As Miley Cyrus gears up to release her sixth studio album, Younger Now, she appears to have come full circle: from nepotistic wholesome country actress to culturally appropriating twerking pop star to experimental absurdist performer and back again. It seems like just yesterday Miley was apologizing for disappointing her fans because she took a bong rip of “salvia” on camera, the first in a string of rebellious acts that disintegrated Cyrus’s family-friendly image one TMZ headline at a time. Now Cyrus is engaged to her longtime on-and-off again celebrity partner Liam Hemsworth, and she’s infamously shed much of the “bad girl” image that defined her for the past several years.
Miley’s look and sound have changed so much that it’s easy to forget her last album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, was a strange collaboration with Wayne Coyne that featured Big Sean, Phantogram, and Ariel Pink. Miley released the album, which had no pop singles, online for free. The project represented the culmination of Miley’s personal and artistic experimentation, the depths of the “weird phase” from which she seems to have emerged unscathed.
About a year before that album came out, Miley spoke to Rolling Stone about her relationship with The Flaming Lips. She claimed she had been listening to that band exclusively, as the two had been teaming up in the studio to record some Beatles covers. Miley’s work with Coyne and the rest of The Flaming Lips undoubtedly influenced her music and performance style during the buildup to Dead Petz, but it’s surprising to revisit just how strong her relationship with the band became.
This playlist, which consists of the 10 songs Miley listed to Rolling Stone in that May 2014 feature, contains some unlikely choices. Miley doesn’t mention “Do You Realize?>” “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” or any of the Lips’ more widely recognizable songs. Miley lists “Try to Explain,” from 2013’s The Terror, as her No. 1 choice, an understandably contemporary pick for a young fan. Yet she also digs deeper, citing Zaireeka’s “Thirty-Five Thousand Feet of Despair” and Soft Bulletin cuts like “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” and “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” among her favorites. She also includes the rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Money” that The Flaming Lips did with Henry Rollins for their 2009 Dark Side of the Moon cover album.
Miley displayed a thorough knowledge of The Flaming Lips’ discography in her Rolling Stone interview, and the songs she picked span various eras of the band’s work. The Flaming Lips have maintained an unusually lengthy musical career, due in large part to a constantly evolving sound and a consistently entertaining, always absurd onstage presence. Even if Miley’s sound shifts back from the strange turn it once took, the singer could learn a thing or two about longevity from her former collaborators. Either way, The Flaming Lips have obviously impacted Miley’s life in a significant manner, and all of us could benefit from having our pop stars be fans of one of the best experimental psychedelic bands of all time. And besides, listening to 10 good Flaming Lips songs has to be better than listening to Miley’s new album, right?