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Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez's new singles show the pop stars pivoting audiences


August is winding down, but it is never too late for a song of the summer. On Friday, two huge pop stars released new songs. Selena Gomez put out a track called "Single Soon."


SELENA GOMEZ: (Singing) I'm picking out this dress, trying on these shoes. 'Cause I'll be single soon. I'll be single soon.

SIMON: Miley Cyrus put out a song called "Used To Be Young."


MILEY CYRUS: (Singing) I know I used to be crazy. I know I used to be fun. You say I used to be wild. I say I used to be young.

SIMON: So the song is called "Used To Be Young." Miley Cyrus is now 30 years old. Oof. Ouch. Zing.


SIMON: Stephen Thompson from NPR Music, who is, by the way, also aging gracefully, joins us now. Stephen, thanks so much for being with us.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Scott. It is a pleasure to be here.

SIMON: What do these songs have in common, do you think, in addition to the fact that they were released on the same day?

THOMPSON: Well, both Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus are former child stars. Both have been active since the early aughts. Both of them have careers spanning more than 20 years, even though they themselves are only - you know, Miley Cyrus is 30, and Selena Gomez is 31. But they are industry veterans. And as pop stars, you know, they're kind of both looking to make pivots to more adult sounds - not adult like raunchy, but adult like appealing to adult audiences.

SIMON: Let me ask you what you think about both of these songs. And let's begin with Selena Gomez.

THOMPSON: Well, "Single Soon" is kind of a down the middle pop banger. You can imagine just, like, hearing it on the radio. It's like a pre-breakup song as...

SIMON: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: ...She's preparing to dump someone.


GOMEZ: (Singing) I know he'll be a mess when I break the news, but I'll be single soon. I'll be single soon.

SIMON: Music you can use, huh?

THOMPSON: Music you can use - I mean, for me, listening to the song, one of the first things that popped into my head is how easy it is to imagine this song having a major presence on TikTok. It's got those kind of big going-out-tonight vibes, and that's always a really sturdy frame to hang a big hit pop song on.


SIMON: And let me ask you about the Miley Cyrus song, which I will say in advance, I found quite moving.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I really love this song. I think it's easy for us to sit here and kind of laugh about somebody who's 30 singing a song called "Used to Be Young," but that's a really universal part of being that age. You know, the first time I was lamenting how old I was, I was probably 26. But it's also specific to Miley Cyrus, who's been a tabloid fixture. And, you know, the song is addressing kind of the moments in her past. I really like the fact that this song doesn't feel like it's trend-hopping. It feels really personal and real, like she's kind of seizing control of her own narrative. You even hear some of the echoes of kind of her country roots in the arrangement. It feels relatable in a way that I think has a lot of power.


CYRUS: (Singing) Take one. Pour it out. It's not worth crying about the things you can't erase - like tattoos and regrets, words I never meant and ones that got away.

SIMON: If I may, I find she was singing in so many words, I used to be young. And you know what? Now I'm more wise.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

SIMON: But that's growing up.

THOMPSON: Exactly.

SIMON: Stephen Thompson, aging gracefully in place for NPR Music, joins us. Stephen, thanks so much for taking your vitamin B and joining us.

THOMPSON: (Laughter) We are all aging gracefully. Thank you, Scott.


CYRUS: (Singing) You say I used to be wild. I say I used to be young. You tell me time has done changed me. That's fine, I've had a good run. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)