Miley Cyrus’s new album “Plastic Hearts” captures feelings of complex youthful sorrow and navigating identity through the lens of pleasure and pain in her lyrics. The inaugural track of “Plastic Hearts,” titled “WTF Do I Know?” acknowledges this from the get-go, which sets the rebellious and emotional yet high-energy rockstar energy for the rest of the album.
Her single “Midnight Sky” has some surprisingly poetic lines that highlight Cyrus’s musical growth, like “The midnight sky is the road I’m taking, head high up in the clouds.” (I truthfully never expected to be impressed by a Miley Cyrus lyric, but here is 2020 surprising me once again). “Midnight Sky” balances raw emotion and her poetic truth of not being able to “fight the devil on the tongue.” Cyrus finds another way to say she can’t be tamed: “I was born to run, don’t belong to anyone.”
Musically, it is punky, punchy and painful. Cyrus owns her soulful voice and unique rasp, which really lends itself to the rock-punk blend she vaunts. Amid all the media revolving her controversial career and relationship status to Liam Hemsworth, I sometimes forget Cyrus is a celebrity with true talent. Her voice has matured and has become audibly more trained, and these tracks seem to have found some equilibrium between notes of pop, country and rock. With Cyrus’s roots in country and influences in pop from her “Hannah Montana” days and “Bangerz,” she has completely distinguished herself as more than a past Disney star or daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus—she instead seems to be discovering more fully her musical identity.
“Angels Like You” is a slow rock ballad that boasts Cyrus’s impressive vocal range and timbre. It’s a beautiful song about mental illness and how “people say she looks happy,” but she’s not doing as well as she always appears. She suggests through the lyrics “Angels like you can’t fly down here with me/I’m everything you said I would be” that her darker side has influenced her relationships, and one can’t help but speculate if this is about her ex Hemsworth.
After her Disney days, Cyrus’s music suggested a total abandonment of her identity associated with Hannah Montana, such as with “Bangerz” and “Dead Petz.” However, “Plastic Hearts” doesn’t try as hard. It holds the effortless feeling of fruition.
“Plastic Hearts” feels natural and speaks to common emotions such as anxiety, depression, rage and all the chaotic good that Miley represents. After her last album, “Younger Now,” went mostly under the radar, the pandemic era seems to have jolted her quality of music, and her ability to translate raw emotion.
This album is about the good, the bad and the ugly all amalgamating to the discovery that, “pain and pleasure are both the same.” Miley sings in her titular song, “Plastic Hearts,” “I just want to feel something, but I keep feeling nothing.” She describes desensitized emotions and being numb to any feeling at all; hence, her “plastic heart bleeding.” This fast-tempoed song evokes fierce emotion about ironically, not being able to feel anything.
Cyrus has some thrilling collaborations on the album, such as her song “Prisoner” featuring Dua Lipa, which is an example of her rock and pop blends. “Night Crawling” ft. Billy Idol, a high-energy, classic rock track, is an example of her musical excellence. This bop features a perfect verse from 70s legend Billy Idol and nostalgic synth beats. “Bad Karma” ft. Joan Jett is also a modern-nostalgic track that hits the sweet spot in this edgy, spunky track with another rock legend.
The notoriously untamable Miley Cyrus refutes the media calling her crazy in her song “Golden G String,” which reprises the melody of the bridge from her hit “Malibu” that speaks honestly about her journey to where she is now in her career. “Malibu” was released in 2017, when she famously sang of her happy place, presumably with Liam Hemsworth, as they shared a house together in Malibu. “Golden G String” is a callback to how she has been portrayed to the media in the past: “You dare to call me crazy/have you taken a look around this place?” Cyrus questions what it means to have come out on the other side of her journey victoriously, and contemplates the costs of “putting her hand through hellfire,” revealing she did it all to “make you love me and to feel alive.”
This album is Cyrus’s attempt at “calculated crazy.” “Plastic Hearts” has been molded by the aftermath of her wild early life, and this album offers a glimpse into the next chapter of Miley’s career and personhood, as she seems to have found her musical footing lyrically and emotionally.