2020 really is the year of the female artist, isn’t it? From Taylor Swift releasing arguably releasing the most pandemic-appropriate album we could have ever hoped for, to Dua Lipa knocking us on our ass with some perfectly crafted dance-pop bliss, and Phoebe Bridgers earning several well-deserved Grammy nominations for her work, everything seemed to be shifting towards rightfully recognizing female artists for their contributions to music. Enter Miley Cyrus who has delivered a raucous collection of rock-tinged pop songs known as Plastic Hearts to close out the year. Usually albums released this late in the year fall under the radar, as every publication seems to want to rush out their year-end lists before December even sees the light of day. Plastic Hearts is definitely one of those breathtaking moments of recognizing great pop music from an artist beginning to realize her rock prowess at just the right time.
The record launches with the bratty, punk sneer of “WTF Do I Know” where Cyrus establishes herself firmly in the rock genre with a pulsating bass line and cranked up guitars. Cyrus explains her state of mind in the chorus as she sings confidently, “What the fuck do I know? I’m alone / Guess I couldn’t be somebody’s hero / You want an apology not from me / Had to leave you in your own misery / So tell me, baby, am I wrong that I moved on and I / And I don’t even miss you? / Thought that it’d be you until I die / But I let go, what the fuck do I know?” The track quickly fades away as we make our way into the title track where Cyrus sings over a tribal beat. She provides a little more insight on the change in gears of genres on the second verse as she sings, “Hello, I’ll tell you all the people I know / Sell you something that you already own / I can be whoever you want me to be / Love me now but not tomorrow / Fill me up but leave me hollow / Pull me in but don’t you get too close.” It’s almost as if Miley is telling her audience that she can be whatever persona that best suits her metamorphosis into a female rocker as long as we are there to accept her for who she is.
”Angels Like You” is a vulnerable track about growing up that’s built around an acoustic guitar. It’s as close as Cyrus gets to the country genre she made a name for herself in the early stages of her career. Instead, she commands the song with perfect confidence even if the material makes her seem at a crossroads. Her lyrics of, “I’ll put you down slow, love you, goodbye / Before you let go, just one more time / Take off your clothes, pretend that it’s fine / A little more hurt won’t kill you / Tonight my mom says, “You don’t look happy” / Close your eyes,” only showcase how conflicted she was at the time of writing the track.
”Prisoner” ended up being the obvious choice as a second single due to the A-list collaboration with Dua Lipa on guest vocals. The two pop princesses trade vocal barbs back and forth on the song about feeling trapped in a one-sided relationship. Her seamless transitions between verses make for a great and empowering song.
The heavy synths begin to make their way into the set in the form of stomping “Gimme What I Want” and the techno-infused “Night Crawling” featuring Billy Idol. On the latter track, Miley Cyrus sings in a lower register in the verses only to explode into an ear-pleasing hook of a chorus that directly commands her audience’s attention. The track never loses momentum even as Miley and Billy Idol trade vocal croons, and makes for an ultra-fun listening experience as their two worlds collide.
Lead single “Midnight Sky” feels like a direct tribute to Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” and has a lot of the same passion of the solo material found on Nick’s trademark song. On the deluxe version of the album, Cyrus actually does a phenomenal job of mashing up the two songs with a “Midnight Sky” remix called “Edge of Midnight.”
Another ballad creeps into the set in the form of “High” where Cyrus pays direct homage to her Country roots with a tender moment of reflection on how far she has come as both a person and an artist. She even contemplates how the world would be without her on songs like “Hate Me,” that show she is just as guilty as any other human of recognizing the outside noise of haters. She sings on the chorus, “I wonder what would happen if I die / I hope all of my friends get drunk and high / Would it be too hard to say goodbye? / I hope that it’s enough to make you cry / Maybe that day you won’t hate me.” It’s definitely an eye-opening moment of introspective lyrics that make us wonder how Miley will deal with the next chapter in her life.
A late album standout comes in the form of “Never Be Me.” Its a track that summarizes all of the sounds and stylistic choices made on this record and delivers in the form of a perfectly crafted power-pop ballad. Her vulnerability oozes all over the track that mentions she “Walks the line / I play with fire.”
The core part of the album ends with “Golden G String,” an autobiographical track where Miley recognizes her accomplishments in a crowded world. The bonus tracks of covers of “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Zombie” by the Cranberries further accentuate Miley’s decision to make a raw and dirty rock record at this stage of her career. Her gambles on this record pay more dividends as she made an album demanding our immediate attention and consideration.