Though just 24 years old, Miley Cyrus has already hit career heights that take some many more years to reach, with a career that we’ve seen go from literally one extreme to the other.
She’s already logged three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 (not including Hannah Montana soundtracks) and seven Top 10’s on the Billboard Hot 100. In her attempts to differentiate herself from her former TV alter ego, she has, of course, come across as over the top at times. But if you can look beyond that, one thing that has come through in her more recent work is an honesty and authenticity that is hard to find in music these days, and there’s something to be said for that.
A lot of the songs below are great examples of that authenticity and her talents outside hit songs such as “Party In The U.S.A” and “We Can’t Stop.” She’s forever etched her way into the fabric of pop culture and years from now, we’ll still be saying, “She’s just being Miley.”
"Twinkle Song"Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz
Upon its surprise release following her 2015 MTV VMA hosting gig, the highly experimental Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz polarized both fans and critics being such a stark contrast from anything she had done before. It was only available on SoundCloud until this month, when it was finally put on iTunes and streaming services. This cut is one of the more tame moments from the album. Entirely written and produced by Cyrus, this sparse piano ballad tells a simple story of her recounting and trying to decode a dream — and somehow fits David Bowie and Gumby into the same verse. While the lyrics are simple, Cyrus’s hypnotic vocals makes them all the more powerful and somewhat haunting.
After a psychedelic experience such as Dead Petz, it’s so hard to go back and listen to a lot of Miley's earlier work, especially seeing as how she’s pretty much denounced anything prior to Bangerz. It’s like listening to a completely different person. But this cut from her first full length, not attached to Hannah Montana in any way, is a standout of her earlier releases.
Produced by Mike Will Made It, “Drive” is one of Bangerz cuts in particular that is speculated to be directly about her breakup with fiancé Liam Hemsworth. When speaking about the electro-infused ballad she said, “It’s about needing to leave someone but not really wanting to completely cut yourself off from the relationship.” Although not released as a single, it cracked the Billboard Hot 100, further proving that it could have potentially been a hit. It certainly would have been a better radio choice than “Adore You.”
"Kicking and Screaming"The Time of Our Lives EP
Often overshadowed by the mega success of “Party In The U.S.A.,” most people forget there were other songs on The Time Of Our Lives EP, and this is one of best. Released less than a year before Can’t Be Tamed, it serves as a small glimpse at the edgier tone she was looking to move towards.
"SMS (Bangerz) (feat. Britney Spears)"Bangerz
“SMS (Bangerz)” is the result of throwing “Push It” by Salt N’ Pepa, Britney Spears and a rapping Miley Cyrus in a blender, and ends up being one of the wildest moments on Bangerz. “I always say I only want one bitch on my record, and that's Britney bitch,” Miley said about the inclusion of the Princess of Pop on the song. Britney doesn’t do many features, so she really seals the deal on this one.
"Space Bootz"Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz
“Space Bootz” is a perfect example of a moment where the Dead Petz experiment got it right, and one of the few almost straight pop moments on the album. Cyrus’s vocals are slick and dreamy in this psychedelic ode to a lover who’s out of this world — literally. Like, he’s apparently left the planet. Or maybe just emotionally distant. But the former sounds more romantic. “And I get so bored/ Cause you’re not here to make me laugh/ You’re so cute/ In your space suit/ In your space boots/ Space dude,” she purrs. Someone get this girl a job at NASA already!
Can’t Be Tamed was released mere months before Hannah Montana ended and given her obvious desire to move on and away from the Hannah Montana persona, there’s no question this heavily electronica-infused cut is most likely a direct reference to life with Disney. “Stop trying to live my life for me / I need to breathe / I’m not your robot / Stop telling me I’m part of the big machine / I’m breaking free / Can’t you see?” she screams. Safe to say she was ready to be rid of Disney forever.
If “We Can’t Stop” was Miley’s party anthem, then this is her personal manifesto. “Every single night and every single day / I’mma do my thang, I’mma do my thang / So don’t you worry bout me, I’mma be okay,” she declares. It also contains what might just be the the most uses of the word “b*tch” in a single verse. When will your fave?
"Who Owns My Heart?"Can't Be Tamed
This pulsating club bop is one of Can’t Be Tamed’s best moments — and such a missed opportunity. Although it ended up being the second single from the album, it was only released in Europe, thus sending it forever into obscurity. It could have been a hit here in the States had it been given the chance. But at least we got a killer music video out of it!
"FU (feat. French Montana)"Bangerz
There aren’t any veiled or hidden messages here. No, Cyrus goes straight for the jugular in this angry, waltzy, dubstep kiss off to a cheating ex singing, “I don't really have much to say / I was over it the second that I saw her name / I got two letters for you / One of them is F / And the other one is U / 'Cause what you gotta do / is go get yourself a clue.” It might just go down as one of the most blatant f--k you songs in modern music history. It makes songs like Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” look like a nursery rhyme.