If you are around my age and have followed Miley Cyrus’s career since she first came onto the scene, it has been pretty crazy to watch her constantly transform and evolve. Ever since she finished filming the show Hannah Montana, it has seemed like Miley has constantly been altering her interests and public image. She has been considered a Hollywood “wild child,” a Hip Hop artist and “influencer,” a hippie, and a country darling at different points in the past. It is like every couple of years she completely mutates into a different person with curiosities and traits than she had in the past. Over the last year, Miley’s new image has morphed into a Retro Rocker. She has changed her style to something very similar to what was popular in the early 1980s, drawing influence from Punk Rock and Hair Metal artists from this time period. All of this has culminated in changing the sound of her music into old school Pop-Rock. This pivot in her sound was very smart on her part, as some of the biggest music from 2020(especially by The Weeknd and Dua Lipa) has sounded like it was influenced by the 1980s. I have always thought Miley Cyrus’s voice would sound excellent in Rock music(as opposed to the Country, Hip Hop, and Synth Pop that she has made up until this point), so I have been anticipating this album since it was first announced. With that being said, here is my review of Miley Cyrus’ new album Plastic Hearts. Please let me know in the comments below if you agree with this review, and let me know what your favorite records are from this album as well.
What the fuck do I know? I’m alone. ‘Cause I couldn’t be somebody’s hero. You want an apology? Not from me. Had to leave you in your own misery… – ‘WTF Do I Know’
If there was any doubt that Plastic Hearts was going to have strictly old school sound to every song on the record, that sentiment can be thrown away after hearing the first track. ‘WTF Do I Know’ does not sound like anything you would expect to hear from Pop or Rock musicians in 2020. Everything about the sound of this song feels like it is from the 1980s. The riff during the verses of this track reminds me a lot of groups like Foreigner and Heart, and the chorus sounds so much like Pat Benatar. If I did not know this was Miley Cyrus, I would assume ‘WTF Do I Know’ was some 1980s Rock song that I had just not heard. On ‘WTF Do I Know,’ Miley seems to be singing about the perception people have of her former relationship with Liam Hemsworth and with her public image as a whole. She knows that everyone will always judge her or truly accept how she feels or what she does, so has just decided to do whatever she wants and be herself because she can not control how people think anyway. Following this, we get the title track, ‘Plastic Hearts.’ This track has a bit more of an 80s New Wave Pop sound to it than the song that precedes it. I would say that I hear more of a Hall and Oates or a Tears for Fears influence on this track than anyone else. It does have a pretty slick guitar solo that gives it an Old School Rock flair, but it still does feel like a Pop song. On ‘Plastic Hearts,’ is singing about how she just wants someone to help her feel something. In California, it is easy to lose yourself because of how hollow and cold it can be, and Miley is letting this world consume her in a way that she can not personally control. ‘Angels Like You’ is a bit more of a slow jam and a ballad. This track almost has a bit of a Country-Rock feeling to it. Miley’s 80s influences expand even further on ‘Angels Like You,’ with this song reminding me a bit of Fleetwood Mach or Dire Straits. Miley’s voice sounds excellent on this song; the deep and husky tones in her voice have always sounded good on slower Country songs, and the power in her voice shines through on this kind of slower ballad. This song is a bit more deep and emotional than the first two songs on this record. On ‘Angels Like You,’ Miley is singing about a failed relationship. She feels like it was her fault that everything went wrong, and she wants her ex to know how special they are and that the relationship ending was not their fault at all. The next track, ‘Prisoner,’ which features Dua Lipa, was one of the singles released in anticipation for this record. When I first heard this track, I was very excited to hear the rest of the album, as ‘Prisoner’ is an absolute bop. A lot of people have complained that it sounds too much like Laura Branigan’s iconic song ‘Gloria.’ If you have heard ‘Gloria,’ it is obvious that these two songs are very similar. This does not bother me, though, because it is more prevalent in Pop music than people think. A lot of artists have released songs that sound very similar to songs from the artists they look up to(another huge example is Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ versus Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’), and I think of it as more as an ode to that artist than someone trying rip another artist off. It is one thing if Miley Cyrus was drawing this kind of influence from a non-popular Indie artist that would never get their due credit, ‘Prisoner’ is not an example of this. ‘Prisoner’ is just a really fun Pop song, and it proves that Miley and Dua Lipa need to make more music together because they are both so unique in their way but sound good and natural while singing the same song.
If I had to pick one song on Plastic Hearts that I would say sounds the most “modern,” I would probably pick ‘Gimme What I Want.’ It is the closest sounding song on the record to Pop music that is popular today. A lot of Pop music today, though, does sound like it is influenced by 1980s Pop and New Wave music, and ‘Gimme What I Want’ is no different in that regard. I like the funky riff that this song has, along with the distortion that saturates every aspect of the track. It sounds like something you would hear at some Gothic dance club in Europe. On Gimme What I Want,’ Miley pretty explicitly states that she just wants to get it on with her lover and wants no intimacy involved in their relationship. If this person can’t only be her lover and needs a relationship too, she will be fine on her own. Following this is one of the coolest collaborations I have heard in a while. I doubt that many people would to hear someone like Billy Idol featuring on a modern Pop superstar’s song in 2020, but Miley Cyrus was able to make that happen on her new song ‘Night Crawling.’ Billy Idol’s influence is all over this track; his music always had a sort of New Wave and Punk feeling with an Arena Rock twist, and ‘Night Crawling’ fits this mold perfectly. This song almost feels like an ode to Billy Idol in a way with how much it sounds like one of his songs. Both Miley’s and Billy’s performances are excellent, and their chemistry is very palpable on this track. If you are a fan of Billy Idol’s style of music, you should love this track as well. ‘Midnight Sky’ was the lead single from this record, and it is the reason that so many people got so excited to hear Miley Cyrus with this new sound. This track has an 80s Pop sound that is not very different from the other 80s tinted Pop music that has come out by various other artists this year. ‘Midnight Sky’ does have a bit more of a Rock feel to it than most other Pop music similar to this that has been coming out this year. The fact that it has a Rock sound to it compliments Miley’s voice, and it makes ‘Midnight Sky’ the perfect Pop song for Miley. I have to admit that the next song, ‘High,’ is the first song from this record that I am not very into at all. The fact that it took 8 songs until I found one that I was not a big fan of does show how much quality Plastic Hearts has. ‘High’ has a sort of Country-Rock feeling to it that to me sounds like a knock off of Fleetwood Mac. Miley’s voice does fit this kind of instrumental very well, but it does just sound way too much like Fleetwood Mac to me. This is the first song on the record where it does not feel like Miley puts much of her flare into it. On ‘High,’ Miley seems to be holding onto a relationship that is fading away because she craves the warmth that she felt from this other person. Even though the relationship is crumbling and just does not work out logistically, Miley is doing everything she can to not let this person go.
They say it’s bad karma being such a heartbreaker. I’ve always picked a giver, ’cause I’ve always been the taker… – ‘Bad Karma’
‘Hate Me’ is the only song on this record that does not sound like it was influenced by the 1980s. It does still have a retro feeling to it, but it reminds me a lot more of the mid-1990s than the 1980s. I know that Miley Cyrus has stated in the past that Sheryl Crow has been one of the biggest influences on her career, and this song reminds me so much of Sheryl Crow. The meaning of this song is very deep and personal to Miley. On ‘Hate Me,’ she is singing about how her public image has always been so negative and how she wants to be accepted. Everything she does is judged so harshly in the media, and she is curious what the narrative would be if she were to pass away suddenly. This genre is not necessarily for me, but if you like 90s Country-Rock, ‘Hate Me’ is a song you will love. ‘Bad Karma,’ which features Joan Jett, is another song where Miley caters strongly to the sound that her feature is known for. This track has the kind of Hard Punk Rock song that one would expect to hear from Joan Jett on one of her records. I have to say, Miley’s voice sounds excellent on this kind of song, and I would not mind hearing her make solo music with this kind of Hard Punk sound. Also, Joan Jett’s voice matches up very well with Miley’s, and it makes this song sound very fun and natural. Anyone who is into Joan Jett’s music should also love ‘Bad Karma.’ Following this is ‘Never Be Me,’ which is different from the rest of the album. It does have an 80s sound to it, but the 80s sound it takes on has not been utilized up until this point. ‘Never Be Me’ is a slow Synth-Pop ballad; it reminds me a lot of music by bands like Naked Eyes or Berlin. I like the atmospheric and dreamy sound that this song has. It is a nice switch up from how brash and in your face, most of the rest of the album has been. On ‘Never Be Me,’ Miley it seems like Miley is feeling a bit of despair. She feels like she can never live up to the expectations that her partners have for her, and she thinks that no one will ever truly understand who she is and what she needs. The album closes out with ‘Golden G String,’ which is another emotional Pop Ballad. This song also has a bit of a Synth-Pop sound to it, but it also has a bit of a Country sound to it as well because of the twangy riff that comes in and out. Miley’s vocals shine through on this song; once again, the Country tint to the song brings out the best in her voice. This song stays with the attitude that Miley has exuded on this album where she never feels good enough. She sees so many people in the public eye get away with doing gross and asinine things all of the time, yet she feels like she is judged for every little thing she does. Because she has spent so much of her life in the public eye, Miley has always been judged more harshly than a lot of other celebrities, and she starting to reach her breaking point because of how much stress this has put on her.
Throughout her career as a solo musician, Miley Cyrus has been constantly changing her image and sound. It has always felt like she does not truly know who and what she wants to be, so she tries out everything she can and sees it she can succeed at it. Now that she has found this Retro-Rock sound and image, I think that she has truly found where she is supposed to be. I hope that Plastic Hearts is not the end of this era for Miley, because she is just cracking the surface of how good she can be in this style of music. Plastic Hearts is as consistent of a record as Miley has ever made, and her vocals, songwriting, and overall swagger as a musician shine through on this record. If you are a fan of music that glorifies the best sounds of the 1980s, Plastic Hearts is an album you will enjoy.