• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

The former Disney star is offering punk attitudes on the dancefloor. Funk delivered with a roar, not a pout. Notes delivered with maximum bawl and full extension

Nov 27, 2020

The kids have done popcorn synths. Theyve done neon leg warmers, post-punk emo and slap bass. But if theres one thing thats lain mysteriously unmined by the open cast Eighties revival, its the Big Rasping Voice. Back in the day, women like Bonnie Tyler, Kim Carnes and Elkie Brooks gave it full throttle with deep, husky vocals blasted wide and tough as their hair. But never fear. Miley Cyruss sucker punch of a seventh album is here to correct the omission.
From start to finish, Plastic Hearts dresses catchy, Eighties-indebted pop melodies in rocks studded leather, lets them spin a few wheelies and max out the speedo. Its basically a truckload of fun with added blood and guts, driven by Cyruss reckless, open-throated, soul-bearing charisma.
If youve heard her recent covers of Blondies Heart of Glass or Hall & Oates Maneater, then youll know exactly where this is pitched. The former Disney star is offering punk attitudes on the dancefloor. Funk delivered with a roar, not a pout. Notes delivered with maximum bawl and full extension.
This is a smart move that fills a gap in the market. Most pop lovers struggle to keep up with the vocal acrobatics favoured, of late, by the likes of Ariana Grande. But we can all pretend weve got lungs capable of shattering the shower cubicle when the volume is up and the neighbours are out.
Fans of the Cyrus soap opera will also be rewarded with relatable confessional material. She offers the obliquely inside track on her relationships, twerking, mental health and addictions.
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Shes joined by heroes old and new on the record. Cool new pals like Dua Lipa are found album-partying with vintage rock favourites like Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks and FM-friendly peroxide snarler Billy Idol (whose old videos she apparently described as porn when she fell off the wagon during lockdown).
The chequered flag drops with a squelchy, rubber-burning bass turning over just as Cyrus lets rip with the unrepentant WTF Do I Know, before skidding into the title track. Plastic Hearts is the first of many tracks to nod heavily at her Eighties influences. The pulse is lifted straight from her beloved Maneater but also goes meta by referencing fellow Eighties-quoter Bruno Marss Locked Out of Heaven.
Elsewhere, pop pickers will spot her quoting from Prince, Fleetwood Mac and INXS and adding a sprinkling of Phil Collins-esque gated drums. I like to imagine that rather than Collins, Cyrus had the Cadbury Gorilla in the studio on Gimme What I Want: theres a fluffy/muscly vibe there that the tax exile doesnt really deserve. Bad Karma (feat Joan Jett) has a great ah-uh of a pulse that practically leans back on the jukebox with a fag on and eyeballs you. I melted into ballad Never Be Me, on which the troubled singer admits, If youre looking for stable, if youre looking for faithful/ As hard as I try thatll never be me.
Cyrus with Dua Lipa (left) in the video for Prisoner
Singles Prisoner (feat Dua Lipa) and Midnight Sky have a rebellious, freewheeling elasticity that makes them dancefloor killers. The chorus of the latter I was born to run, I dont belong to anyone reminds me of the time I interviewed Cyruss godmother, Dolly Parton. Almost a decade ago, the queen of country pop assured me that her little protege (then in the twerking phase) would always be connected to an earthy feeling and attitude. Be aware of the thrill of the fresh air in her face because its what she learned from her grandparents in Kentucky. Dont underestimate Miley she has the talent to outrun her critics.
Not everything on the record is 100 per cent. She over-sings a cover of The Cranberries Zombie. And the otherwise excellent Golden G String in which she takes aim at Donald Trump is ruined by her supposed nostalgia for the community-spirited vibe of 1969. That was the year scandal-ridden Republican Richard Nixon took office. Really: I get that the year rhymed. But does nobody on her songwriting team have Google?
Miley Cyrus covers ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries for live music industry fundraiser
The rest of the song is great, though. I love how she owns her public personae over the years. 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 tryin to own my power/ Still I’m tryin to work it out/ And at least it gives the paper somethin they can write about
Plastic Hearts is loaded with all the safely explosive thrills of Eighties telly. Listening, I felt the way I did as a kid, watching The A-Team busting out of a heavily guarded warehouse with a load of TNT and baddy-jeeps headed skyward, but miraculously incurring no casualties. The best of pop and rock combined. Hang on to your shower heads.