Plastic Hearts is an even greater digging in back to Miley Cyrus’s pop-country roots, but unlike Younger Now, this album is tinged with messy feelings that one would probably expect, considering the events in her private life leading up to this album. She was experimenting with some interesting songs until she and Thor’s brother broke up again, and now she just wants to channel Hannah Montana twenty years after the end of that stupid TV show, when Hannah is now divorced, drunk, and disillusioned with love and what not.
Hence, we now have the title track that is all about how numb inside she is, and how she just wants to feel something, anything, if only for the moment. However, in WTF Do I Know, she insists that she’s pretty defiant about having lost her love.
So tell me baby, tell me baby
Am I wrong that I moved on and
I don’t even miss you
Thought that it’d be you until I die
But I let go
What the fuck do I know
The mood swings a complete 180 in Hate Me when she is feeling remorse all over again.
Go ahead you can say that I’ve changed
Just say it to my face
One drink and I’m back to that place
The memories won’t fade
These are the songs that play when you try to tell gently to your best friend at the bar that she is drunk, and come on, you will drive her home, and don’t worry, things will look better in the morning… well, after the hangover, that is.
For me, the most tragic—and hence, the most hauntingly beautiful—song here is Never Be Me.
But if you’re looking for stable, that’ll be never be me
If you’re looking for faithful, that’ll never be me
If you’re looking for someone to be all that you need
That’ll never be me
Hard as I try, that’ll never be me
I play with fire
Dry your tears now don’t you cry
I’m by your side at least for a while
I know I do this every time
I walk the line
Ya, I play with fire
I try not to read too much into this, but given how personal the songs have been to Ms Cyrus, I can only wonder whether this is some kind of heartfelt confession when it came to her most recent heartbreak.
While the songs can generate ample feels from the lyrics alone, the music itself is… well, I suppose it depends on just how much the listener values the nostalgia of those pop-rock days of the 1980s. Edge of Midnight is practically a Stevie Nicks song, so I am not shocked that there is a bonus track on the digital version of this album that features guest vocals by Ms Nicks herself. Duets with Joan Jett (Bad Karma) and Billy Idol (Night Crawling) cement the certainty that Ms Cyrus wants to drink and dance her way through the 1980s playbook to nurse her wounded heart. I do love these tracks, as I will always have a fond spot in my heart for music of that decade, but a part of me feels that these songs are rather unimaginative derivative of the typical songs of these 1980s icons.
Ms Cyrus’s sole concession to contemporary pop sentiments is getting Dua Lipa on Prisoner, but the guest vocalist aside, the song itself captures perfectly the fast bops of the 1980s. Think Irene Cara, Sheena Easton, Laura Branigan, et cetera, and this song is all that, right down to a chorus that sounds suspiciously like a cell block version of the chorus of Olivia Newton-John’s Physical.
On the songs that see Ms Cyrus flying solo, it’s still the 1980s revival festival. There are guitar licks to remind folks that lived through the 1980s of those big pop rock songs by guys with electric guitars and big hair, ballads that people used to wave lighters to in concerts by Heart and such, and more. One of my favorite songs ever by Ms Cyrus is Lighter, until then her biggest effort to replicate the big ballad formula of the 1980s, so it’s not a surprise that I have a wonderful time listening to these songs. To loosely paraphrase that horrible song by Maroon 5, the music brings back memories and the memories bring back… well, a few lovely feelings I have of cherished moments back in those days.
How I feel about Plastic Hearts is perhaps encapsulated perfectly in Golden G String, which I think is my second-most favorite song here after Never Be Me:
Oh, that’s just the world that we’re living in
The old boys hold all the cards
And they ain’t playing gin
You dare to call me crazy
Have you looked around this place?
Perhaps she’s right. The world is crazy, and honestly, there isn’t much we can do. May as well get drunk or more, and try to feel as much as we can, to remind us that we are still alive,
Oh, and she also explains what happened to the crazy, tongue-wagging Miley Cyrus in that song.
There are layers to this body
Primal sex and primal shame
They told me I should cover it
So I went the other way
I was trying to own my power
Still I’m trying to work it out
And at least it gives the paper
Something they can write about
In that song, she wonders for a while whether she should walk away from the crazy nonsense in this world, only to conclude:
Yeah, I think I’ll stay
I can’t walk away
Yeah. It’s still our lives, so vote hard with our votes, with our wallets, and with our voices as loud and as much as we can. Still, I advise switching off social media. My life is so much happier without it, and I heartily recommend deleting those apps from the phone and bookmarks ASAP.