Miley Cyrus by Mick Rock,
Plastic Hearts, released on 27th November 2020, isn’t just any album. It’s a rock album, and Miley Cyrus wants you to know it.
Cyrus has been genre-hopping for a while now, and Plastic Hearts is perhaps the most fun to witness. Not many albums could feature Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks and Dua Lipa in under 40 minutes and get away with it. The 12-song album, gladly stretched into 15 thanks to a remix and two live covers, brings a rock and roll edge while preserving the Cyrus we all know.
01. WTF Do I Know
The opening track is an anthem of defiance that sets the tone for Plastic Hearts, kicking it off as she means to go on. With punchy bass lines and lyrics that poke fun at tabloid gossip, it’s the pop-punk side of Cyrus we’ve never seen before. She’s unapologetic about moving on and wanting to be with someone else, easily interpreted as a drag against her ex-beau, Liam Hemsworth. Catchy, punky, and angry, ‘WTF Do I Know’ is one of the album’s best songs—and it’s only just begun.
02. Plastic Hearts
With an intro that references ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by The Rolling Stones, this track is one of many that allow Cyrus’s musical influences to seep into the songs. She allows herself to get gritty, whilst incorporating softer tones as she longs to feel something real. It’s easy to listen to and is incredibly catchy. If you want a song that shows you Miley has found her sound, this is the one. It’s a banger.
03. Angels Like You
This soft, acoustic rock ballad feels almost strange after the forces that are ‘WTF Do I Know’ and ‘Plastic Hearts’, but the more mellow sound is a comfortable break. It shows a side to Cyrus that is evocative, emotional, and reflective, as she pulls away from a relationship, acknowledging she has no real reason to. The more you play the song, the more tortured and sincere it becomes. The chorus is flawless and made for the arenas; in every concert, there’s that song that just hits different live, and I think this is the one. ‘Angels Like You’ might just be the best ballad we’ve seen in her career so far.
04. Prisoner (feat. Dua Lipa)
Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa are a match that not many had thought of before, but it’s one that just works. Echoing Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’ in the chorus, the two of them sing about feeling trapped by that one person you can’t get off your mind. In comparison to other songs, it does seem to be the most mainstream sound to come out of Plastic Hearts. It’s your standard pop hit with a twist of disco, and it’s catchy enough to keep me coming back for more.
05. Gimme What I Want
Filled with glitchy basslines and a timeless beat, Cyrus tells us that if someone can’t satisfy her, she’ll go ahead and do it herself. Seductive and distorted, she uses this track to declare her independence. The electronic undercurrent, the deep bass, and her raspy voice creates a song that’s somewhat mysterious and grim, but in the best way possible.
06. Night Crawling (feat. Billy Idol)
Miley’s throaty low register blends with the ‘80s star Billy Idol’s masculine tone seamlessly. But underneath the vibrant synths and hammering beat, ‘Night Crawling’ fails to stand out in my mind. It almost sounds like something you’ve heard before but can’t quite place. It’s a solid song, and their voices are a dream, but it sounds exactly like how I expected it to sound. Although dark and fun, I’m not sure how well it would stand its ground outside of this album. I wouldn’t skip it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen.
07. Midnight Sky
‘Midnight Sky’ was great as a single and it’s even better in the context of the album. Sampling the melody of Stevie Nicks’s ‘Edge of Seventeen’ in the chorus, the track is an incredible pop filled pick me up song. The song seems to connect Miley’s present place in music with her past, as she takes back her narrative and declares her freedom. She doesn’t belong to anyone, and she certainly doesn’t need to be loved by everyone. It’s a midway break in the album that changes the pace, allowing you to just sit back and enjoy.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t listen to this 10 times in a row. This song slows down the tempo as we make a momentary return to the more country Miley that we saw in her previous album, Younger Now. It’s much simpler in both melody and instrumentation, taking an acoustic route that doesn’t appear much within this album but showcases the pure talent in her voice perfectly. In classic Cyrus fashion, she belts like her life depends on it, with a Tennessee twang throughout. It’s an unexpected change from the sound we’ve heard so far, and there’s something almost nostalgic about it. It’s all the more effective in conveying her emotions of saying goodbye to a lover, but still feeling high at the thought of them. This is the absolute highlight moment on the album for me. I could spend the rest of my life listening to a 15 track album of just this.
09. Hate Me
In this track, it’s the lyrics that stand out. As she sings “go ahead, you can say that I’ve changed / just say it to my face,” we see the ghosts of Cyrus’s past unite. She ponders over what people would do if she died, disguising what is a really dark song underneath a light exterior. The song is this really interesting contrast between the heavy subject matter and the shiny melodies that she nails the whole way through.
10. Bad Karma (feat. Joan Jett)
With moans and gasps everywhere, this song is hot. It’s a flirtatious invitation to have fun without caring about any of the consequences, using suggestive sighs to carry the song in place of percussion. Jett’s voice feels almost like a deeper shade of Cyrus’s own, and blended together they create a spicy and fun song with undeniable chemistry.
11. Never Be Me
‘Never Be Me’ is the lyrical peak of Plastic Hearts, where everything that Cyrus has played with so far—monogamy, love, self-destruction—comes into one big whirlpool. She warns on this painfully honest ballad that, while she wants to be stable and faithful, it will never be her. This track seems slightly more reserved than the others, which creates a beautiful, fragile moment. Cyrus is looking for someone to accept everything that she’s laid out across the album, and I’m not too sure if she believes she’s going to find it.
12. Golden G String
As the closing track, other than the covers, ‘Golden G String’ doesn’t quite match the sound that Cyrus creates over the rest of Plastic Hearts, instead sounding more like a delicate breeze than a pop-punk thunderstorm. Written in 2017/2018 as a reflection of Trump’s presidency and the society where men determine the fates of women, ‘Golden G-String’ appears almost on a similar conceptual wavelength to Taylor Swift’s ‘The Man’ but with a calmer vibe. In a world where men hold all the cards, these women are refusing to shrink themselves down. As Cyrus sings “I should walk away / but I think I’ll stay,” she reflects on her relationship with the industry that has constantly tried to place her in boxes. ‘Golden G String’, and indeed Plastic Hearts, is Cyrus’s liberation. It’s hard to know where the kaleidoscope that is Miley Cyrus will choose to take us next, but I think this song wants us to know that neither does she.
It would be wrong for Plastic Hearts to exist without some of the covers that made Twitter demand a rock album. ‘Edge of Midnight’ (‘Midnight Sky’ remix featuring Stevie Nicks) transports us to the ’70s. With Nicks appearing on the chorus, it’s a simple remix that we all need in our lives.
As one of the covers that introduced us to her new, rock-infused sound, and drove the internet wild, it’s only natural that ‘Heart of Glass’ (Live from the iHeart Festival) makes an appearance. Likewise, ‘Zombie’ (Live from the NIVA Save Our Stages Festival) offers a powerful rendition of The Cranberries classic that is one of Cyrus’s best performances. Placed at the end of the album, they seem almost like an act of good will, pleasing us with the covers that made us demand a rock album in the first place.
Plastic Hearts is Cyrus’s most consistently creative and carefully curated effort to find her own way through the music industry’s crowded path. A far jump from her early pop-princess days, Plastic Hearts shows growth and maturity, becoming the album she was always meant to make. It’s an album about fame, love, never holding back and simply being human. She bares all; sometimes with liberation, sometimes with guilt, but always brilliantly.
PLASTIC HEARTS IS OUT NOW