It feels like a lifetime ago that Miley Cyrus last released an album. When Younger Now came out in 2017, Cyrus was in a completely different phase of her personal life and career. A couple of break ups later, she started to play around with an eighties pop sound with heavy rock influences. She served one of the best singles of the year with ‘Midnight Sky’, but does the rest of the record live up to the excellence of this tune. A Bit of Pop Music reviews Miley’s new album Plastic Hearts track by track!
01. WTF Do I Know
For everyone still in doubt of the direction of this record, Cyrus decided to load up the first tune with an explosive, guitar heavy, rock sound. The upbeat and outspoken ‘WTF Do I Know’ has an early noughties punk pop vibe to it and Cyrus pulls it off so well vocally. The rawer sound she has been pushing lately is made for in-your-face songs like this. In the lyrics (written by Cyrus, Ali Tamposi, Andrew Wotman, Louis Bell and Ryan Tedder, a team that penned quite a few tunes on the record) Cyrus is unapologetic about moving on after a break up and not wanting to be with someone else. The chorus is an absolute banger. What a way to kick off an album!
02. Plastic Hearts
Next up is the title track ‘Plastic Hearts’, written and produced by the same team as the album opener. The sound of the intro seems to be a nod to The Rolling Stones’ sixties hit ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, while the lyrics reference ‘California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas. The rhythm of ‘Plastic Hearts’ is swinging throughout and the chorus is another properly explosive moment. I am a sucker for a good post-chorus and this tune has an outstanding one with a soaring melody line. It contrasts with the guitar solo of the middle-eight and both turn up the track another notch, as if it even needed that!
03. Angels Like You
With ‘Angels Like You’, which is the song pushed on the New Music Friday playlists of Spotify, Miley serves an actual rock power ballad. Even after hearing it only a few times, it already sounds like a classic that could have been released in the nineties. That chorus is absolutely impeccable. I can already picture a full arena singing along with her. The raw edge on her vocals makes the emotions in the lyrics even more tangible as Cyrus sings to a former lover how they are better off without her as ‘angels like you can’t fly down here with me’. This is easily one of the absolute best ballads of her career so far.
04. Prisoner (with Dua Lipa)
‘Prisoner’, featuring British pop star Dua Lipa, was released as the second single of the album last week. The eighties inspired pop anthem is a total earworm and echoes the vibe of Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical’ in the chorus, but adds a more rock oriented sound with a filthy bass line. The husky tones in their voices melt perfectly and this is one of those collaborations that fit both artists involved like a glove. Sure, the chorus might sound a bit one-dimensional, but it is catchy enough to make me want to come back for more.
05. Gimme What I Want
‘Gimme What I Want’, echoing Nine Inch Nails tune ‘Closer’, has an absolutely seductive vibe with a chorus that immediately draws you all the way in on first listen. There is something sexy yet ominous about this slightly more electronic twist in the record, on which she once again declares her independence, while admitting to needing a lover for the night. The loud drums when the chorus kicks in, the deep bass that runs throughout the track, it is all produced so well (by Andrew Watt and Louis Bell)! I just wish that chorus would come around one last time at the end instead of finishing so abruptly.
06. Night Crawling (with Billy Idol)
For ‘Night Crawling’, Cyrus worked together with the one and only Billy Idol. On the Happy Perez and Andrew Watt produced tune, they dive deep into the irresistible synth pop of the eighties, while maintaining the rock edge that most of this record proudly possesses. The chorus is another strong one, but the instrumental post-chorus is what fully pops off and makes the track all the more memorable. I never really thought about what a Miley and Billy collaboration should sound like, but ‘Night Crawling’ is exactly it!
07. Midnight Sky
Miley kicked off the whole Plastic Hearts campaign over the summer with the nothing short of brilliant lead single ‘Midnight Sky’. The track saw her flirting with the synth pop of the eighties, even interpolating the melody of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’ in the chorus. The production is outstanding, but what makes this one of the best singles of the year is the incredible melody progressions throughout the tune. The hooks are everywhere and Miley performs the hell out of them with lyrics that take her own narrative back and declare her freedom and independence. An anthem in every sense!
On ‘High’, co-written by Cyrus, Jennifer Decilveo and Caitlyn Smith and produced by Watt, Mark Ronson and Take A Daytrip, Cyrus slows down the tempo once more. It is probably the tune on here that flirts the most with her country beginnings. The guitar driven ballad is simple in instrumentation and melodies, but that makes it all the more more effective in conveying the emotion of having said goodbye to a lover, but still feeling high when thinking about them. She belts for her life here, but it never gets out of hand, which has happened with Miley before. A classy ballad moment!
09. Hate Me
We have already heard eight tracks and ‘Hate Me’ was the first one that did not sound memorable on first listen to these ears. A couple of repeated spins made me appreciate the noughties pop rock vibe of the tune and the catchiness of the main hook a little more, but in comparison to everything we have heard thus far, Plastic Hearts as an album could have done without this tune if you ask me. It is not a moment I will skip per se, but it does not do the impeccable tracklist run so far justice.
10. Bad Karma (with Joan Jett)
‘Bad Karma’, featuring Joan Jett, written with Ilsey Juber and produced by Ronson, seems to have all the elements needed to be another highlight on this record, but something just doesn’t click. The production is somewhat bare and could have done with a bit more oomph. The track delivers in the middle-eight and it is quite the moment, but it seems a bit too late to save this song about not thinking of the consequences of cheating until later. Just like ‘Hate Me’, the tune is nothing awful, but it just can’t keep up with the brilliance of the first two-thirds of Plastic Hearts.
11. Never Be Me
Where Cyrus was unapologetically celebrating her freedom and independence after several break ups in the past few years on this album, she shows a more vulnerable side on ‘Never Be Me’. On this painfully honest ballad, she admits she would like to try to be more stable and faithful, but warns her lovers that in the end, that will never be her. Vocally, she approaches this tune with more restraint than she does on most other tracks, which is a nice change and makes it even more of a vulnerable and fragile moment.
12. Golden G String
Closing track (other than the covers and live versions) ‘Golden G String’ was produced by Andrew Wyatt and Emile Haynie and is one of the few songs Cyrus saved from sessions before she decided to turn the whole project around. In terms of both sound and lyrics, it does not really match with the rest of Plastic Hearts, which makes you wonder why she kept it and ended the album with it. A decent enough mid tempo track, but not really the note this album should have ended on.
Plastic Hearts might well be Miley Cyrus’s strongest and most cohesive album to date. The run of the first eight tracks, drenched in rock and eighties pop, is one of the strongest I have heard this year. After that, the album loses some steam, but there is no song weak enough to skip altogether. Cyrus shows growth, maturity and above all, proves herself to be today’s chameleon of pop music once more!