“a powerful album of finding and working on herself…”
review by Dawson Black
Miley Cyrus is back on top of every music chart and social media feed with her newest pop-star-turned-badass-rocker album, Plastic Hearts. This album comes after she has teased her fans with covers of other rock covers and an EP, “Midnight Sky” released back in August.
I may be biased, having grown up within the ‘Miley-era’. I have been a fan since her first alter ego, Hannah Montana, days. Like most of those who are similar in age, Miley has gone through ‘phases’ the same way most of us have.
She got her big break as the ‘sweet, country-bumpkin’ daughter of achy-breaky heartthrob, Billy Ray Cyrus, and gained even more attention when she became another Disney-star revolting against the constraints of ‘all American girl’.
Miley’s first change of sound came from her 2010 album Can’t Be Tamed, pushing many (including some of my friends’ parents) to start to stray from having Miley as a role model for their children. In 2013, with her release of Bangerz came much of her negative press and being ‘cancelled’. As a devoted fan, I’ve always admired how Miley has always pushed boundaries and was never afraid to take back the reigns of her image. This is something I find appealing about an artist that can weave in and out of certain genres/images. Plastic Hearts is another beautiful pushback by an artist that perfectly represents my generation.
Alongside changing her sound, this album was built out of personal devastation of divorce from her ex-husband, Liam Hemsworth and loss of her home during California’s wildfires. Most, if not all of the tracks on this album seem to allude to her feelings towards Hemsworth- ahem, another perfect female anthem playlist to add to Taylor Swift’s Folklore release earlier this year!
Despite the personal drama and media circulation that surrounds this album that I am so guilty of getting wrapped up in, the music itself is Miley’s best work yet.
Her covers of Blondie, the Cranberries and Pink Floyd amongst many others, had fans on the edges of their seats. It was a tell-tale sign that Miley must be creating something new by changing her sound to match some of the greatest artists in music history. Plastic Hearts was her breakthrough to find a sound that allows her graveled voice to transcend emotions better than any other genre she’s tried to fit in.
The album is home to some major hits that have already taken over the charts and radio stations. The August EP, “Midnight Sky” was already trending before the release of the album and has only gained more popularity since. Other songs such as “Plastic Hearts” and “Prisoner” have taken off on apps such as TikTok and Instagram. I, personally, am not a fan of songs that gain too much attention too quickly. So, with hearing these few first, I was drawn to listen to the album in entirety, not only out of devotion to Miley, but to find the hidden gems that don’t hit the radio.
“Hate Me” and “Bad Karma” were both instant additions to my Spotify playlist.
“Hate Me” does not exude the same rough-edged, ‘rock’ sounds like some of the other songs on this album, but the lyrics and sound resonate for different reasons. This song is peak ‘love song turned sour,’ knowing Miley’s personal background to this album. Her sound matches what my childhood nostalgic idea of Miley is. “Hate Me” takes the number one place for me. It’s beautiful and still resilient – “I wonder what would happen if I die” transcended me as a listener into my own thoughts and feelings of ‘letting go’ that some of the other songs couldn’t do.
“Bad Karma” did almost the exact opposite of “Hate Me”. C’mon, Miley goes to make a rock album and includes Joan Jett- one of the most iconic women in rock and roll! Who wouldn’t add “Bad Karma” to the top of their list! This song featuring Joan Jett starts with a ‘boppy’ build-up to the catchy chorus. This song radiates that talking-but-singing style that is a characteristic of old-school rock (I guess not SUPER old school, but the 80s were still over 30 years ago now).
Miley, interestingly, transcends her sound from soft to hard throughout the album. One thing I have noticed with many new albums released this year, is that it’s hard to differentiate between song changes when most of the instrumental and tone stays the same throughout. Plastic Hearts does not have this problem.
“Golden G String” is one of these moments of change in sound, but in a beautiful way. From the title alone, I was expecting a hard-hitting, explicit song to jam to. Instead, I found myself wanting to swiftly sway back and forth, feeling some inner peace with Miley hitting some higher notes in softer tones. The music is slower, and the focus is truly Miley’s voice. It’s a beautiful, easy to listen to song.
With “Golden G String” the last of original songs to come up on the album, the next songs switch to Miley’s popular rock covers. “Edge of Midnight” is a remix of “Midnight Sky” featuring Stevie Nicks (another icon- go Miley!) a fun, head-bobbing, finger-drumming song to blast in your car. This hit takes more of that ‘rock’ feeling and has more of an interesting sound mixing Stevie Nicks’ mystical sound and persona with Miley’s distinctive voice.
And then, of course, the “Heart of Glass” cover that took social media by storm only a matter of months ago. Miley first performed this cover at the iHeart Music Festival two months ago and fans went crazy over her twist on a classic Blondie song. This song, much like “Edge of Midnight” / “Midnight Sky” holds true to the rock genre, depicting the fast tempo, energetic delivery that Rock’n’roll is known for.
There was not a single song on this album that I felt did not fit, or just wasn’t ‘good’. “WTF Do I Know” resembled Miley’s first transition into an angsty-rock territory (a distinct flashback to “See You Again” for some reason). Being the opening song, “WTF Do I Know” had distinct connections to Miley’s previous albums (specifically SHE IS COMING and her other alter-ego Ashley O’s album) sound-wise for me.
“Plastic Hearts” despite being over-played, still gets me singing along every time I hear it. It’s catchy, and the perfect combination of anger and happiness exudes when you scream this song at the top of your lungs, which I know from experience.
Lyrically and musically, Plastic Hearts is still Miley in her truest form despite the roughened edges. The songs are still about love and being messed up emotionally and chemically. Her devotion to herself makes for a powerful album of finding and working on herself. As a listener, I can appreciate the maturity of Plastic Hearts compared to her previous, less eloquent albums like Bangerz.
Overall, I would give Miley another 10/10 for this album and continue to resonate with Miley’s antics and phases the same way I have.