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Home » Ranking Miley Cyrus’ Lead Singles: Critic’s Picks

Ranking Miley Cyrus’ Lead Singles: Critic’s Picks

14 January 2023, Saturday
Miley Cyrus made fans around the world rejoice when she announced that the opening of 2023 would be accompanied by “Flowers,” a new single to serve as an introduction to her upcoming album Endless Summer Vacation. Not only was this news a source of excitement because of the impending release of a fresh Cyrus song, but it also signaled the arrival of a Cyrus lead single.

Throughout her recording career, Miley Cyrus has used lead singles as ways to indicate to fans upcoming changes in her sound and style. She has created distinct periods within her discography, demonstrating different public personas with each. During her Disney days, songs such as “See You Again” and “7 Things” revealed her interest in gaining commercial success. Through her Can’t Be Tamed and Bangerz projects, she showcased a more carefree attitude and her progression into adulthood. Each of these transitions were marked by her different musical styles and alteration in her public persona.

As her sound develops, Miley Cyrus is giving previews of the psychedelic, country-pop, and retro-rock explorations to come through with her latest release of “Flowers”. This further shows Cyrus's aptitude for shifting her sound and keeping her popular music audience intrigued.

Miley Cyrus has always had a flair for the pop star life, and her lead singles have proven this time and time again. With the release of her latest single “Flowers”, we decided to look back and rank all eight of her lead singles to date, in order to determine which ones best portray her pop power. Though it’s still early, we tried to take “Flowers” into consideration before ranking the seven other singles that have become staples of her catalogue. One note to keep in mind – Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, released as an independent album in 2015, does not have an official radio single, but is represented in this ranking by what is considered its lead single.

Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz was a marvellous shambles - a disordered, unreservedly drugged-out independent release produced with The Flaming Lips and making a symbol of defiance towards prevailing top 40 prospects after Bangerz. Some sections of the album are outstanding (“Lighter” remains one of Cyrus’ most brilliant pop songs up to this point), while others are almost unbearable (“Milky Milky Milk”, with nearly five minutes of duration, is a tricky experience). “Dooo It!”, lead track that Cyrus aired while hosting the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, takes in the set’s dramatic heights and lows in a relatively brief time span. The song’s drugged out bounce never really progresses, yet certain of its interjections (“Yeah, I smoke pot, yeah, I love peace!”, “Sing about LOVE!”) are still a pleasure to bellow along with when the speakers are turned up.

At the same time as the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato were putting out their all-ages pop-rock songs, Cyrus decided to break away from her Hannah Montana character by offering her own version of the sound. “7 Things” captures teenage drama and turns it into a fast-paced tune, with Miley listing all the things she dislikes about her crush before finally giving in to her emotions in the chorus. Released just before the huge success of “Party in the U.S.A.”, the song became a favorite among her fans and showed there was much more to come from the rising pop star.

After she had made a splash with Bangerz and taken a trippy detour with Dead Petz, "Malibu" marked a calmer, more mature point in Miley Cyrus's career. With its gentle strumming and beach-inspired lyrics, the single is meant to evoke a sunset in Southern California, imploring for the perfect moment to last forever. Even though it lacks the big hooks that have become a signature part of Cyrus's music, the laid-back feel of "Malibu" remained memorable, and is still a pleasant surprise in her catalog. Featured on 2017's Younger Now, it stands as Cyrus's transition from the outrageous to the adult.

Miley Cyrus released the lead single off her eighth album Endless Summer Vacation, “Flowers,” on the birthday of her ex-husband, Liam Hemsworth; although the detail was perceived by many as an insult towards the actor, the song itself has a far more positive message, emphasizing self-reliance and inner strength. “No remorse, no regret/ I forgive every word you said” Cyrus croons in the subtle disco-pop arrangement, departing from the melancholy of her 2019 single “Slide Away” for a more determined attitude. Despite its seemingly significant meaning, “Flowers” does not attempt to catalyze a major transition in Cyrus’ music, rather sticking to the familiarity of solid, melodic pop.

"Can't Be Tamed" may have reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, but it is largely viewed as an unsuccessful lead single for Cyrus' adult pivot away from her Disney brand. Despite this, the song is a brilliant dance-pop anthem with elements of Britney Spears’ Blackout-era sound and a prophetic forecast of the coming EDM trend. Though its success may have been stunted by its lack of a wider-reaching album, "Can't Be Tamed" still stands as a powerful statement of creative and personal independence.

The Plastic Hearts era of Cyrus was tailor-made for her artistic strengths. Drawing from the songwriting of the '70s, as well as glam rock's larger than life aesthetics, its lead single "Midnight Sky" provides a perfect preview of what is yet to come. Synth-pop builds the background to Cyrus' distinct snarl ("I was born to run, I don't belong to anyone, oh no") and her love of Stevie Nicks is hard to miss. The track has proven to stay relevant over time, transforming from a simple nostalgia number to a timeless classic. To further honor Nicks, Cyrus even released a mashup of "Midnight Sky" and "Edge of Seventeen", titled "Edge of Midnight", as part of the build up to Plastic Hearts.

Cyrus' initial single, "See You Again," the opening track on her album Meet Miley Cyrus, showed us what we were in for. The cross-genre dance-rock number was released when the Disney celebrity was only 14. The song's details are remarkable, from the repeating guitar strumming of the chorus to the soothing backing vocals to the "stut-stut-stuttering" sounds. Cyrus proves her potential at a young age, knowing when to be shy and when to present her strength. "See You Again" continues to be a number one choice for karaoke, a great track to exercise to, and an homage to all people named Leslie. It also became Cyrus' first Hot 100 top 10 hit, living up to its fame.

No matter what one's opinion is of the ranking, it is undeniable that the lead single of Miley Cyrus' album, "We Can't Stop" has had a greater influence on her career than any of her other songs. After the underwhelming performance of her Can't Be Tamed album, Cyrus opted for a radical change with her aesthetic, enlisting the help of Mike WiLL Made-It to craft a hip-hop party anthem. Despite the controversy surrounding it, the song and its subsequent ballad "Wrecking Ball" were two of the most commercially successful songs of 2013, with the former propelling her album, Bangerz, to success.

"We Can't Stop" achieved its status as a hit due to the combination of its alluring sounds: it’s pulsating beat, catchy pre-chorus, and cutting bridge. No matter if you hear it in a club surrounded by friends, or listening in with headphones, the song’s potential to draw listeners in is undeniable. Cyrus celebrates and expresses body positivity in the song, using it as an opportunity to shed her “kiddie image” with much enthusiasm. Not only was it pivotal in her career, but it’s still a banger; proof that Cyrus can take on a bit and make it a massive success.
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