There’s nothing like a clean slate to push you in a new direction, and the incineration of Miley Cyrus’s home in the 2018 California fires did just that for her. With her songwriting journals burnt, and along with them the foundation for her seventh album, she backtracked and tried something new.
That something new came along with a deluge of trials and triumphs – from her marriage and subsequent divorce of Liam Hemsworth, her scrapped trilogy of EPs which were set to roll out in 2018, as well as a career-peaking Glastonbury performance in 2019 which saw her rock ‘n’ roll edge sidle into play with a collection of tributes to Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Nine Inch Nails.
Cut to late 2020 and she seems to be half-channeling her Ashley O persona (remember when Miley was on Black Mirror and turned into a saccharine pop star turned rebellion rock chick?) with her rock ‘n’ roll infused new album Plastic Hearts.
She’s been known for her genre-jumping eclecticism for years – after breaking away from the Disney-coddled Hannah Montana mould, she went full-rabid for a couple of years and now finds herself here: candid and channeling her characteristic fuck-it-if-you-don’t-like-it stance. Her classic rasping vocals lend just the whisky-dipped edge for the genre jump. Standout track “Midnight Sky” – which also comes along with a thudding remix featuring Stevie Nicks – is an ’80s synth rock anthem, while Dua Lipa jumps on board for “Prisoner”: a slick alt-pop banger which hits home with fury.
There’s no room for introspection here. Cyrus powers through a barrage of slap-in-the-face narratives – from sex without strings attached (“Gimme What I Want”), a DGAF perspective and it’s repercussions (“Bad Karma” ft. rock legend Joan Jett), to a pretty ballad on her public image to wrap things up on “Golden G String”. Rollicking anthems are peppered among pop-rock ballads which weave in and out like interludes.
But amid the scrambling guitar solos and thudding drums which drive the rhythm-centric album at its heart Plastic Hearts is an ode to badass front women and a roaring live rendition of The Cranberries’ “Zombie” ties the knot on Cyrus’s most pivotal release to date.