Miley Cyrus has one hell of an iconic music catalogue. Even the dullest of her sonic moments have an interesting glimmer to them, and that can’t be said for most artists. Her iconic crown lies in the fact that the singer doesn’t shy away from experimenting with sounds, as evidenced by
the simple evolution of her album covers.
She’s coasted down a slick artistic journey, bouncing from angsty pop (2007’s
Meet Miley Cyrus), thrashing trap with a sometimes distasteful hint of problematic mess (2015’s Bangerz), and full-fledged psychedelic (2015’s Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz). Her last effort, 2020’s Plastic Hearts, still numbs with incredible greatness nearly three years after its release. She eventually capped that era to begin her upcoming era, which already has a new refreshed Miley written all over it.
In honor of her eighth album,
here are 15 of the most iconic Miley Cyrus songs that hit the world like a wrecking ball. This list does exclude her iconic stint as Hannah Montana, which is a difficult pill to swallow considering bops like “Gonna Get This” and “Nobody’s Perfect” shaped a lot of personalities (ahem, like my own). Endless Summer Vacation,
While Miley has experimented with different genres, her vocals have always sounded incredible on electro-pop synths. Oh, and punk-rock, but she’ll get her flowers in that sonic department later on in the ranking. Her 2010 single
“Who Owns My Heart” sits in a shelf of Miley’s most underrated gems and it still deserves its own moment to shine. This track packs a sweet punch, and sees the singer finding potential love in the club. However, she’s wondering if the attraction she feels is just an illusion and that her heart might actually belong to the dancefloor. You know, just teen Miley being the unofficial dancing queen.
“Can’t Be Tamed.” This rebellious bop — paired with the 2010 album of the same name — saw Miley clawing away at her Disney-gilded cage and ultimately freeing the hidden badass she’s grown to be. It’s still wild to think media in the early ‘10s shamed Miley for this release, considering this track and all its black-feathered glory is an absolute banger. Flanked by electro-pop production (which was the bread and butter of this era) and an underlying robotic effect, Miley tested the waters on this release and came out winning. “Party In The U.S.A.” is timeless. From the moment those tuned guitars groove in the opener, there’s a rush of nostalgia that fills the atmosphere and it would be almost criminal to not sing along. To this day, someone can play this in a karaoke session or during the presidential election and everyone will start belting the lyrics as though it just released. At this point, I’m starting to think the world would have never been the same if she didn’t hop off that plane at LAX with a dream and her cardigan. Too much? Probably not.
Miley teased her potential to be a pop princess on Disney, so it wasn’t surprising to see that edge on
“See You Again.” This crushed-out number has all the elements to be a hit: A tenacious beat, moody guitar riffs that finely mix with her then soft vocals, and cheeky one-liners (think, “I got my sights set on you and I’m ready to aim” or the memorable “She’s just being Miley” in the chorus). There’s such a playful cadence coasting on “See You Again” that it almost feels nostalgic. Honestly, I’d like to think this was an anthem for her Hannah Montana love interest, Jake Ryan, even though things ended sourly between the two in the show.
Miley knew she had a rhythmic hit on her hands with
“We Can’t Stop.” This track, which is the lead single from 2013’s Bangerz, sounds like a drunken night out with your crew on the weekend. Hopefully, the oversized teddybear backpacks in the music video aren’t involved in the late-night festivities. The first verse captures that early drawl of finding a club to let loose in — which is usually not the only spot you’ll stay in for the rest of the night. Then, by the end of the hooky chorus, you’ve club-hopped to a new location in need of a couple more shots. In other words, you “can’t and won’t stop” making the night your own.
There’s one thing Miley knows how to deliver: an emotional breakup ballad.
“Wrecking Ball” seethes with stunning moments, especially in how Miley comfortably dips between vocal registers. Her verses flow with such sincerity that there’s a sweetness to it; however, she expels that soft cadence for her trademark rasps and growls in the chorus. This is just a straightforward bop. 09
“On A Roll” by Ashley O
Miley might’ve allegedly
killed Hannah Montana; however, that crime made room for another icon to rise: Ashley O. For context, the character starred as a manufactured pop star looking to find her own identity in the fifth season of Netflix’s Black Mirror. Ashley O has a chippier and more commercialized sound to that of the real Miley, who dipped away from that polished facade nearly three years into her solo career. It took just two episodes for her alter-ego to break free from her pop mold, but in that process, she dropped one hell of a hit, “On A Roll.”
The track is a radio-friendly version of Nine Inch Nail’s single
“Head Like A Hole.” This intentional rework is genius, considering the rock tune is about how capitalism can turn people into greedy beings (a.k.a, Ashley O’s overbearing aunt who forced her into having a singing career for money). Instead of replicating NIN’s original grungy riffs, the star flipped the lyrics into a slinky ode about achieving superficial goals. From those raspy “oh, honey’s” to that infectious chorus, Ashley O had no business going this hard on a song meant for a fictional plot.
Not to be dramatic, but Miley’s Disney career wouldn’t be complete without
“The Climb.” Serving as the standout single of the Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack, this memorable number excels in the fact it’s steeped with nostalgia. Those soothing guitars have been etched in my brain for nearly two decades, and still has enough force to give me the chills. “Malibu” is the most tranquil, sun-filled hit in Miley’s discography. This track pops out like a starry gem in the midst of her previous singles, which normally toyed with edgier pop frills and risky production. On this release, she let her honey-blond tresses free and gave listeners something sweet and refreshing.
Serving as one of the softer cuts on
Bangerz, “Adore You” doesn’t have too many frills. The track exists in a simple beauty, where all Miley needs is a somber backtrack to deliver greatness. On this piano ballad, she croons about the overwhelming feeling of adoring her partner. With each wail of “adore” and other lines in both verses, there’s a touch of vulnerability in her voice that’s so satisfying to hear. Sure, her rasp glimmers over brash beats; however, “Adore You” is a reminder that her vocals are just as incredible on slower arrangements.
There’s several chaotically stunning (and sometimes,
questionable) moments on Bangerz, but “Someone Else” shines as one of the best. Gleaming with those snarling, hip-hop infused beats that heavily echoed throughout the album, this number sees Miley confronting how she’s evolved into a new person. 04
“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart”
Miley’s vocals over disco-country production? That sounds like a dream, and she served up the finest fantasy on her and Mark Ronson’s
“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart.” Shrouded with acoustic guitars and layered production, the singer coos about heartbreak in numerous scenarios. “This world can hurt you / It cuts you deep and leave a scar / Things fall apart, but nothing breaks like a heart,” she croons in the chorus, her subtle harmonies the ultimate cherry on top.
It’s been nearly four years since Miley released
“Mother’s Daughter,” and it still sounds fresh. Serving as a standout from her unappreciated 2019’s She Is Coming, this hit is a powerful nod to female and gender-nonconforming empowerment. There’s this awing fire of confidence brewing throughout this ode, especially when she wails “Don’t f*ck with my freedom” in the chorus.
With the release of
“Midnight Sky,” one thing was clear: Miley’s rock era had finally begun. The sludgy tune, which was a first taste of her 2020 Plastic Hearts album, was a brilliant introduction to a genre that was practically silhouetted for her voice. Her signature rasp has never sounded so lush than on this release, especially in those fierce one-liners where she’s kissing off her ex-partner and reclaiming her independence. “I was born to run / I don’t belong to anyone, oh no / I don’t need to be loved by you,” she coos in the chorus, her voice melting against the Stevie Nicks-inspired tune.
“Gimme What I Want” is arguably both the best track on Plastic Hearts and Miley’s entire discography. It’s a shame she didn’t push this as a single because this number throbs with the same iconic fierceness to that of “Midnight Sky.” On the track, Miley takes another page from Nine Inch Nails, channeling the rugged melody from their 1994 hit, “Closer.” Her raspy whirls pulse with conviction, an energy that’s certainly needed as she’s demanding her lover to give her the pleasure she craves. “I just need a lover / So gimme what I want or I’ll give it to my- / Self-inflicted torture / You don’t have to ask,” she sings.
The singer might be in a new sonic era on
Endless Summer Vacation; however, her glam rock-persona will forever live on. Don't miss a thing
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