If anyone is going to lay claim to the title “Malibu” for a song, it’s still going to be Hole, who released the song from Celebrity Skin in 1999 in late December (an appropriate doom and gloom time for the moodiness of the song and its ironic tone). Where Hole’s “Malibu” is more about self-destruction and co-dependence on the wrong person–though is there such a thing on co-dependence on the right person?–Miley Cyrus’ is all balloons and pigtails.
Touting lyrics like, “Now I’m as free as birds catching the wind,” Cyrus’ homage to Liam Hemsworth and the tumultuous relationship they’ve had since meeting on the set of The Last Song in 2009 and being engaged and then breaking up and getting back together again is a combination of Hannah Montana country and Lana Del Rey Americana.
And yet, one can’t help but speculate that, based on the video, maybe she’s just really into being at the beach with a dog. Though she sings of being “next to you in Malibu,” the only “person” she appears to be with at any point is a collie that at times looks violated while she’s holding it.
Looking often like she’s doing a photoshoot for a Madewell catalogue, Cyrus dances about, chills by a fountain and otherwise looks as though she’s having spontaneous orgasms on the ground. That’s what love for a dog can do, one supposes. In spite of her fear that, “I always thought I would sink, so I never swam,” the canine’s presence seems to be a real help in the literal sense that maybe it will rescue her if she ends up falling off that cliff she’s jumping around by.
It feels like more than coincidence that “Malibu,” to be released on Cyrus’ forthcoming sixth album, exists in the time of Trump, a sort of steroid reboot of the early 00s. For you see, in many ways, the aesthetic and auditory motif of “Malibu” re-invokes the feeling of the Bush II years, when it was acceptable to be this bathetic and people would condone and even applaud it (think: Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson in any video they did together). But then, considering Miley rose to fame in 2006 with her Disney Channel platform, she’s no stranger to remaining in touch with the era that brought us American trash culture–and lack of depth in its straightforwardness–to the forefront. Even the meta-ness of the lyric, “I never would have believed you if three years ago you’d told me I’d be here writing this song,” isn’t tinged with self-awareness so much as a simple stating of the facts of her and Hemsworth’s roller coaster timeline.
All of this being said–whether it’s secretly about a dog or not (all men are foils for dogs, however, in’t they?), this song is really fucking good. And you’ll probably listen to it in your car on your way to the beach for most of the summer, especially if you live in the South.