The recent Miley Cyrus renaissance was brought about by intelligent choices from Cyrus, her label, and her fans.
At just 30 years old, Miley Cyrus has been a household name in the music industry for the better part of two decades, known for her powerful voice, catchy hooks, and boundary-pushing performances. From her early days as a Disney Channel star to her current status as a pop icon, she has amassed a dedicated fanbase and inspired countless young musicians. Over the last decade, her career has been in a state of flux, as she experimented with various genres and her relationship with superstardom. But last month, she launched a comeback of almost unthinkable proportion. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Miley Cyrus’ musical career and the key moments that shaped her return to the music industry’s summit.
Early Career (2006-2012)
Miley Cyrus first burst onto the music scene in 2006 with her debut album Meet Miley Cyrus. At the time, she was best known for being the lead character on the hit Disney Channel show “Hannah Montana,” portraying a girl next door pop idol. Her first album was a commercial success, debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 and selling over three million copies in the United States. Over the next few years, Cyrus released several more platinum albums, including Breakout and Can’t Be Tamed, and scored Top 10 hits with relative ease, including the smash hit “Party In The USA,” which became the biggest release ever through Hollywood Records. Even as a teenager, Cyrus developed a knack for pushing boundaries and controversy, a theme which would define the next decade of her career.
Bangerz Era (2013-2014)
The last time Miley Cyrus found herself sitting atop the Hot 100 was nearly a decade ago, in August of 2013. That year, Cyrus signed with RCA records and released her fourth album, Bangerz. The album marked an acceleration in her career, launching her from being the biggest Disney Pop star to being one of the biggest pop stars, period. The album’s lead single, “We Can’t Stop,” was a massive hit, topping the charts in multiple countries and ascending to #2 in the United States, matching her previous best with “Party In The USA.” Her performance of the track alongside Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards became one of the most prolific and controversial in the show’s history, leading to a flurry of criticism but also publicity.
Following her VMAs performance, the album’s next single, “Wrecking Ball,” exploded upon impact. The emotional ballad showcased her vocal range and talent – in stark contrast to the widespread criticism she had just endured – and its music video featured Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball while wearing very little (if any) clothing, becoming an instant viral sensation. “Wrecking Ball” became one of the biggest hits of 2013 and topped the Hot 100 for three weeks as her first (and until recently, only) number-one single. The success of the album’s singles powered it to a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, with 270,000 copies sold in its first week, just behind Katy Perry‘s Prism and ahead of Lady Gaga‘s ARTPOP as one of the best female-led debut weeks of that year.
Post-Bangerz Era (2015-2019)
Following the success of Bangerz, Cyrus continued to release music and collaborate with other artists but charted a path unlike her contemporaries. In 2015, she returned to the VMA stage, where she rebelliously announced that her new album, Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz, would be available online to stream and download for free as a release independent from RCA. While Cyrus would promote the album with an SNL performance and more, the record wouldn’t make it onto streaming services until weeks before the beginning of another musical era.
On May 11th, 2017, Cyrus released the lead single “Malibu” from her then-upcoming fifth studio album (and second RCA project), Younger Now. The breezy pop track would notch a No. 10 peak on the Hot 100, but would fail to match the radio success of her Bangerz singles. Meanwhile, the album represented a significant departure from her Pop trap-inspired previous work, with a more acoustic and country-focused sound, and themes of personal growth and reflection. The album received mixed reviews from critics while the public discourse focused on her abandonment of black aesthetics, and Younger Now’s commercial performance reflected that. It debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, representing a precipitous drop from the first week of Bangerz, with just 45,000 units moved in its first week.
The Younger Now era would abruptly conclude without a tour, leaving Cyrus to explore creatively. In the interim of her studio projects, Cyrus collaborated with several A-list artists. She worked with Mark Ronson and The Kid LAROI on hit singles which would become worldwide hits, and with Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey on the song “Don’t Call Me Angel” for the soundtrack of the 2019 film “Charlie’s Angels.” That same year she released an EP, She Is Coming, which also debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, while the project’s lone single, “Mother’s Daughter,” pewtered out at No. 54.
Recent Developments (2020-2021)
Like it was for most, 2020 proved to be a challenging year for Cyrus. She divorced her long-time on-again-off-again lover Liam Hemsworth and faced an acclivous music industry environment for her upcoming release. Her seventh studio album, Plastic Hearts, was preceded by the glam-rock lead single “Midnight Sky,” which became her first lead to fail to crack the Hot 100’s Top 10. While the album would debut at #2 on the Billboard 200, its first week was marred by distribution disruptions around Black Friday and the pandemic.
However, this period would plant the seeds for her eventual comeback: the album showcased a more rock-oriented sound, with Cyrus drawing inspiration from classic rock and punk. The album received positive reviews from critics and fans, beating the buzzer on arriving late to the Pop Rock trend and reaffirming her talent beyond spectacle. In addition, her live covers of “Zombie” and “Heart of Glass” would go viral across the internet, particularly TikTok, warming up old fans for future activation and introducing her to a generation of listeners who were too young to recall Hannah Montana. As a result, RCA re-delivered the album to music providers, with the covers racking up hundreds of millions of streams and keeping the project afloat longer than any of her albums since Bangerz.
A Miley Cyrus Comeback: “Flowers” and Endless Summer Vacation (2022-present)
In 2022, Cyrus signed a new record deal with Columbia Records, home to her sister Noah Cyrus, and announced her first tour in seven years, the aptly titled ‘Attention Tour.’ The worldwide tour saw her hit the festival circuit, again warming up old fans for a new Pop era. In April, she released her first live album, Attention: Miley Live, which performed modestly worldwide but gave listeners another fresh offering from the superstar.
At the end of the year, ahead of the second Miley’s New Year’s Eve Party, she began teasing “New Year, New Miley” on social media. That evening, she announced that her new single, “Flowers,” would release on January 12th, alongside the artwork for her new album, Endless Summer Vacation. While Columbia and Cyrus deftly promoted the single in the days and weeks leading up to its release date, her fanbase pushed it to even greater heights by igniting online conversations. Before the single’s release, her fans circulated meme-ified versions of the album artwork with Cyrus hanging on global landmarks. In response, her team leaned into the trend and provided a free PNG cutout of Cyrus to continue fueling the phenomenon. This was in addition to Columbia’s paid marketing with posters across various markets, a new Miley Cyrus discord server, and Spotify advertisements and homepage takeovers driving fans to her artist playlists. The excitement and devotion of her fans alongside her team’s shrewd marketing strategies were critical to ensuring a successful single launch.
Upon the song’s release, rumors almost instantly swirled around the song’s lyrics and its video; some verifiable, like the identical lyrical structure to “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars, and others more conspiratorial, like that the mansion in the video was where Hemsworth cheated on Cyrus with over a dozen women. Either way, discussion about the song and clips from it spread across social media, with more than 3.5M videos using the song’s audio on TikTok in just over a month.
This online discussion and advertising for the single dominated the typically slow first days of the new year, culminating in a chart-shattering debut for the single. “Flowers” launched atop the Hot 100 with 52.6 million streams, 33.5 million radio airplay audience impressions, and 70,000 digital downloads sold,https://www.billboard.com/music/chart-beat/miley-cyrus-flowers-number-one-debut-hot-100-bizarrap-shakira-top-10-1235204226/ one of the strongest performances for a song this decade, a sharp contrast to the disappointing start for her previous lead “Midnight Sky.” “Flowers” broke Spotify’s global record for the most streams in a single week – twice – and has since become her longest-running No. 1 hit in Australia, France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and more. The juggernaut single also powered her back catalog, with many of her previous singles doubling in daily streams and re-entering charts around the globe in what can only be described as a Miley Cyrus renaissance.
Despite the tamer commercial performances of her recent projects, Miley Cyrus never lost her star power and potential for smash hits. Her massive fanbase and social media following were only dormant, waiting for the right culmination of music and promotion to erupt. After winding her way through various genres over the last decade, Cyrus’s return to true, straight ahead Pop has cemented her status as one of the most important pop stars of the millennium.