Miley Cyrus is in no way new to experimentation, with each of her seven studio albums defying popular expectations. The 27th November 2020 saw Cyrus’ most recent statement yet, in the form of her newest album, titled Plastic Hearts. This angry post-divorce hit is arguably a ‘glow up’ in comparison to Cyrus’ other wackier endeavours, incorporating her love of rock with 80s-inspired instrumentals. A far cry from her Disney days, Cyrus uses this record to reinvent herself, placing herself alongside the likes of Blondie and The Cranberries, both of whom are covered in the album’s conclusion. Sporting a bleached blonde pixie mullet and a bold red lip, Cyrus takes centre stage with her new rock image.
The album opens with ‘WTF Do I Know’, a hard rock track discussing her relationship history. Angry guitar chords are paired with energetic drums to give off a grungy vibe, matched well with Cyrus’ dramatic lyrics. Rock influences are also apparent in ‘Bad Karma’, a song lined with overtly sexualised groans. In Cyrus’ eyes, there is evidently no better way to break into the world of rock’n’roll than to feature the Queen of Rock herself, Joan Jett. This track is unapologetic in its repetition of ‘I don’t give a f***, I don’t believe in love’, perfectly epitomising the sentiments of the entire record.
The title song, ‘Plastic Hearts’, is less aggressive in nature however, with catchy lyrics and head-bopping instrumentals. Cyrus’ reference to ‘California dreaming’ likely recalls her Malibu home, which was destroyed in the 2018 wildfires along with her plans for an EP series. In response, however, Cyrus treats us to this angsty rock album, which arguably has undertones of her 2008 hit ‘7 Things’. The leading single, ‘Midnight Sky’ is perhaps the strongest track on the album, reminiscent of 80s pop synth, with a lively backing and raspy vocals. Later, Cyrus remixes this song with Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’ to create an edgy ‘Edge of Midnight’, pairing Cyrus’ husky lyrics nicely with the dreamy 70s-esque tones of Nicks.
Jett and Nicks are not the only big names to be showcased however, and it is apparent that Cyrus used her contacts to ensure a star-studded feature list for her newest creation. One such example is the legendary pop punk icon, Billy Idol, who features on the moody ‘Night Crawling’. Here, the 80s are deliberately recreated, and the electronic backing sounds unlike anything released recently, instead placing itself directly in a past decade. Another big feature is English pop artist Dua Lipa, who sings alongside Cyrus on their single ‘Prisoner’. With a strangely sensual music video and a hook sampled from Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’, it is apparent that Cyrus was heavily inspired by the 80s in this energetic pop hit.
Not all the album is so lively however, with several slower tracks providing a nice balance, whilst still feeling in keeping with the 80s vibe. ‘Never Be Me’ is a prime example, with dramatic drums and electronic undertones possibly inspired by Phil Collins. ‘Angels Like You’ and ‘High’ are more acoustic in nature, with slow, stripped back vocals appearing to be more country-esque, despite the album’s desperate attempt to situate itself firmly in the rock genre. Whilst this does demonstrate the versatility of Cyrus’ musical endeavours, it also shows how her country roots are ever present in her music, despite past attempts to reject them.
Live covers of both ‘Heart of Glass’ and ‘Zombie’ are somewhat randomly thrown into the mix at the end of the track list. Cyrus is brave in her cover of Blondie’s classic, and Debbie Harry herself praised her for this, saying she made it ‘uniquely hers’. The same cannot be said for the Cranberries cover however, as Cyrus’ screechy vocals stay true to the original anti-terrorism track. These covers demonstrate that Cyrus is one of those individuals who maintains the same level of quality in her live performances as she does in her well-polished studio releases.
‘Gimme What I Want’ and ‘Hate Me’ are both moody and self-indulgent, yet Cyrus’ experiences living in the public eye are specifically recounted in ‘Golden G String’, an honest discussion of fame and ‘the world we’re living in’. Her lyrics reveal a more mature outlook which stands in stark contrast to her earlier ‘Wrecking Ball’ image, possibly a by-product of her newly found sobriety. Admitting that she ‘should walk away’, Cyrus instead declares ‘I think I’ll stay’, suggesting that this record is not the last we will see from her.
Featured Image: Miley Cyrus performing in 2019, via Wikimedia Creative Commons.