So the autumn leaves are beginning to fall, it’s getting dark earlier, and the world is about to end any day now. Enter Dolly Parton and her goddaughter Miley Cyrus, on a mission to spread love, light and colour in these end times. Miley’s new album Younger Now and Dolly’s children’s album I Believe in You are lollipops of sweetness and joy enough to make even the worst cynic smile.
Let’s start with Miley who last we saw writhing around half naked, shaking her behind, simulating an orgy and generally being pop’s cartoon enfant terrible. Call her whatever you like but she was never dull. So when I read she was going ‘serious’ and ‘back to her roots’ I was a little worried. Too many pop stars have tried to reinvent themselves this year with middling (Gaga) or catastrophic (Katy) results. I mean pop music already has Lorde, we don’t need another super serious Head Girl- type dancing like she’d rather be reading a book. And don’t get me started on Taylor’s attempt at embracing her dark side. Thank god Miley’s reinvention is just casting off the current trends in favour of something more unique to her own life.
From the moment I heard Malibu I adored the song. It’s a beautiful moment of true love, encapsulating the free spirit of Miley herself. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all feel this kind of contentment with our lives, even if only for a fleeting moment? Her second single Younger Now embraces change as a force for positivity. While the song sounds pretty modern to my ears the video has her recreating some cute vintage looks as well as the Elvis style from the album cover.
And then we hear from Dolly, telling Miley that she’s very busy but excited to sing on the next song. RainbowLand starts and to hear these two women together is just adorable. This song has an admirable purpose and a hopeful heart. Sometimes protests don’t have to be angry and loud, you can just imagine a better world and sing about it.
Miss You So Much might be my favourite thing on here, it’s the most ‘country’ but let’s be clear nothing on this album really fits in that genre – this is just an acoustic pop song with some steel in the background. Another highlight is Thinkin‘, a song for the over subscribed amongst us. I’ve been thinking way too much, she sings and the world nods its head in identification. Sometimes you’d feel better if you just emptied your mind and listened to pop music.
So it’s disappointing to see really insulting articles appearing on the likes of Pitchfork, a site who are so afraid of looking out of touch with the ‘kids’ they give good reviews to a guy who attacked his pregnant girlfriend and love rappers who constantly refer to women as bitches. In contrast Miley is condemned as some kind of cultural criminal for firstly releasing an album which was influenced by rap music (the dominant sound on the music charts) and then equally denounced for being successful enough to make her own decision to go back to her pop/country roots. What a joke. They also criticised her for supposedly ‘weak’ songwriting because she hasn’t bought in Max Martin or a hundred other producers in order to Spotify her sound. Give the girl some fucking credit. This is her own singular vision. Maybe it’s not perfect but so what? She has written most of these songs by HERSELF or with one other person. Even Taylor Swift and Beyoncé aren’t brave enough to expose themselves like that anymore.
Also released this week is Dolly’s album, I Believe in You, which has been recorded especially for kids. It might seem like an odd decision but Dolly has always been concerned with doing what she can for young people – her Imagination Library charity is bringing books to children across the world (Read more about Dolly Parton’s relationship with books here). Dolly’s songs are trying to inspire kids to have a good time, be good people who use their imaginations and can be strong even when bad things happen to them. She has re-recorded her song Coat of many Colours and the theme of anti-bullying is also central to this album. Dolly’s songs use her trademark honesty, simple language and cute rhymes to spread a consistently positive message. Maybe I’m just a big kid too but I needed these songs today. Fair enough some people might not like the Me and Little Andy style delivery but I don’t care. I love it. And I’m sending out Makin’ Fun Ain’t Funny to the leader of the free world right now. Unlike him Dolly is out here every day just trying to make the world a better place.
Okay so the songs on these two albums aren’t the most groundbreaking music I’ve ever heard. But they’re fun and light enough to brighten your day. If I had a kid I’d put these albums on all day long. I’d dance and I’d laugh and I’d sing along at the top of my lungs. So if you’re too old for this kind of sparkling glitter and rhinestones then just recommend them to some parents or a kid you know. After all I hear the children are our future…wouldn’t it be nice if they loved themselves and other people a little more?
Right I’m off to listen to some miserable emocountry music again…normal cynical service shall resume shortly.
Dolly’s album can be purchased here: https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/dollyparton
Miley’s album is available on all streaming services now and the vinyl is out in November: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Younger-Now-VINYL-Miley-Cyrus/dp/B074Z5ZSGG
In 2018 I started my project to listen and review every Dolly Parton album in order of release. Please click the links below to read the posts so far: