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Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts

  • Release date: 27 November 2020
  • Label: RCA records

Depending on your point of view, Cyrus’s return to guitars and gravelly-voiced hooks is either lyrical or incredibly handy. Few other celebrities have displayed their botched attempts at image makeovers as much as Cyrus has, and the sweeping rock homage of Plastic Hearts initially comes across as playing it safe after back-to-back eras as a Flaming Lips psych-pop princess and a twerking shock jock. (It doesn’t help that Cyrus’ live renditions of more well-known rock classics like “Maneater” and “Heart of Glass” have been the album’s standout tunes during its release.)

Still, if what you want is an homage, you won’t find a better one than here. Listening through Plastic Hearts is like bar-hopping along the Sunset Strip — if the Sunset Strip somehow played host to the biggest rock acts of the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties on a single Friday night, and they were all fronted by Axl Rose. There’s creeping Nine Inch Nails industrial rock on “Gimme What I Want” and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-era Elton John on the passionate “Angels Like You.” If you listen closely (or not), the opening on the title track is a dead ringer for those “Sympathy for the Devil” bongo drums.

With imagery from L.A. folklore, Cyrus muses on the dangers of fame and the hypocrisy of the industry on the two stadium-sized anthems that close the record, “Never Be Me” and “Golden G String.” In a double ode to Johnny Cash, she connects the creative flame that burns inside her to this day with the very real fire that destroyed her house in 2018. Cyrus’s voice has long been compared to that of her godmother Dolly Parton (just listen to her instantly iconic performance of “Jolene”). However, in this song, she has at last mastered the Tennessee queen’s skill at crafting a captivating narrative.

The collaborations on the album are the one weak point, as these kinds of songs sometimes have—they’re not awful, but they do seem a bit forced. The British pop singer’s own Future Nostalgia would be a better fit for the Dua Lipa feature “Prisoner.” Furthermore, even if they are lovely homages to both performers, the duets between Joan Jett and Billy Idol grow old really quickly. The “Edge of Midnight” remix featuring Stevie Nicks is the only one that truly succeeds, maybe as a result of Nicks’ decision to fit into Cyrus’ vision rather than the other way around. Even though Cyrus’ Rainbow Bar & Grill portrayal of rock ‘n’ roll is wholly outdated, we should all be fortunate enough to attend it at least once.

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Miley Cyrus’ Plastic Hearts Tracklist

1. “WTF Do I Know”
2. “Plastic Hearts”
3. “Angels Like You”
4. “Prisoner” feat. Dua Lipa
5. “Gimme What I Want”
6. “Night Crawling” feat. Billy Idol
7. “Midnight Sky”
8. “High”
9. “Hate Me”
10. “Bad Karma” feat. Joan Jett
11. “Never Be Me”
12. “Golden G String