Exploring The Intricacies Of Fame And Relationships In Plastic Hearts

Despite the success of her She is Coming EP and the 2019 single Slide Away, Miley Cyrus made the decision to discard her upcoming album She is Miley Cyrus as it didn’t feel appropriate anymore. Instead, she released Plastic Hearts — a long-anticipated rock pop album.

Aptly for 2020, anger seems to be a recurring theme in the new record — right from the opening track.

Much like a lot of Cyrus’ recent music, WTF Do I Know is fiercely defiant as the singer breaks free from the media’s relentless attempts to villainise her, as well as the shackles of her former marriage. The song is unapologetic and uncaring: Cyrus is not trying to be the nice girl or justify her actions anymore. She cannot pretend to be a hero or a role model — all she wants to be is herself. If that makes her the villain, so be it.

Favourite lyrics: 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.

Plastic Hearts, the title track of Cyrus’ record, is without doubt one of the best on the album. The song addresses the toxicity and destructiveness of California, and with it, the music industry. The mid-tempo track is infectious and passionate, a testament to Cyrus’ ever-improving vocals that seem to suit every genre.

Favourite lyrics: Lost in black hole conversation / Sunrise suffocation / Keep me up all night.

A fan favourite — declared by many as the best song of Cyrus’ entire career — Angels Like You is a slow, powerful ballad. Unlike the other tracks on the album, it is sombre and guilt-wracked. It is full of emotions, the closest thing to a love song on Plastic Hearts.

Favourite lyrics: Baby, angels like you can’t fly down here with me / I’m everything they said I would be.

Featuring Dua Lipa, Prisoner is the classic pop song: it is catchy and fun, even as the two singers sing about how they can’t escape a toxic relationship. Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa’s vocals are both powerful, with similar styles, and mix together unexpectedly well. The music video for the song features the singers, racy and wonderfully comfortable in their sexuality and freedom.

Favourite lyrics: I try to replace it with city lights / I’ll never escape it, I need the high.

The fifth track on the album, Gimme What I Want, stands out as one with more retro and rock influences. Cyrus sings about not needing the baggage that comes with a relationship — she just needs a lover, and if she doesn’t get one, she is fine with being her own lover. The tune is lustful and decidedly independent, quintessential Plastic Hearts.

Favourite lyrics: You might be insane / But maybe we’re the same.

Night Crawling features one of Cyrus’ inspirations: iconic rockstar Billy Idol. The song’s production is one of the finest on the album, as are its repeatedly paradoxical lyrics, and the song itself. Idol’s low, velvety vocals blend with Cyrus’ raspy voice magically, as they sing about trying to run away from their dangerous thoughts, but being unable to escape. The song is another decidedly retro, rock one — and rightly so, with Billy Idol.

Favourite lyrics: Sometimes I’m good for nothin’ / Sometimes the best you’ve ever had. / Sometimes I need your lovin’ / Sometimes I stab you in the back.

Midnight Sky, the seventh song on Cyrus’ album, was also her first single since Slide Away in 2019. It was met with great acclaim and appraisal for its spirit of freedom and independence, which has now become a signature Miley Cyrus theme. The tune falls into the genre of disco, along with a disarming pop-synth production.

Favourite lyrics: See his hands ’round my waist / Thought you’d never be replaced, baby.

High is another fan-favourite and an exceptionally vulnerable track on Plastic Hearts, with the producer Mark Ronson himself tweeting, “this song will make you call every ex you ever had.” In High, Cyrus reminisces about a past relationship, her voice full of emotion as she sings that she thinks of this person, even though she doesn’t miss them, and the memory of what they had still gives her a high. The track is like a future, sadder version of the She is Coming closing track The Most, and seems to be about the same person as well.

Favourite lyrics: Sometimes I get a little too low / And I can’t see myself through the fire and smoke / And you, like a neon light / Shinin’ through the door that I can’t keep closed.

Hate Me is unique: a mid-tempo song with an irresistible beat, its lyrics talk about death, and how the attention she receives from the press would suddenly turn positive if she dies. It’s a subtle way to address the hypocrisy of the world she is a part of, and one of the most brilliant songs on the album.

Favourite lyrics: 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.

Featuring another rock legend — this time Joan Jett — Bad Karma is heavily inspired by the featuring rockstar’s own previous works, characterised by moans, and a recurring theme of being carefree. The song, with its 80s style, is extremely infectious, and one that you can’t help but keep coming back to.

Favourite lyrics: The itsy bitsy spider went and spun a web of lies.

The eleventh track on the record, Never Be Me, is a strikingly honest tune about what no one can ever find in Miley Cyrus. With it, she pushes aside the expectations that her partners have from her, albeit a little regretfully. The song is relatively delicate, with uncertain lyrics.

Favourite lyrics: Dry your tears now, don’t you cry / I’m by your side, at least for a while.

Golden G String is undoubtedly one of the best songs Cyrus has ever made, and the most all-encompassing. It is slow, her vocals honeyed, the lyrics introspective, covering themes like past relationships and the person she loves now, the need to feel loved, power imbalance in society, being shamed for what she chooses to cover her body with, and — a little more subtly — capitalism. The song is a perfect summation of the things Miley Cyrus feels, and there are too many brilliant lyrics to choose one favourite, but here is a try, anyway.

Favourite lyrics: 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.”

All in all, Plastic Hearts is an unexpected but competent follow-up to the extraordinary She is Coming EP. With this record, Miley Cyrus proves, for the hundredth time, that when it comes to music, she knows what she is doing.

While personally, She is Coming will always hold a soft spot in my heart, it is undeniable that Plastic Hearts is just as deserving of this place. It is a more evolved, more mature Bangerz — a natural step forward. It is also full of witty and subtle references to Cyrus’ inspirations, and with this album and its promotion Miley Cyrus seems to have truly broken free from all the trauma that fame put her through since she was a child, and is living her own life unapologetically. The evolution of Cyrus’ work has shown her to be one of the most diverse, brilliant musicians ever — no matter which genre, Miley Cyrus can own it.

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Saachi Gupta is an LGBTQ+ activist, animal lover and the author of 'With Love, or Something Like That.' She is a strong believer in equality amongst mankind.
Saachi Gupta

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