Pop | Country | Rock
This time a few years ago, I never would’ve predicted that I’d be critically invested in an album by country prodigy turned commercial pop sensation Miley Cyrus. But with the last few years allowing me to gravitate more and more towards a true appreciation of different music genres that I would otherwise be uninterested in, my taste in music is far more versatile.
And the idea of a more versatile spread of sounds seems to be something that could arguably be applied to Miley Cyrus herself. Beginning her musical career by following the country footsteps of her father and legendary folk singer/songwriter Billy Ray Cyrus, primarily under the guise of Hannah Montana, Miley slowly, but surely, began to navigate her way towards finding her own unique niche.
While it is argued amongst many whether Miley Cyrus’ early 2010’s period was a bump in the road, or a step in the right direction, neither truth wavers my belief that the year of 2020 saw Miley Cyrus find an aesthetic that fits her like hand-in-glove; the classic 80’s glam rock aesthetic of her brand new studio album, Plastic Hearts.
To be specific about the phases that Miley Cyrus went through, things seemed consistently Country-heavy with her first three studio albums. Then with her following two we had, what many believed to be her “weird” phase (I’m not going to go into too much detail about how I feel about this period, but let’s just say there were some pretty abysmal tracks scattered across it).
But in 2017, things interestingly reverted back to country with her sixth studio album Younger Now, which rightfully got the praise it deserved, but I imagine that like myself, people were still awaiting her true moment of self-realisation. I feel that this moment has finally become a reality with Plastic Hearts, which is easily the most self-assured, and my personal favourite of Miley’s records so far.
Firstly teased by her single “Midnight Sky” in September, I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed its empowering and accurate portrayal of the glam-rock aesthetic that Miley draws inspiration from, in the case of this new record. It is also worth noting that the self-direction of the music video that accompanies this, really points to Miley settling into something that properly reflects her.
But as if that similarity wasn’t strong enough, what followed this initial teaser were her live covers of Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” and The Cranberries classic “Zombie”. To top this off, “Midnight Sky” was fused with the uncannily similar sound of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”, to create “Edge of Midnight”, a hybrid-track that expertly fuses the best aspects of both songs, and of course features Stevie Nicks herself.
To conclude the teasing of Plastic Hearts, we have the awesome tune “Prisoner”, which features the vocals of Dua Lipa. And despite what you would normally affiliate an artist as current as Dua Lipa in terms of production, I was pleasantly surprised by how well she made her vocal style with the brilliant retro-flavoured pop-rock production.
And with the consistently amazing production that I heard across the vast majority of teasers in mind, I was hopeful that this would translate successfully into the entire album. Unfortunately, this only partially came to be.
While Plastic Hearts is still easily the most engaging album from Miley Cyrus in my personal opinion, the main thing that held it back from being an incredible album, as opposed to a solid one, was the stylistic clashes that ultimately came to be on this record. While the ideal outcome for me would’ve been that the entire experience felt like a 80’s themed club night in the middle of an American desert from start to finish, it seemed that quite a hefty handful of other moods, ranging from soft-emotive country ballads, to radio-ready, minimal pop.
The placements of these tracks mostly fail to do the album any favours too. The most glaring example of this is perhaps the third track “Angels Like You”. While this track was one that I actually enjoyed for it’s emotive melodies, I had no idea why it was placed as track three. It honestly felt like the kind of slow ballad that would play at the very end of an album like this one.
But back to the tracks that made this album far more good than anything else, there are a fair few of them that succeeded in carrying that 80’s aesthetic, such as “WTF Do I Know”, “Never Be Me” and “Bad Karma” (featuring Joan Jett & The Blackhearts). And while the track “Gimme What I Want” feels more modern and futuristic in its sound, I can still say that it carried bags of attitude from Miley, allowing it to actually come out on top as one of my favourite tunes on this album.
This album leaves me with one big hope; the hope that Miley Cyrus continues to pursue the kind of sound and aesthetic found on this empowering project. There truly is a revolutionary amount of potential that sleeps beneath this record, despite its rough edges.
Favourite Tracks: Prisoner | Gimme What I Want | Edge Of Midnight
Least Favourite Track: Golden G String
RCA Records | Sony Music Entertainment