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The Evolution of Miley Cyrus’ Music: How She Became My Feminist Icon

Miley Cyrus took the world by storm when she not-so-subtly let go of her Disney Channel Hannah Montana image and fully embraced the new, wilder version of herself. While many fans were taken back by her new look, new sound, and by her 2013 VMA performance with Robin Thicke, I have consistently been on the Miley bandwagon through her entire evolution, especially through the course of her music career. While going through Miley’s discography on Spotify, I realized how influential so many of her albums have been on my life, so here are some of my favorites and the reasons behind why I look up to her as an inspiring female artist: 

Breakout was the foundation of my childhood. 

Breakout marked the beginning of Miley as a singer without the blonde wig and her Disney Channel alter-ego. Hearing music from Miley herself was an entirely different sound than the previous Hannah Montana soundtracks, and knowing that Miley co-wrote many of the songs made this album feel super genuine, and it’s where my love for Miley as a songwriter really began. It is also the album that introduced her major hit, “7 Things” which is still one of the greatest songs ever made. Breakout debuted in 2008, which would make me about 10 years old at the time of its release, and my best friends and I would spend a large portion of our childhood choreographing dances and singing along to these songs, setting the foundation for my life-long obsession with Miley. 

Favorite songs: “These Four Walls,”Full Circle,” and “The Driveway” 

The Time Of Our Lives was my emotional awakening

The Time Of Our Lives, which came out in 2009 hosts Miley’s potentially biggest song ever, “Party in the U.S.A.” which makes this album forever iconic. One of my favorite Miley songs ever, “When I Look at You,” was on this album as well, and would later be featured in the film The Last Song, which also contributed to my adoration for her. To this day, that song (and the film) make me sob my eyes out, and I will always have a special place in my heart for this stage in Miley’s career. 

Favorite songs: “Before the Storm – duet with the Jonas Brothers (Live)”

Can’t Be Tamed introduced a whole new Miley to me 

The Can’t Be Tamed album drop, and especially the music video of the title track, signified the beginning of Miley’s transformation into a more mature teenager who strayed away from her former PG-rated TV show. This album, though one of her lesser-known records, was also pivotal in my tween life. My friends and I were still making up dances to her music at this point. 

Favorite songs: “Stay,” “Take Me Along,” and “Two More Lonely People” 

Bangerz was the beginning of a new era 

It was the Bangerz album that shocked so many fans who weren’t used to seeing Miley in this light, and it was her first album that consisted of songs with the “explicit” symbol next to them. I have a special appreciation for this record because it introduced the version of Miley that completely disregards the judgement people have toward her, and it was all about her expressing herself in a way she was never able to before. It also produced huge Miley hits including “Wrecking Ball,” which would go on to win Video of the Year for the music video at the VMA’s that year. 

Favorite songs: “Adore You,” and “Maybe You’re Right”

Younger Now was silently one of my favorite albums 

I really appreciated the Younger Now album because it wasn’t as hyped up as some of her previous albums, and that allowed me to slowly and silently explore the songwriting that I had long adored from Miley. Her song “Malibu” was a chart-topper that year, which I was extremely obsessed with because of its commemoration of her reunion with Liam Hemsworth. This album even had some country undertones with her track with Dolly Parton, “Rainbowland,” which was also the name of Miley’s recording studio at her Malibu home that would later be burned down in the California forest fires in 2018. 

Favorite songs: “She’s Not Him,” and “I Miss You So Much” 

SHE IS COMING made me feel liberated

In 2019, Miley released the EP, SHE IS COMING, which would end up hosting some of my favorite songs from her ever. Her single “Mother’s Daughter,” had a sound different from most of her other albums and the lyrics heavily focused on female freedom. The music video is also an insane piece of art that dismantles body ideals and societal standards, and this EP is what really defined Miley as an advocate for self-expression and female sexual liberation, which is one of the reasons I am really inspired by her as an artist. 

Favorite song: “The Most” 

Plastic Hearts was everything I needed in my life

Consolidating all of my feelings for this album into one small paragraph is going to be a difficult task for me, mostly because this record is probably one of my favorites of all time. Miley released Plastic Hearts, her first rock album, in late 2020, and I have been obsessed with it since. Her new rock sound fits her perfectly, and her vocals are also absolutely insane on each and every track. This album features some seriously huge and iconic artists including Dua Lipa, Stevie Nicks, Billy Idol, and Joan Jett, who make this album even more unreal. I have a special fondness for this record because of Miley’s dedication to not giving a f*ck and her lyrics that are insanely relatable and liberating. The album also has a few covers on it, which are amazing, including a live cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” 

Favorite songs: “Angels Like You,” and “High” 

If you haven’t gathered this by now: Miley is one of the most important music artists that I follow, and I seriously think that the evolution of her music has greatly impacted my life as I’ve grown up. Old fans and the media have relentlessly criticized Miley for her rebellious nature, but I believe that what she stands for and the music she creates embodies a disruption to the system and a challenge to the status quo, and I have always admired musicians who say f*ck you to societal standards and bad reputations (I’m talking to you, Avril Lavigne). I’ve been a Miley fan since for as long as I can remember, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. 

Carly Silva

Emmanuel '21

Carly is a senior at Emmanuel College pursuing a major in English Writing, Editing, and Publishing, as well as Communications and Media Studies. She loves to write and has a particular fondness for poetry. Carly also loves reading on the beach, playing music, and hanging out with her dog, Mowgli. 
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