- The Magazine
Miley Cyrus’ sparky, rebellious public persona has been so consistent over the last decade or so that it’s easy to forget what a musical chameleon she is. Call it a new direction or call it a throwback to her first forays out from under her squeaky-clean Disney persona — and there is definitely a case to be made for either — but Cyrus sounds natural and in her element paying tribute to the late ’80s on her seventh studio album. Plastic Hearts (★★★☆☆) embraces an era of rock epitomized by Joan Jett and Billy Idol, both of whom show up on the album.
These two collaborations go a long way towards helping capture the era’s sound. To Cyrus’ credit, she more than keeps up with Billy Idol on “Night Crawler,” matching those snarling vocals that did so much to define a whole era of ’80s pop punk. Apart from standing out as an instantly memorable hit, “Night Crawler” puts her gravelly vocals on full display and is the standout example of why she is a natural fit for this particular brand of rock.
Still, as much as has already been made of her pivot to rock on Plastic Hearts, Cyrus is just as happy to wear multiple hats on this album as she is to jump between genres from album to album. What she sacrifices in consistency, she makes up for with some of the more memorable tracks on the album. “Gimme What I Want” strays into deep, thudding synthpop, while “Prisoner,” her collab with Dua Lipa, although it is a strong track, might have been better suited to Lipa’s own album, Future Nostalgia.
The strength of the covers and collaborations is driven home by the tracks that show up on the digital edition, including covers of The Cranberries’ “Zombie” and Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” as well as “Edge of Midnight,” a mashup of “Midnight Sky” and Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” featuring Nicks herself on backing vocals. Nicks seems happy to yield the spotlight to Cyrus on this track, and their styles blend together seamlessly.
Cyrus brings us into the latter half of the album with the pop-country ballad, “High.” It is a strong enough track, but Cyrus makes an odd choice in closing out the standard edition of Plastic Heart with two similar heartfelt country offerings. “Never Be Me” is a warm, almost beachy track that has her confessing her own shortcomings, while “Golden G-String” is a little more tongue-in-cheek. All three stand out as particularly strong tracks that feel authentically Cyrus. They allow her to bear some personal grievances and showcase her vocals in a style that she has found success with in the past, but they stand out as odd inclusions, sounding almost like they were intended for a completely different album.
Plastic Hearts is self-assured and creative, unsurprising given Cyrus’ other output. Despite its unevenness, the album is most successful as a tribute to a specific era of rock and its sound. Cyrus certainly captures its sound on a technical level, but perhaps more importantly, she almost perfectly emulates its snarling, punky ethos.
Plastic Hearts is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.
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