; and someone who as a young adult was in the Saturday Night Fever-Boogie Nights disco era --would be commenting on Miley Cyrus’ work at all, let alone being a big fan. However, I expect more of my vintage will start becoming just that as a result of her new music. As anyone who knows me would surely tell you, I love my old stuff from the halcyon days of my sometimes unbridled youth, but I’m not, and I never have been stuck in the past, and I do a pretty good job of keeping up with current trends in several musical genres. Besides, there is a lot of great music today. Maybe that means I'm perpetually childish. But the young nearly always determine musical trends, so, I'm okay with that. 

I came to Miley Cyrus in a circuitous way. Of course I had heard of her as Hannah Montana and of her popularity among kids some years ago. My daughter is only a few years older than Miley. But I never paid any serious attention until I read an article about Miley a couple of years ago--in the midst of her noteriety as pop's bad girl (all exaggerated)-- about celebrity generosity, and in which she was featured as being among the forefront in bounteousness among entertainers (in both time and money), and at the top among teen and young adult stars. It impressed me. It was then that I did a little research via YouTube and iTunes and took a retrospective look at her music, and I’ve been a fan and followed her ever since. Indeed, I've studied her music and I have read a fair amount about her, including the several post-Hannah controversies, as well as some autobiographical material. I have written at length, elsewhere, about her musical evolution and talent, and a bit on her biography (see here), as well as a rejoinder to some of her critics (see here), to which I’ll add a coda a bit later in this piece. In a word, I think she is one of the great pop-rock entertainers and artists of the modern era. My principal purpose in this piece, however, is to comment more specifically on her new song, “Malibu,” which was just released earlier today, and to do so with the knowledge that she hopes this will be a new beginning for her musically (and personally, as well). 

To encapsulate, Malibu is surely a love song, but something more than that, and it’s a highly personal, as has been much of her music. The song is upbeat and happy, not plaintive or wrought with lovelorn angst, and with some definite foot-tapping, torso moving, head bobbing back-beats. It's excellent driving music. It is lyrically simple and beautiful. Miley’s voice is in perfect form, and her Tennessee accent is quite audible, subtly, and at not full-throttle in a Grand Ole Opry way. This is not one of her power ballads, or one where she blows the roof of with pipes that should only belong to someone twice her size, and there’s no “sitting on a cornflake” stuff as in Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz  (much overlooked and containing some my favorite pieces). It is nearly conversational in a kind of casual, sing-song, breezy sort of way, where she’s using her mid-to-upper middle range voice (she’s technically a mezzo soprano, though many characterize her as an alto). One can almost imagine her singing it to her lover as part of a conversation on a park bench. Her diction and tone are clear and distinct. There is a beautiful run, but no unnecessary warbling and trilling.

The lyrics of the verse tell a story. I suppose we can’t know its meaning for sure, that is, unless she tells us. She's told us a few things, and it is clear that it is autobiographical in nature. But I think most of it is pretty clear. I am not going to give a complete musical exegesis, but just highlight some of the main parts of the song, including a bit of armchair interpretation. 

The piece begins with a thank you to her lover for bringing her to live by the ocean in Malibu, where she has found this new solace and a renewed sense of freedom. I view Malibu as something of a metaphor. While she was from Tennessee and without much coastal beach experience, I suspect it could be anywhere that brings her comfort. The ocean and coastal environs obviously do.

I never came to the beach or stood by the ocean
 I never sat by the shore under the sun with my feet in the sand
But you brought me here and I'm happy that you did
 'Cause now I'm as free as birds catching the wind
I always thought I would sink, so I never swam
 I never went boatin', don't get how they are floatin'
And sometimes I get so scared of what I can't understand

One can imagine a pop star of her fame, what with obnoxious paparazzi having followed her around since her early teens; people hunting for naked or private pictures constantly; with expectations of everyone to be one thing or the other in order to satisfy an image that they choose, rather than the freedom to be the person she is; and the pressures of 12 years (she’s only 24!) of constant celebrity, work, and criticism that would cause many, especially a child or near child in her late teens and early twenties, to wither emotionally—oh and yes, the pressure of adulation, too, and the problem of inner self-doubt about being deserving of it, something that has driven more than one famous person to therapy or worse. This is followed by an admission of being frightened about what I take to be feelings or things about herself that she didn’t fully understand, emotions and worries that required her to run away and distance herself rather than risking failure. This, I suspect, entails some acting out in both life and on stage … not at all unexpected of most young people, sans the stage. She did it in both places. But in real life, from everything I've read from people who know her personally, never to excess or out of control, despite the reputation fueled by her stage antics and a lot of sanctimonious and often hypocritical moralizing by others. 

My interpretation … I thought I’d sink, i.e., fail … I never fully committed because I didn’t understand … and that scared me. But now she’s happy, and it’s due partly to him insofar as he is the object of her love, and he might have helped point her in a direction ((i.e., Malibu), but more than anything, because she has found herself, whom she wants to be, and what she wants to do. She found this in Malibu. I surmise a little about her personal relationship and its ups-and-downs, but this is an acknowledgement of not only reconciliation, but change making the very possibility of a reconciliation to occur. Malibu is the overarching metaphor for security and comfort and knowing herself. Peace with herself, which, and this isn't entirely unusual for a youngster, came with some struggle. 

Then she gives the raison d'être for the song in the lyrics of the refrain. That through it all, notwithstanding ups and downs of the past or even ones to come, it has come to this--and this is where and with whom she wants to be:

But here I am
 Next to you
The sky is more blue
In Malibu
 Next to you
 In Malibu
Next to you

Then she shows her pure delight at just being with her lover, and that it is much more than just the physical attraction that usually begins a relationship, especially among the hormonally propelled young, but the thing people do for the entirety of a good and long-term relationship, namely, talk to one another. And it makes clear she wants her current peace of mind and the relationship she now has to remain intact. The personal giveaway is that her lover, who in real life everyone knows is her fiance, the actor and surfing enthusiast, Liam Hemsworth, explains the ocean's current to her, something a surfer might understand, while she just smiles--and as anyone who has ever been in love knows, when your lover talks with enthusiasm about anything, whether or not it is something that would ordinarily interest you outside of that conversation, or even if you don’t understand it, you are simply delighted at the happiness he or she derives from telling you, for allowing you to share in their enthusiasm, because, quite simply, you are in love, and you can hang on every word ... not because of what is said, but because of whose saying it. Who in a romantic relationship has not given or received such a smile, as though what is being said by the one you love is the coolest thing on earth? She says: 

We watched the sun go down as we were walking
I'd spend the rest of my life just standing here talking
 You would explain the current, as I just smile
 Hoping I just stay the same and nothing will change
 And it'll be us, just for a while
Do we even exist?
That's when I make the wish
To swim away with the fish

That’s the key. She doesn’t want it to end, she is in bliss, and she wants it to continue. It’s not just sex or romance, it’s more complete, more complex, less fleeting,  … it’s the yearning to be with someone you love forever, to swim away together, to be inextricably tied to one another, and for a moment of pure delight and bliss to last. One wonders, she says, could it even be real, do we exist, is it an imaginary thing, an illusion. If one reviews some of her music in the last three albums, particularly the last psychedelic experiment, one realizes she often speaks allegorically. A student of Miley's music can sometimes pick out the meaning because of knowing about her; but it is not always obvious even to those who follow her, and one must be left imagining, which is how it should be. 

The bottom line and conclusion of the piece is that is that she has found peace of mind in her love life, and greater happiness and security, overall, after some tumult--a sense that she can remain secure--and that having found this, it is a new beginning, a fresh start, leaving behind some things, by which I don't think she simply or only means an artistic style of this or that kind or antics on stage. I also think she means leaving things behind that were not good for her or for their relationship. And I think she means things that no longer seem relevant to her life. The last lines encapsulate the story: 

We are just like the waves that flow back and forth
 Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning and you’re there to save me
 And I wanna thank you with all my heart 
It’s a brand new start
A dream come true 
In Malibu

The song involves an admixture of musical styles that speak to all of the main genres of Miley’s background, including country, pop-rock, techno-electronica, psychedelic, and yes, hip hop. I’ve heard others, including her father and Miley herself, say it that harkens back to her roots. Indeed it does; however, it also uses an amalgam of all of the styles that she’s used  up through her Petz period that serve to move her art forward. One hears hints of all of it. No doubt the multifaceted background of her brilliant and prodigious musical producer, Oren Yoel, helped in this fusion. He played all of the instruments in the piece, I believe. A writer, engineer, and multi-instrumentalist, Yoel worked on several of her Bangerz pieces, and he even co-wrote a couple of Dead Petz pieces. He’s worked with a very diverse group, including hip-hop artists such as Kanye West and pop artists like Justin Bieber. He moves comfortably in every arena of the popular music world. 

There is at once a breezy aspect to the song, and a progressive, 4/4 driving back beat  accompanied by a loud bass, and with a use of polyrhythms and syncopation that lends both rock and earlier African American, percussive jive overtones, possessing stronger movement accents on the off-beats. The traditional 4/4 beat this is found in modern rock, pop, and in hip-hop in one form or another. It is said by musical historians that the 2 4 emphasis in the back beat began in the Middle East with hand held percussion instruments such as the tambourine which produced the rhythmic mood and incentive to dance.Clapping (and this songs mimics it in places) might be its real origin. It traveled widely and was eventually incorporated to create jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, rock n roll, and hip-hop, along with some of the more driving and eclectic accents of percussion from the African tradition. There are country string elements, too, almost steel guitar garnishes, and there's some subtle electronica evincing some acid rock. But the overriding feel is still pop, with just enough back beat to call it pop-rock. Some find the combo of pop and rock disturbing. Rock purists (like many jazz and hip-hop purists) often seek to define themselves in a way that excludes things, as though their music ought to be in a gilded cage.  It shouldn't, for rock, like hip-hop is and jazz was is just another form of popular music (as even Opera was), and in fact, many of the greatest rock artists did a considerable amount of what we might consider pure Britney Spears or Taylor Swift type pop, not least of all the sainted rock gods, the Beatles.

One of the prettiest parts of the song is the rising bridge of Miley singing  “aaaahhhhh, aaaahhhhh” where she gives just a bitty taste of her range (it’s quite large, a four-octave range when on her game, much larger than most all of her peers) and, more than anything, her vocal control; however, it is not one of those annoying, show-offy runs popularized by a couple of 90s and early 00s divas, warbling and wobbling around every note to the point of annoyance. 

The entirety of the piece must put to rest the silliness and outrage by some that one has heard in the buildup to its release suggesting that Miley has abandoned hip-hop, and only now that she’s catapulted herself into super-stardom. This is wrong on several fronts. First, she was a superstar well before her several (not nearly as many as some seem to suppose) hip-hop songs in Bangerz. She could fill any stadium, and she was reputed to have some the largest ticket prices in the business on the aftermarket with her extraordinary popularity among her age cohort. Ask the parents who had to buy the tickets. Her stage and video antics that borrowed from hip-hop included much more: there was Madonna, Gaga, and acid-rock stuff going on, along with a good deal of subtle and not-so-subtle erotica that hardly belongs to hip hop, but nothing kids don’t see today all the time on their ubiquitous devices, and nothing more outrageous than what Madonna was doing decades ago, both on stage and in real life. They also seem to forget that Miley left her Bangerz period almost immediately after her touring, then beginning her psychedelic and more introspective period, which was not seen as so controversial. (Also the time when she formed her charitable foundation. While she had long contributed time and money to various causes, her foundation gave her a new focus and sense of purpose).

What really created the controversy was her having said in her colorful way (no more riding cocks and such) that she was leaving behind misogyny, its attendant objectification of women, and bigotry, all of which are clearly found in aspects of hip-hop (and other, more traditionally white forms, too), and that she's doing so out of a sense of responsibility to others, along with a change in her own outlook and personal life. This was mistaken and twisted as a complete put down of hip-hip. It never was. And to suggest otherwise is tantamount to saying all of hip-hop is defined by these things, which it is not (despite what the great jazz artist Wynton Marsalis suggests). Miley said she was leaving those distasteful and now irrelevant (to her) elements behind, not discounting all of hip-hop, parts of which she continues to admire; indeed, it subtly informs Malibu, along with other influences.  

Second, what great artist doesn’t borrow, expand, modify, and evolve over time, whether the classical greats Mozart and Beethoven; jazz geniuses Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis; the pop-rock giants Lennon and McCartney; or the hip-hop/rap artistry of Ice Cube and Kanye West. No genre of music exists without outside influences; and every genre is subject to being adapted by others or morphing into something new, much as old-school rap morphed into modern hip-hop, Music never has and never will remain static, and no culture can be said to own it, just as no culture remains pure without influence, or sacrosanct without change or without informing other cultures who borrow from it. What Miley said she abandoned was the objectification of women and the over-sexualization that attends it, and bigotry more generally. What she wants to project in her music, at this point, is more happiness and love, which is reflective of her life.  Anyone who has studied her music and her performances, and knows anything about her personal interactions with others, knows she is at once a complete empath, and she is constitutionally unable to disguise her feelings at the time they occur. In other words, her musical style is patterned on her life of the moment, the way she feels then. That is called authenticity. Much praised, little practiced. With that said, the fact remains that she has maintained all of her influences in various degrees, all of the elements are in this one piece, and she has abandoned nothing musically insofar as I can tell. 

To suggest, as some have said, that she has betrayed a culture is simply preposterous. She is accused of capitalizing on hip-hop iconography of living in the hood and such, which of course is a phony accusation given the fact that the majority of hip-hop artists today are hardly off the streets of Compton or former gang bangers, themselves, tatted bodies and hood talk notwithstanding.  And any artist that picks up a horn, a microphone, a guitar, or uses an electronic device, beats on a drum, uses language, or utters a lyric in iambic pentameter has borrowed something from another culture. She has done service to music more generally, and that is a tribute to the styles that she has incorporated, not a betrayal. What is more, there never was and still is not an unjust expropriation or exploitation: after all, this is the youngster who gives music away and forgoes millions in earnings for her fans (in addition to millions of her wealth and her time that she devotes to the unfortunate, much not seen by the cameras with appearances at hospitals, blood banks, and such--out of the limelight). No one has suffered, and many have benefited from Miley Cyrus, including in the world of hip-hop with people she employed; and given some of the harsh comments she has endured, it is a testament to her strength of character and her fundamental kindness that she never stopped doing what she could to alleviate the pain of others.  What she has done musically is fuse the best of her experiences and left behind the worst--or things that no longer represent her more mature, adult self. A self that now includes another consideration: someone she loves and aims to please. As should we all in such a circumstance. 

Her video is simple, beautiful, and in my opinion, the best there is for an upbeat love song. It is not overproduced; full of highly-choreographed dancing; it uses special effects sparingly; and it has a cast of one, well, two, counting her dog. Miley is seen being what I suspect represents what Miley might actually be like in life outside of the publicity and media mill having to answer questions about her sexuality, drug use, and such… girlish, sweet, tastefully coquettish, and a little shy (don’t let her previous exhibitionism fool you—boldness on stage is cover for many performers); but comfortable in her own skin with just being herself. There are no fancy hairstyles or elaborate costumes. She is blessed with great natural beauty, and that is certainly an advantage in disposing of distractions; indeed, I think she is more beautiful today than ever before. There are balloons, beaches, grassy knolls, and a waterfall.  While I won’t take anything away from several of her Bangerz videos, especially, given that I’m a normal straight man,  “Wrecking Ball"-- there can be little question that this is the style suits her best. The reason I say that is that Miley Cyrus is one of the very few artists who can get away with simplicity by virtue of her highly expressive countenance and communicative body language. She doesn’t just feel the music, the music feels her … and she is able to project her feelings through music in a way that few can without a lot of artifice or staging. 

I said I detect shyness in Miley that might come as a surprise others. Some of what she has done before, I suspect, is to counteract that. To illustrate, the whole sticking out the tongue business has become a set-piece and insignia, now something expected of her, but I think it originated as a girl with the discomfort of being on display, of being unsure of herself, a certain awkwardness (hardly uncommon with a teenager), of being constantly photographed and not knowing what to do. I picked up a definite sense of insecurity and a feeling of social awkwardness in some tellingly autobiographical lyrics in Petz. Maybe I’m over-reading things. Of course this is speculative, so that's a possibility.  After all, I don’t really know Miley and I never will. But I am betting I’m very close to the mark on this.

I must add, this song was written in car (she wasn't driving, thankfully, she used an Uber driver) on the way to her gig as a coach on The Voice. If I spent ten years on it, I could not come up with such a pretty piece.

Do I think Miley has conducted herself perfectly. Of course not. She is a normal person, aside from her artistic gifts--a normal girl and young woman, except she grew up before everyone with a kind of pressure that most of us will not experience. She made some mistakes, of course. But she knows that, and her critics are intent on characterizing her by them. They were minor. The fact is, Miley Ray Cyrus, while not perfect, is about as decent a person as one will find. Her generosity towards others speaks for itself.   

Here’s my overall assessment. "Malibu" is a beautifully constructed love song: lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally. Visually, it is Miley at her very best: being herself, naturally, and without a lot of trappings (to see more of that style, see her Happy Hippie backyard performances and some of her more intimate concert work, or her live BBC radio sessions). I think it will have great appeal, not only to fans of several musical styles, but to all ages. This, I think, will be the piece that will cause older folk to notice Miley’s vocal and performance chops. Miley is 24. She’s been around a while, so people sometimes lose sight of just how young she is. This is better work than many very famous artists were doing at that age, including several at the forefront of the music scene today. To put it in language Boomers and rock music history buffs might understand very well, she’s long passed the "I Want to Hold Your Hand," adolescent stuff … though clever, well sung, and age-appropriate to the audience and the artists, to be sure; and she’s just left her Rubber Soul era, where her brilliance became more manifest, and in which she sought her musical stride and self-confidence, while experiencing the turmoil of going from girlhood to womanhood under a microscope and in front the world, all the while without ever stepping over the edge, remaining in control of her art, her values, her responsibilities, and her fundamental sweetness and generosity of spirit. This, then, is her Revolver period, one where all of her experiences come together and her music turns completely adult. And as the Beatles had George Martin, she’s had some help along the way, too, not least of all, Stacy Jones, Mike Will Made It; Wayne Coyne; and more recently, Oren Yoel. But she is the central artist and driving force, the prism that bends the light, the weaver of the musical threads, and without whose genius it could not be done. Her Sgt. Pepper and the White Album phase has yet to come, but I suspect it will be much sooner than later.  Miley Ray Cyrus is a force of nature, an entertainment genius, and no ordinary pop-rock singer destined to flame out anytime soon. Mark my words.

Link to my artistic analysis and bio of Miley.

Rejoinder to criticism of Miley. 

Miley's Happy Hippie Foundation

MB 5-11-17