“I am not the person I was yesterday,” Miley Cyrus tells Apple Music. “Cutting with Stevie Nicks on the phone, that changed me forever. Everything changes me forever. Every night before I go to sleep, I say goodbye to myself, in a way, because that person is done.” The shape-shifting pop icon has worn many hats throughout her action-packed career—Disney idol, pop/rap dynamo, down-home hippie torn between Nashville and Malibu—but there’s something about her rock-star chapter, realized in her glamorous seventh album Plastic Hearts, that feels the most like her destiny.
It isn’t just that Cyrus has the pipes to carry these pummeling, heavyweight songs, which funnel '80s glam and punk into anthemic, electric pop—it’s how downright convincing she is in the role. Rock’s leading ladies are on board: After Cyrus turned Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” into a raw, rough-edged revelation, Debbie Harry called her a “force to be reckoned with.” On “Bad Karma,” Joan Jett brings “I don’t give a damn” attitude to a song that raises a glass to bad decisions. And Nicks, clearly a major influence, bellows magnificently on the remix to “Midnight Sky,” a tantalizing riff on “Edge of Seventeen” that feels like a woman set free.
Much of the album was shaped by Cyrus’ divorce from actor Liam Hemsworth, which was finalized in early 2020, as well as the loss of her house in a California wildfire and her struggles with addiction. But on Plastic Hearts, she channels all that real pain, guilt, and suffering—and occasionally, the jaded frustration of someone who’s been up and down before—into glossy yet vigorous expressions of inner tension and heat. “I have the artist torture thing going on, too, where I’m a little conflict-seeking because it’s creative,” she says. “I like to feel sad sometimes. And I like to feel happy. I really like to feel. It’s inspiring to me.”