This article first appeared on KCPR.org. Mustang Media Group is a student-run organization that encompasses Mustang News and KCPR. They collaborate to cover news, arts and culture for Cal Poly and the greater San Luis Obispo community.
Miley Cyrus won our hearts when she starred as the lead role in “Hannah Montana” and has been in the public eye ever since. She is one of those artists that you can sense was born to be a star — she has the “it” factor and when she is performing one cannot take their eyes off of her.
Cyrus’ roots began in Franklin, Tennessee in 1992 as Destiny Hope Cyrus. However her parents soon changed her name to Miley because of her nickname, “smiley,” and the rest is history.
With her dad already being the country superstar Billy Ray Cyrus, it didn’t take Cyrus long to become attracted to fame and she had all of the resources there for her to give into it.
At 11-years-old Cyrus auditioned for “Hannah Montana” for the part of the best friend, Lilly, but she caught the producer’s eye for the lead role. Initially they told her she looked too young; however, chose to wait because they knew she was right for the part. The show didn’t end up premiering until she was fourteen and it was an instant hit.
Anyone alive between 2006 to 2010 can recall how much of an impact “Hannah Montana” had on pop culture. Many of her albums, recorded as Hannah Montana — “Hannah Montana,” “Hannah Montana 2/Meet Miley Cyrus” and “Hannah Montana The Movie” — reached the real Billboard charts.
However, with this influence came a lot of expectations. By the time she was older, it was evident she was trying to break free of the “good girl” narrative set by Disney and try something more mature with her music and even acting. With her movie “LOL” and new songs like “I Can’t be Tamed,” she revitalized her career as a young woman.
Then as controversy regarding her private life took hold, a lot of her fans and endorsement deals started to dwindle. By 2012, she was not looked at the same way she was when she was Hannah Montana.
This was because she was not the same girl.
Many parents and old fans failed to realize that she was not fifteen anymore and when she premiered her new bleached blonde pixie cut, it sent the internet into a tiff. However, it truly was the mark of a new Miley era that needed to happen for the artist to grow. English junior, Caroline Merideth, grew up watching Cyrus and was initially surprised with her new look.
“I remember I was so upset about her haircut, because it honestly scared me, but I think it was something Miley needed. It marked her new life as an as adult and artist — free of Disney’s boundaries,” said Merideth.
This new era brought us the iconic album “Bangerz” with songs like “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” and Cyrus’ new image of the “good girl gone bad.” During this time she also began collaborating with a new producer, Mike Will Made-It, and her music transitioned into a new hip-hop sound from her more notorious pop and electronic melodies.
This era lasted for a few years but once the mid-2010s hit Cyrus shifted again. She started doing backyard sessions where she sang covers of her favorite songs and showed us the versatility in her voice. With these, she gained back the trust of her fans after the album “Miley Cyrus & her Dead Petz” — which was not well received by critics or fans.
It was produced independently and many critics thought it sounded experimental. Pitchfork even called it a vanity project, saying “it feels like it was meant to disintegrate.”
As the late 2010s approached, so did her “Younger Now” album, which showcased the softer side of both Cyrus and her voice. Songs like “Malibu” and “Younger Now” were great tracks that highlighted her songwriting skills, vocal abilities and how she was beginning to mature as an artist. Her personal life had a lot of influence on this music given, at this time, she was very serious with her now ex-husband, Liam Hemsworth.
2019 and 2020 were pivotal years for Cyrus and her personal life and career. Her divorce from Hemsworth inspired a slew of new music and she is now showcasing her rock and roll voice.
She is also making it more and more mainstream with each cover she sings. After her fans heard her covers of “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Zombie” by the Cranberries, they demanded that she release a rock album, which she did on Nov. 27, 2020. She released her newest critically acclaimed album, “Plastic Hearts.”
Pitchfork says that Cyrus is “stepping confidently into her “rock era, [and] offers a genuinely pleasing, though sometimes hamfisted record that staves off the awkwardness and missteps that plagued her previous albums” and Rolling Stone calls it “her most self-assured album yet.”
At only 28, Cyrus has already cemented her place as an icon in the music industry, and that is something she should be proud of.