A boundary-breaking artist, Miley Cyrus incorporates different styles — pop, country, hip-hop, and indie — into her music as she balances, and sometimes blends, her careers as an actress and singer. She established her voice with early singles such as 2009′s “Party in the U.S.A.” and furthered her reputation as a freewheeling, sometimes controversial performer with 2013′s hip-hop-influenced, Grammy-nominated, triple-platinum album Bangerz. As the 2010s unfolded, Cyrus’ work grew more eclectic. On the trippy pop of 2015′s Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, she collaborated with members of Flaming Lips and Phantogram; on 2017′s Younger Now, she paid homage to her country music heritage and worked with Dolly Parton. By the time of her performance as Ashley O on the fifth season of Black Mirror and 2020′s rock- and disco-tinged Plastic Hearts, Cyrus proved she could mix and match all of these different sides of her work with abandon, and keep fans guessing in the process.
Born Destiny Hope Cyrus in Franklin, Tennessee, her mother Tish and her father, country star Billy Ray Cyrus, gave her the nickname “Smiley” — which they soon shortened to Miley — because of her cheerful disposition. She caught the acting bug in 2001 after seeing a production of Mama Mia!, and made her debut with a small role on Billy Ray’s TV series Doc in 2003. That year, she also appeared in the Tim Burton film Big Fish. In 2005, Cyrus won the lead role in the Disney Channel TV series Hannah Montana, which chronicled the adventures of Miley Stewart, a teenage girl who moves from Nashville to Malibu and lives a secret life as a pop star; Billy Ray played her father and manager, Robbie Stewart. When it debuted the following March, Hannah Montana became an instant hit. The show’s first soundtrack appeared in October 2006, topped the Billboard 200 Albums chart, and went on to sell over three-million copies around the world. By March 2009, the 16-year-old Cyrus was the youngest performer to have four chart-topping albums. The country-pop ballad “The Climb,” from that year’s Hannah Montana: The Movie soundtrack, became Miley’s first multi-platinum hit.
Cyrus’ solo career was just as successful. In July 2008, her album Breakout topped the Billboard 200 Albums chart. That year, Cyrus’ work in the animated film Bolt earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Her EP The Time of Our Lives appeared in August 2009 and yielded “Party in the U.S.A.,” a hit that charted inside the Billboard Top Ten for 16 weeks. She also found time to film another movie, an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel The Last Song, which hit theaters in 2010. That June, she delivered the darker, dance music-influenced album Can't Be Tamed; it reached number three on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.
Following the release of Can't Be Tamed, Cyrus took a hiatus from music. She made a number of television appearances that included cameos on MTV’s Punk’d and CBS’ Two and a Half Men, and also had roles in films such as 2012′s LOL and So Undercover. By 2012, she began her return to music, releasing online videos of performances of her favorite songs. She also collaborated with producers including Rock Mafia and Borgore and worked with Snoop Lion and will.i.am (“Fall Down,” her 2013 single with the Black Eyed Peas founder, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 58). To make her next album, she enlisted Pharrell Williams, Mike WiLL Made-It, and other well-known rap producers. The result was Bangerz, which combined hip-hop beats with elements of synth pop, electro, and stadium rock, and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 in October 2013. The album also spawned the chart-topping single “Wrecking Ball” and “We Can’t Stop,” which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. To make the break from her child-star days even clearer, Cyrus promoted Bangerz with a controversial performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. The following January, her MTV Unplugged performance — which featured guest star Madonna — became the show’s most popular episode in a decade. In 2015, Bangerz was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 57th Grammy Awards.
While touring in support of the album, Cyrus appeared on With a Little Help from My Fwends, the Flaming Lips’ reworking of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and had the band join her on-stage for several tour dates. She also worked with the group’s frontman, Wayne Coyne, on her own music. Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz was announced and released online for free immediately after the 2015 MTV VMAs, which Cyrus hosted. In addition to Coyne, the album featured Bangerz producers Mike WiLL Made-It and Oren Yoel, as well as cameos by Big Sean, Ariel Pink, and Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel. In early 2016, Cyrus signed on to become a judge on NBC’s The Voice, replacing Gwen Stefani. Later that year, she co-starred in Woody Allen’s miniseries Crisis in Six Scenes.
After lending her voice to the robot alien warrior Mainframe in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Cyrus returned to music with September 2017′s Younger Now. Co-written and produced by Cyrus and Yoel and featuring vocals by Cyrus’ godmother, Dolly Parton, the album boasted a rootsier sound than her previous work and debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Cyrus then appeared as a coach on the 13th season of The Voice, and in 2018 headed into the studio with producers including Andrew Wyatt and Mark Ronson. Late that year, her first collaboration with Ronson, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” arrived and hit number 43 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart the following January.
In 2019, Cyrus appeared in the fifth season of the British sci-fi anthology TV series Black Mirror as pop star Ashley O in the episode “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too.” “On a Roll” — a clever reinterpretation of Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” — became a viral streaming hit and topped The Hollywood Reporter’s TV Songs chart, making Cyrus one of a handful of singers who appeared on the charts under three separate monikers. Under her own name, Cyrus issued May 2019′s She Is Coming EP, as well as June’s “Mother’s Daughter,” August’s “Slide Away,” and September’s “Don’t Call Me Angel,” a collaboration with Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey that appeared on the Charlie's Angels soundtrack. All three singles charted on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to her work as a performer, Cyrus also made helping others a priority by starting the Malibu Foundation to aid the community of the wildfires that devastated California’s Los Angeles and Ventura counties in November 2018, and by founding the Happy Hippie Foundation, which has supported homeless and LGBTQ youth.
Cyrus launched her next album with the August 2020 release of “Midnight Sky,” a personal, disco-tinged single inspired by the sounds of Debbie Harry and Stevie Nicks (the song spawned the remix “Edge of Midnight,” a mash-up with Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”). Featuring collaborations with producers including Mark Ronson and singers ranging from Dua Lipa to Joan Jett and Billy Idol, November 2020′s Plastic Hearts combined ’80s rock and disco influences with contemporary pop. In another genre mash-up, Cyrus collaborated with an array of disparate artists including Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, and WATT on a 2021 cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” In April of the following year, she released the concert album Attention: Miley Live, the bulk of which was captured during a Los Angeles performance in February 2022. ~ Heather Phares