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“I never would’ve believed you if, three years ago, you told me I’d be here writing this song,” she sings.
The whole good-girl routine would feel like a sendup—a comment on the pliability of persona, or on pop costuming, both literal and figurative, or on our racially polarized political climate—if that kind of commentary were Cyrus’s thing.
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the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday night, Miley Cyrus’s younger sister (the emergent pop star Noah Cyrus, who sings in a comparably billowy voice) and her father (the country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, whose songs have a strange and clangorous twang) stood together to address the crowd.
Onstage, Cyrus did not do this dance, but she did begin crying toward the end of the performance.
She also clutched her heart, just as she sang the word “heart.” Musically, “Malibu” is a mix of Laurel Canyon and Nashville, equal parts bohemian and smarmy; it is as if Dolly Parton were finally called upon to sing a late-era Stevie Nicks track. This is too bad, because Cyrus has a rich, husky voice, and, when she inhabits it with more gusto, like on her previous singles “The Climb” and “Wrecking Ball,” it conveys both fragility and tremendous strength.
It immediately felt like collusion: the product of a conference-room meeting in which someone said, “O.
This particular pose is more familiar to a solemn ballad singer, like Adele, than to a young pop star like Cyrus, who was once briefly, stupidly infamous for her incessant twerking, a dance move in which a woman bends over and aggressively gyrates her buttocks.The aesthetics of the Billboard performance plainly mirrored the video for Cyrus’s new single, “Malibu,” which she released earlier this month.It was filmed along the central California coast, and in it Cyrus wears all white, pets a dog, runs with balloons, and flashes her gold engagement ring.(I still find it hard to get through the bit in “Wrecking Ball” when Cyrus, voice cracking, sings, “Don’t you ever say / I just walked away / I will always want you,” before slamming into that colossus of a chorus.)Historically, Cyrus has been a creative risk-taker—a practice that periodically backfires and gets her in trouble with her public but has nonetheless made her a figure to root for.It always felt, to me, like Cyrus was methodically working her way toward something interesting; we just needed to wait, to forgive her trespasses, to let her figure out what moved her.