The biggest stars in pop are getting older, and they#8217re looking to their predecessors for inspiration. Consider the No. 1 album in the country the week ending May 18, One Direction star Harry Styles#8217 self-titled solo debut, which pays homage to the rock gods of the last half-century, David Bowie, Queen and Pink Floyd. It became the best-selling debut from a U.K. male artist, moving an estimated 230,000 units. This may mark the first occasion many younger listeners, raised on candy-coated EDM beats, hear rock music that sounds conspicuously like what their parents used to listen to on the radio.
Styles#8217 female contemporaries, many of whom cut their teeth in the world of kids#8217 TV, are charting this surprising course too. Selena Gomez#8217s new single #8220Bad Liar#8221 uses a prominent sample from Talking Heads#8217 1977 single #8220Psycho Killer,#8221 earning the approval of that band#8217s front man, David Byrne: #8220I really like the song #8230 and her performance too,#8221 he tweeted. The song is whisper-thin, gorgeous and strange; it layers bells, snares and hand claps underneath its crisp vocal hook. Gomez, a onetime child star who has carried her young fan base along with her into an adult career, was always the quietly experimental one in the teen pop set. Here she doubles down on the weirdness of her sound.
Then there#8217s Miley Cyrus, the wild child of the Disney crew, who has dialed back the intensity of her new music. On her 2013 album, Bangerz, she loudly asserted her sexual autonomy, twerking on live TV and swinging nude from a wrecking ball in a video. Then she made an experimental psych-rock album, Miley Cyrus amp Her Dead Petz, which was released free online in 2015. But on her new single #8220Malibu,#8221 Cyrus#8217 sound shifts to evoke #821790s adult-contemporary pop-rock by artists like Sheryl Crow, or Alanis Morissette after she went to India and found enlightenment. #8220Next to you/the sky#8217s more blue/in Malibu,#8221 she sings over dreamy instrumentation. There#8217s a little twang in Cyrus#8217 voice that flicks at her Nashville roots, but #8220Malibu#8221 isn#8217t even country. This is cushiony, lightly percussive soft rock, untrendy as can be.
The video for #8220Malibu#8221 is set in soft focus, a hazy beachside fantasy in which Cyrus splashes in the surf, pulling a string of balloons. It#8217s a new look for her, but an appealing one. Like her peers, she#8217s just finding her way.
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This appears in the June 05, 2017 issue of TIME.