I have vivid memories of being in the seventh grade and listening to Miley Cyrus’s album Bangerz on repeat. Come 2020, Miley Cyrus released Plastic Hearts, and the love I had for Bangerz translated into my love for Plastic Hearts, except now I’m 19, not 12. Released on November 27, 2020, I first listened to this album on my way back to Gainesville after Thanksgiving, and ever since, I’ve listened to Plastic Hearts at least once every other day. Not only are there no skips in this album, but listening to Miley Cyrus’s voice develop over the years hits the nostalgic part of my heart. Her first pop-rock album goes from upbeat and catchy to strong and soulful, and this album hits all the spots for love and relationships. You know the drill. I’ll be going through each song, interpreting the lyrics and sharing my overall thoughts.
1. WTF Do I Know
The first track goes off strong with “WTF Do I Know.” We get a taste of Miley and the energy she’ll keep throughout the album with lyrics rejecting criticism from the media and her ex-husband, Liam Hemsworth, and ultimately bringing it back to their marriage ending. The pre-chorus goes “Am I wrong that I moved on and I don’t even miss you?” a lyric that hit so different to me. It shows a lot of growth on her part because, as we know, dealing with breakups is tough, let alone a divorce. The lyrics “WTF do I know? I’m alone / ‘Cause I couldn’t be somebody’s hero” speak for themselves. This song was a great choice to start the album with. Miley’s assertive, authentic and ready to break hearts.
2. Plastic Hearts
Of course, we have the title track, “Plastic Hearts,” all about dreaming in “the sunny place for shady people” where “you can be whoever you wanna be”: California. Miley’s idea of having a “plastic heart” is kind of a play on California, where people go to seek connection and fame but most of the time, they’re caught in the fakeness of it all. Miley’s plastic heart has all the symbols of a real heart like love and affection, but inside, it’s hollow. Here, we get insight into her struggle of trying to feel fulfilled in love. Even though she may love someone, it’s not enough to satisfy her.
3. Angels Like You
Miley continues with her struggles with love in “Angels Like You,” where she takes part of the blame for hurting someone close to her. She may not refer to them explicitly, but the feelings are all there. Love gets old to Miley quickly, and the lyric “the more that you give, the less that I need” conveys that, but she still stays. “I brought you down to your knees / ‘Cause they say that misery loves company” is where Miley reveals her selfishness, saying she may have taken advantage of someone’s love that she knew she couldn’t reciprocate, which is why “Angels like you can’t fly down here with me.” She takes the blame for not being able to love them back, though she can’t explain why that’s exactly the case.
4. Prisoner (feat. Dua Lipa)
Our first feature of the album is with Dua Lipa, where the two collaborate on the pop anthem “Prisoner.” It feels like every album has its radio hit, and this one never gets old. The single was released a week before the album and the pop side of pop-rock shows. Together, Miley and Dua convey the message that they’re trying to escape from love. “I try to replace it with city lights / I’ll never escape it / I need the high,” Dua sings, confessing that she tries to replace love with city life, but it doesn’t work because love is around them everywhere. It makes them feel locked in a world of love that they can’t be actively in love in, making them prisoners. They’re stuck on one person and want to move on without them, yet the constant reminders of them make it impossible.
5. Gimme What I Want
Onto the next song. “Gimme What I Want” is where Miley starts to think of life without a lover. The line in the chorus, “I don’t need a future / I don’t need your past / I just need a lover” conveys that she’s willing to take in anyone, regardless of their past, but doesn’t want a future with them either. All she wants is sex, not a relationship. If that’s not possible, she’ll just give to herself, she says, a way to escape being entangled with someone while still feeling pleasure. This song is empowering, proving that Miley doesn’t need anyone to be in love when she can be in love with herself. So far in the album, Miley’s talked about her relationship with her lovers and her relationship with the media, so singing about her relationship with herself gives us a refreshing taste of her agency.
6. Night Crawling (feat. Billy Idol)
“Night Crawling” featuring Billy Idol is the first of three songs on the album featuring rock legends. As someone who doesn’t listen to rock, I’ve only ever known Billy Idol as a British punk rock star until this song. I don’t see much interpretation to it—the lyrics are repetitive and straightforward—but hearing Miley and Billy sing together takes this song to the rock level I was waiting for. The song doesn’t bring anything much different from what Miley has sung already, but hearing the song gives me major 80s vibes. It’s upbeat, fast-paced and everything you need to jam out. After listening, I knew I had to educate myself on Billy and other artists’ punk rock background and music and learned that it wasn’t as crazy or bizarre as I’d thought.
7. Midnight Sky
“Midnight Sky” was the first song from the album to be released as a single on August 14, 2020, and I immediately recognized the sample from Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen,” which we’ll see remixed towards the end of the album. Though the sample heavily influenced the song’s production and sound, the two sound like completely different songs. The lyrics go from “see my lips on her mouth” to “see his hands ‘round my waist” which Miley said was a reference to her pansexuality during an interview on Alex Cooper’s podcast Call Her Daddy. I find this to be so powerful as she switches between her experiences in her relationships with Kaitlynn Carter and with Cody Simpson, her most recent partner. Miley sings, “I was born to run / I don’t belong to anyone / I don’t need to be loved by you,” taking complete control over who she is and saying she’s no longer “tied up in your ropes,” which I found to be powerful.
We’ve made it halfway through the album with “High,” a ballad unlike anything we’ve heard so far. Miley’s voice does wonders here while she gets intimate with both her audience and her relationships in the lyrics. The chorus goes “And in my head, I did my very best saying goodbye, goodbye / And I don’t miss you, but I think of you and don’t know why / I still feel high,” lyrics that tell of such strong feelings. She’s reflecting on her goodbyes in relationships that she thinks were thorough and came across as best as they could, yet she still catches herself starting to rethink and analyze her words, even though she knows she doesn’t miss the relationship. This puts her in a daze, making her feel “high” and confused about what she actually wants. Even though leaving was necessary for her, she still feels attached to the past, something we all go through.
9. Hate Me
“High” transitions into “Hate Me,” where Miley continues to lament her exes in a more upbeat way that questions the future. She wonders “what would happen if I die… / Would it be too hard to say goodbye?” questioning what her exes would think if she suddenly disappeared from life. Even though she’s over her relationships, she sings “I hope that it’s enough to make you cry,” conveying that she wants to always hold a spot in her ex-lovers’ hearts. Although Miley comes off as someone independent and fully in control of her love life, part of her still cares about how her exes view her. She hopes that “maybe that day, you won’t hate me” which, to me, is a call-out to her exes, saying that although they’ve had their falling-outs, she still cares for them.
10. Bad Karma (feat. Joan Jett)
Our second song with a rock feature is “Bad Karma” featuring Joan Jett, who you may know from the song, “I Love Rock ’N Roll.” If you look at pictures of Joan Jett back in the 90s, you can tell how much of an influence she is on Miley. She reflects the youthful, full-of-life character Miley is today who is passionate about music and performing. “Bad Karma” brings the two together, not for a song centered around love, but for one centered around living life with no regrets. The lyric “they say it’s bad karma being such a heartbreaker… / I’d rather just do it, then I’ll think about it later” symbolizes living in the moment and dealing with the consequences later because it’s completely worth it. If the price of fun is bad karma, that’s a sacrifice Miley is willing to make, and this duet captures how much living in the moment pays off.
11. Never Be Me
The ultimate shower song, “Never Be Me” is definitely my most listened to song on this album. I’m not sure if it’s because it resonates with me or because Miley’s voice amazed me so much, but I’m sure it’s a combination of the two. The pre-chorus (“I don’t wanna push you way too much / I don’t wanna lean that way too far / I don’t wanna ever learn the hard way”) is about trying to find the balance between having a playful, meaningless relationship and getting attached. Miley has shown us how it failed her multiple times in the past and how she’s trying to move on by not letting herself get too carried away in romance. The chorus goes, “If you’re looking for stable, that’ll never be me / If you’re looking for faithful, that’ll never be me,” showing that even if she wanted a relationship, it’s best if she doesn’t get into one. As we’ve seen she’s unpredictable, and being long-term is too much commitment for where she is in her life right now.
12. Golden G String
I don’t know what I was expecting when I saw the song “Golden G String” on the tracklist, but it certainly wasn’t the emotional ballad I got. Here, she talks about waking up in Montecito, reflecting on the male-dominated society we live in where “the old boys hold all the cards and they ain’t playin’ gin,” showing how the patriarchy holds control of much of the narrative society terrorizes women for. The lyric “there are layers to this body… / They told me I should cover it so I went the other way” shows how Miley is trying to take control of her own narrative, although she may receive backlash for it. Owning her own power is worth getting written about in the media as long as it lets her be herself. At the end of the day, she has no choice but to stay in the spotlight, so she might as well be herself.
13. Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix) (feat. Stevie Nicks), 14. Heart Of Glass (Live from the iHeart Festival), 15. Zombie (Live from the NIVA Save Our Stages Festival)
I decided to combine the last three songs on the album because there’s not much to say on the meanings besides that Miley and Stevie Nicks are two icons colliding and that Miley’s vocals absolutely killed the covers of “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Zombie” by The Cranberries. The “Edge of Midnight” remix includes Stevie’s vocals which only heightens the song’s power, and I think it’s safe to say that both singers are prominent figures in their generations. As for “Heart of Glass,” I remember everyone going crazy over Miley’s vocals and how she reimagined the song and completely made it her style. And last but not least, “Zombie” ends this album on a somber yet powerful note that leaves us wanting more of Miley’s new era.
Overall, there are no skips on this album. Miley conveys the numerous feelings of love and relationships differently in each song, and though it may seem repetitive at times, the lyrics never get old. Here, we see the changes in Miley’s feelings over time from taking the blame for breakups to being completely authentic to herself as well as just having a great time. I’m more than sure that this album was so much fun to produce, and for me, seeing Miley grow and embody this new persona feels right. Watching her thrive in this time in her life is touching, knowing she’s worked for years trying to find herself and reach beyond the typical narrative of being a celebrity. This album is about being unapologetically yourself and it leaves me thinking about the times I’ve been too afraid to be my own person and conformed to others.