Often, it’s the group or artist you’d least expect to come along and save rock and roll. This time it’s Miley Cyrus and she’s back in a big, big way with her seventh album. If you think this is hyperbole just give it a listen and you’ll see.
The album was actually released back in November of last year.
But with everything that happened in said year it should be noted that whatever is in the rearview eventually becomes new again and the hope here is that although the release date is behind us, whoever Miley’s fans really are can appreciate the fact that she has given us an eighties album that is the best thing since, well, the eighties.
So much has been made of her personal life that it’s a wonder anyone still talks about her voice. And what a voice it is. It’s deeper, scratchy at times, but better than any of her counterparts in recent memory. From the start of this album she and everyone else listening has found her voice too and it is truly where it belongs now.
The quirky almost-ballad of Plastic Hearts is an homage of sorts to Miley’s refusal to be boxed in, at least from a lyrical standpoint. It also puts the emphasis right from the beginning that she’s playing the rock and roll game now, no longer wishing for the good graces of critics and the like. Not that she ever had much respect to begin with.
The production of the album is a charm too. It’s infused with light harmonics that you’d probably only catch listening with the very best headphones. The electro-synth beats and all encompassing bass lines through nearly every song are reminiscent of the New Wave genre from long ago and match the intensity of emotion from the biggest bands of that era. And you can tell it’s intentional. Let’s hope the new generation will get it.
“Gimme What I Want” is vocally soft but listen closely and you’ll pick up the Nine Inch Nails vibe right away. It’s dirty, but not really, perfectly made to order for this generation of rockers.
“Night Crawling” features Billy Idol doing his best impression of himself while talk-singing in the second verse. This is the first indication that Miley isn’t playing anymore and she’s demanding to be taken seriously. The song itself is dark and brooding and her voice is a reaction to Billy’s in a way that seems genuine and not copycat. Miley matches the best here.
This theme continues with “Midnight Sky” featuring Stevie Nicks. The up and down of the guitar starts first, with Miley’s up and down take of the white wing dove and doing her best vocal impression of Stevie in her heyday. The two eventually duet and it’s enough to get your mind off the left turn the album eventually makes.
Songs like “Prisoner” and “WTF Do I Know” are more of Miley’s style from a recent past that weren’t all that bad, critics be damned. She even does a song, simple as it is, with Joan Jett. With it, Miley exemplifies the persona of Runaway attitude and could have been an additional member in another life. Again, it’s hard to tell who’s singing at times, Joan or Miley.
Rock and roll isn’t what it is without the visuals and this album smashes any pretenders from my memory. From album cover to live performances, Miley has it down. Probably because it’s authentic in the way she’s lived, evidenced in her genuine attitude towards the business. She’s not simply fading away like so many who’ve made it past the troubled stage in their careers. She’ll have a lasting impact but it’ll have to happen after the initial chuckle that someone gives you when you mention her name. Hey, that’s rock and roll though.
The cover of Cranberries’ “Zombie” at the end is taken from a live version that needs to be seen to be heard. It destroys, my opinion, the Bad Wolves’ version released a few years ago and even gained the attention of the remaining band members who applauded the effort. Miley plays the part with such conviction you can’t help but wonder why she’s not in an actual rock band.
Everything is all here from the bright pink album cover, to the guest appearances, to stage antics and beyond, this album is essential in bringing a new generation along to the changing landscape of what is considered rock music. It’s an attitude. It’s rebellious and sometimes detested. It’s all here in the powerhouse that is Miley’s new found voice.
Plastic Hearts isn’t all that plastic after all.