2020 brought a lot of unexpected twists to pop music – Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia fusing retro with modern, Taylor Swift’s two surprise albums unveiling her talent as an indie artist, Lady Gaga’s Chromatica taking inspiration from past decades – just to name a few.
Branching out towards unexplored territories for all types of musicians (even pop superstars) was bound to happen. I would even say it is a bit late, but let’s focus on the positives – the results are incredible.
One such surprisingly good release came from Miley Cyrus. She turned towards rock and merged it with pop, electronics, and various subtle influences to explore intimate, attention-grabbing themes. Today, I want to take a closer look at the beauty of Plastic Hearts.
Miley Cyrus is one of the most controversial personalities in the music world. Her career is nothing short of thrilling – taking 180-degree turns and provoking viewers with the next “outrageous stunt”.
Her lifestyle, choices, struggles, and personality development are documented without any censorship or restraint in her seven studio albums. Regardless of her sometimes questionable actions, she remains a fundamental icon of the modern pop world.
You can expect anything for an artist like Miley – her diversity is not to be frowned upon but respected
Miley’s latest album Plastic Hearts is yet another unexpected move. The project was supposed to look and sound entirely different, however, Cyrus lost nearly all of the recorded material during a fire. This led to a fine-tuned re-imagination of the music she was working on. With a fresh intake of the new vision of Plastic Hearts, Cyrus also made the bold decision to go for the rock album she kept postponing.
Plastic Hearts serves as a deeper and more reflective record than usual. It touches on the current worries and past relationships of the artist. A lot of attention is preserved for her lifestyle – the one that tends to create friction between her, the media, and her loved ones.
You can learn a lot about the album and Miley’s mindset in this splendid interview
The album is retrospective in terms of looking back at her personal and professional journey. Bold but justified statements are fired, and despite the emotionally heavy content, the prevailing feeling of album number seven remains inspiration, liberation, and contempt.
It is a fine-tuned record with well-executed elements making up for a consistent and satisfying listening experience. I might not be the biggest Miley Cyrus fan, but I have enough reasons to believe Plastic Hearts is her best work yet – a display of her refined musical and personal growth.
The main element giving Plastic Hearts its irresistible charm is the major rock influence. More specifically, its seamless fusion with Miley Cyrus’ persona and the hard-hitting themes is what makes the magic happen.
However, the record has many other praiseworthy influences. Punk-rock energy overflows from the opening track WTF Do I Know. Pop-rock and disco unite in the toxic love-inspired Prisoner. Fast-paced 80s dance tempo comes back in Night Crawling – Plastic Heats proves to be a diverse record that will never bore you.
There is a lot of versatility in terms of topics as well. A big part of it is dedicated to the lifestyle and internal dilemmas of the artist. Miley goes through a self-reflective process analyzing past events to reach a hard-earned conclusion and defend it headstrong.
The opening track is one strong beginning. The energetic punk-rock instrumentals and fast-paced verses go perfectly well with the lyrics walking us through the artist’s scandalous, controversial persona over the years.
WTF Do I Know is filled with personal references and past events throwbacks. The irony and sarcasm help Miley put overly-critical people in their place. She also makes bold statements that unite with the electrifying rock energy to achieve an after-taste of liberation and self-appreciation.
Plastic Hearts follows-up with a retro 80s rock influence. It discusses the California-dreaming lifestyle but pays special attention to the negative aspects people usually neglect. The track unveils a deeper self-reflection enforced by honesty and a confession-like structure.
Later during the album, the same themes re-emerge in a slightly different way. Bad Karma seems like the solution to those troubling thoughts that comes after the excruciating overthinking and mental strain. The song brings back the classic old-school rock n roll feel and showcases a deep dive into living carefree.
Consequences are disregarded for the moment, people’s opinions are thrown away, reckless lifestyle is permitted and overthinking is out. The song feels strangely inspiring and reminds listeners about the dangers of overthinking.
Night Crawling and Midnight Sky have similar energy – the first one unites rock instrumentals with fast-paced dance rhythms. The song expresses pure lust and desire to live to the fullest.
Midnight Sky also addresses the free-spirit personality of Miley Cyrus merging it with past relationships and events. It once again touches on her lifestyle, which many people (including her family and partners) don’t approve of. The song adds in the topics of post-separation pain but highlights the priority of remaining true to yourself and being transparent instead of trying to please others (be it by changing yourself or concealing your true nature).
Another big part of the album is dedicated to love-related topics of different sorts. The sensual and sensitive side of the pop superstar is explored thoroughly giving listeners a transparent overview of her current heartaches.
One such track is Angel Like You – a toned-down, emotional piece with an almost-acoustic nature. The song shows Miley admitting her wrongs in a relationship with a heartfelt confession-like structure.
Prisoner enters the scene with a bang and a smooth mood change. In the energetic, dance-urging track Miley and Dua Lipa paint a haunting picture of an abusive, toxic relationship masked under upbeat instrumentals. The alluring dangers of intoxication are also mentioned, and the metaphor is as hard-hitting as it gets.
Gimme What I Want turns another page of Miley’s love life – lust and provocation. It is confident and electrifying with lots of sexual references and focuses on physical satisfaction rather than honest, deep romance. The other side of Miley is well-expressed in the track and reminds of the beautiful duality of her music and personality.
High, on the other hand, is devoted to the grand, unstoppable feeling of pure love. It has a similar subtle “warning sign” to Prisoner – the main idea behind the ballad-like track is the intoxication that prevents you from leaving a relationship that is not meant to be.
Never Be Me might be a continuation of the above-mentioned song. Here, Miley reflects on the expectations her lovers hold against her and boldly declares that she will never fit into a mould someone else has created for her. Once again, staying true to your nature is emphasized thanks to self-reflective lyricism and mellow, emotional instrumentals.
But if you’re looking for stable, that’ll never be me
If you’re looking for faithful, that’ll never be me
If you’re looking for someone to be all that you need
That’ll never be me
(Hard as I try)
Before taking a quick look at the final tracks of the record, it is worth mentioning Hate Me. The song is a great supplement to the explored themes during Plastic Hearts.
The inspiration behind it comes from Miley’s near-death experience during a flight to Glastonbury Festival. Hate Me is a contemplation about how people – her fans, family, past lovers, and media – would react if she died. It dwells on the universal change of heart that usually occurs when an artist, no matter how controversial and hated they were in the past, perishes.
Plastic Hearts has very successful closing acts. Golden G-String is the final original track which closes the reflective circle and sums up the album. It has a simplified instrumental and puts the focus on the lyrics – Miley’s career and the unjust structure of current society are dissected with a clear final message – we need more empathy and understanding and less judgment and hate.
So the mad man’s in the big chair
And his heart’s an iron vault
He says “If you can’t make ends meet, honey, it must be your fault”
We all focus on the winners
And get blinded by their shine
Maybe caring for each other’s just too 1969
Edge Of Midnight and Heart Of Glass are extra additions enhancing the rock-nature of the record. The first one is a mash-up of Miley’s Midnight Sky and the 1982 smash hit Edge Of Seventeen. Heart Of Glass – a Blondie cover supports the statement Miley indirectly makes – she is an artist capable of producing high-quality music of many sorts and labelling her as a “manufactured pop star” is a grave mistake.
Cyrus has been in the scene long enough to collect the experience and musical expertise allowing her to branch out in different genres. The latest album is proof of her indisputable qualities for creating rock music – considering her wild personality and lifestyle it is a shock how long we had to wait to see it.
The album is self-reflective and inspirational supplemented by incredible sound and production. Despite her controversial reputation, she proved that underestimating her is not advised. There is way more she can offer. Her declaration of continuing boldly ahead with her career is as loud as it gets. It is exciting what comes next.
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