Throughout a decade careening gleefully from pop to R&B to country, Miley Cyrus has needed no urging to drop a rock cover. Her unforced simpatico for guitars, and that gravelly bawl, have enabled reputable live takes on Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog (Glastonbury 2019) and Joan Jett’s I Love Rock’n’Roll (her 2011 tour).
Plastic Hearts is the album of that predilection: a set of post-divorce songs that throw up devil’s horns while putting on a punky sneer. Half the time, Cyrus is touting some ersatz idea of “rawk” proselytised by MTV circa 1984. No actual outlaw would turn to Billy Idol for guidance, but here he is on the truly dire Night Crawling, trying not to sing White Wedding.
Things perk up considerably on the songs that feel more authentic to Cyrus. A country-leaning ballad, Golden G String, digs deep into her show-off persona while accusing the patriarchy of holding all the cards (“and they ain’t playin’ gin”). Prisoner updates Olivia Newton-John’s tune Physical very well indeed. But having covered Arctic Monkeys, Cyrus lifts their opening sentiment about mirrors for her own Midnight Sky. She was, apparently, “born to run” as well.