Miley Cyrus: Plastic Hearts review – The rock star arrives with a newfound snarl
It only took seven albums, one fictional persona – two if you consider Black Mirror’s Ashley O a suitable follow on from Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana – and one extended, tumultuous transition from child star to very famous adult – for Miley Cyrus to land on a sound that feels totally right.
With a freshly bleached mullet – one that outshines that of her father Billy Ray – and adding more leather to her ensemble, the pop princess borrows the glam rock aesthetics of the 1980s while dipping into the phlegm-ball hack that was so prominent on MTV2 in the early 00s. Pummelling gritty basslines and panting ad libs that Queens of the Stone Age or The Kills wouldn’t turn down, Gimme What I Want, Night Crawling (featuring Billy Idol) and Bad Karma (produced by Mark Ronson and featuring Joan Jett on vocals and Angel Olsen on guitar) explore the more hedonistic side of Cyrus’s lifestyle. while country ballads High gives space for the isolating lows.
“Thought that it’d be you until I die but I let go, what the f**k do I know?” she sings on WTF Do I Know, addressing her recent divorce from actor Liam Hemsworth. But in what seems like a spiteful take, she harbours the blame on The Cars-esque ballad Never Be Me: “if you’re looking for faithful, that’ll never be me”.
Miley Cyrus - Prisoner
Midnight Sky, which samples Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen, and Prisoner, her duet with Dua Lipa, paint a picture of someone who has gleefully moved on but remorse and self-awareness fill this record. “I’m everything they said I would be,” she relents on the soaring Angels Like You, taking personal responsibility for failed relationships. The melancholy continues on Hate Me, where she hopes that she’s spared some scrutiny on the day she dies.
Shelving last year’s partly-released, three-part series She Is Coming, She Is Here and She Is Everything, Cyrus returned to the drawing board and, in no particular order, traded in bubblegum pop, commercial R&B, wholesome country and psychedelia for a harder edge that suits her deep and gravelly voice. However, having had vocal cord surgery last year, deep concerns are held for the screeches that litter the bonus live tracks: her bleating version of Blondie’s usually understated Heart of Glass is an arrestable offence and there’s a cheap thrill in wondering if Cyrus Googled “1916 Ireland” before tackling the Cranberries’ Zombie.
The 28-year-old leads such a full life that her music sometimes plays like a sideshow but with her newfound snarl and sharpened artistry on Plastic Hearts, the spotlight is where it should be.