Every so often, an artist comes along that possesses the innate ability to blur the lines of genre and create meaningful, label-defying work. Over the last several years, Noah Cyrus has proven that she is one of these artists. Her impeccable music joins pop and country together, reflecting her evolution as a person and as an artist.
Born to Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus in Nashville, Noah Cyrus came into the world just eight days after the start of the new millennium. Growing up in what would become a hugely successful show business family, Noah was destined from the start for a life filled with music and fame. As a young child, she made guest appearances on her father’s sitcom “Doc,” and by the time she was six years old, she became famous in her own right as the younger sister of Miley Cyrus, who quickly became a household name for her role as Hannah Montana on Disney Channel. Two short years later, Noah lent her voice to the 2008 film “Ponyo” as the movie’s titular character. Countless times, popular culture has seen young stars with massive amounts of fame forced upon them (notably, Britney Spears) lead difficult and controversial lives. Being recognized by millions of strangers every day is a harrowing experience, especially for a young girl constantly being associated with her older and more famous sister.
At 16 years old, Noah made what seemed to be the first voluntary move in her career. Teaming up with singer and producer Labyrinth, she released her first official single, “Make Me (Cry).” The song set the precedent for the next few years of Cyrus’ career, showcasing her distinctive voice atop alternative pop instrumentation. Not every artist emerges as a mature individual with a fully formed artistic vision like she did, and not every 16-year-old can pull off lines like “love ain’t easy when it ain’t my way” in a convincing manner. Despite Cyrus’ youth, she’s maintained this keen sense of wisdom in almost all of her music.
After a series of exquisite singles and an opening slot on Katy Perry’s “Witness: The Tour” in 2017, Cyrus began infusing her music with hip-hop and R&B influences, collaborating with her then-boyfriend Lil Xan, along with XXXTentacion and producer London On Da Track.
The defining moment in Cyrus’ career arrived in 2019 with the release of her devastatingly emotional Leon Bridges collaboration, “July.” The acoustic song displayed Cyrus in an introspective state, singing about an emotionally abusive relationship. The song marks a shift from her pop/hip-hop style to the pop-influenced country that has become her artistic sweet spot. “‘Cause you remind me every day/I’m not enough, but I still stay,” she sighs alongside Bridges. The song would become the lead single for her second EP, “THE END OF EVERYTHING,” released in 2020. At the time of the EP’s release, Cyrus had just turned 20 years old and had a more adult outlook on life.
Though it was unknown to the public at the time, Cyrus was battling an addiction to Xanax, a drug prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders. This tug-of-war between happiness and hopelessness is reflected in the EP’s eight songs. “Help me/Oh, please, someone help me/I don’t care, anyone, anything/’Cause I’m so sick of being so lonely,” she pleads. The lyrics of the project illustrate an artist struggling with life at the crossroads of adolescence and adulthood. Standouts such as “I Got So High I Saw Jesus” defined Cyrus as a different kind of artist — one that fits into so many different genres, it’s nearly impossible to assign her just one. “And I got so high that I saw Jesus/He said, ‘It’s all gonna be okay/You just need me in your heart,’” she sings with a folksy intonation. The song frames Cyrus in a more optimistic state of mind, finding comfort in a higher power despite the perils of the world and her own personal struggles. Her connection to faith in relation to modern-day experiences opens the door up to a legion of younger listeners hesitant to embrace country music.
The experimental sound that premiered in “THE END OF EVERYTHING” situated Cyrus’ music at its most raw, tender, and honest. Released in September of 2022, her debut album “The Hardest Part” is her greatest feat to date. The opening line of the album, “When I turned twenty, I was overcome/With the thought that I might not turn twenty-one,” highlights a reflection on her addiction with such startling honesty that the song is bound to strike a chord with any first-time listener. This powerful emotion was alluded to in veiled messages on her previous EPs, but “The Hardest Part” ventures closer than ever to the person behind the famous “Cyrus” last name. Songs such as “Mr. Percocet” flip the script and find Cyrus in a relationship with someone else battling addiction, pitifully admitting that “I wish you’d still love me when your drugs wear off in the morning.” She uses the 10 tracks as a form of musical catharsis to reveal her truths and heal from her pain. Though she’s undoubtedly not the only country-adjacent star to sing about heartbreak, loss and addiction, she’s positioned herself as the Gen Z figurehead for weaving elegant and beautiful country songs out of modern struggles.
Today at 23, Noah Cyrus has just about seen and lived it all. Growing up with a famous father and an even more famous older sister didn’t allow for a “normal” coming-of-age, which she identified as the catalyst for some of her personal struggles. She was thrust into show business without consideration for her own desires, and experienced life in a fast-paced manner that has undoubtedly impacted her perception of the world. She’s made her mark on the contemporary music landscape with a three-chords-and-the-truth approach that both country and pop music need.
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