By: Amanda McMillan
Let’s talk about Miley, shall we? She’s been a little all over the place in the last couple of years, and 2020 has been particularly intense for her it would seem (can't we all relate?!). Most notably, a finalized divorce from Liam Hemsworth early in the year, followed by losing her home in the California wildfires. Included in that loss was the original album that she had planned to release this year, Oof. But, what’s clearly come up for Miley Cyrus, shades of which we have seen before, is a lot of angst. There’s some anger, some gritty frustration, and some sadness, too. She’s been leaving us some crumbs and clues about what she’s been up to since March with her continued Backyard Sessions, and performing as Miley Cyrus & The Social Distancers, and now releasing "Plastic Hearts."
But nothing came as more of a pleasant surprise than her back to back live covers of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and The Cranberries “Zombie”. We all knew Miley could sing, but I don’t know if we knew she could sing like that. That seemed to be the missing piece for the otherwise Disney star turned Wild Child of pop - some fucking rock n roll.
Plastic Hearts features both the aforementioned live covers, as well as a playful mash-up of the single “Midnight Sky” with Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”, like special little treats at the end of an otherwise fun and surprising album. Off the bat, “WTF Do I Know” is a slick, catchy pop song that has just enough early 2000s pop-rock flare to make it feel nostalgic. The album namesake “Plastic Hearts” is too catchy to ignore, and gives us a little bit of that spicy Miley we’ve come to know and love. The line “I just want to feel something, but I keep feeling nothing all night long,” evokes a familiar feeling of what it’s like to be in a relationship that’s no longer working.
The first single off the album “Midnight Sky” is perfect for radio fame, as it’s already been gathering. The melody of the chorus is quite similar to “Edge of Seventeen” that it would have been a shame not to do a mash-up, which you can find towards the end of the album. You can never go wrong with Stevie Nicks on the other side of just about anything.
There’s a couple of 80’s inspired ballads that have just a kiss of Miley’s country roots, making them a nice break from the fast tempo of the rest of the album. “Angels Like You” is ripe for a killer karaoke performance in all the best ways (once that’s allowed again!), while “High” feels like it was personally blessed by Miley’s godmother, Dolly Parton herself. It’s nice Miley hasn’t strayed too far from those roots, which is what a lot of her previous work felt like. There’s enough of an overlap between country ballads and rock ballads that suit her voice to a tee.
The album also features some killer collaborations: Dua Lipa, Joan Jett, and Billy Idol. This combination seems to say a lot about where Miley drew her influence. The Dua Lipa track “Prisoner” is an absolute bop, a truly magical mix of talents. In typical Joan Jett fashion, we get the sense of ‘cool aunt’ from their relationship, and “Bad Karma” has one of the best lines of the whole album: “They say its bad karma being such a heartbreaker/I’ve always picked a giver cuz I’ve always been a taker/I’d rather just do it and I’ll think about it later.” That is some big rebel energy right there.
Oh, and Billy Idol? Still as Billy Idol-y as ever. He’s less ‘cool uncle’ and more ‘cool grandpa’, but to be honest, we need more of those.
Plastic Hearts sheds some of her pop star skin and gives us something that feels a little more, well, real. We’re seeing the artist that seems to have always been there, but she’s truly letting her out now. Maybe it’s a natural progression as she gets older, or maybe it’s a confident, rebellious “fuck it, we’ll do it live” vibe. Whatever it is, it feels more personal, more vulnerable, and the closest she’s ever let us in. In a way, it feels like we’re seeing, and hearing, her for the first time. Maybe, then, with Plastic Hearts, she truly is just being Miley.