Miley Cyrus’s 20 greatest songs – ranked!

From underestimated teen star to uncompromising pop sensation, Cyrus is back dominating global charts with Flowers. Ahead of a new album next week, we rate her best tracks

20. Drive (2013)

A little overshadowed by Bangerz’s big-hitting singles, Drive nevertheless epitomises the album’s cocktail of traditionalism stirred with ultra-modernity, effectively welding a power ballad to dubstep-influenced electronic bass. But there’s more to it than simply co-opting a hip sound: the music’s punishing relentlessness smartly mirrors the lyrics’ break-up anguish.

19. Bad Mood (2017)

Miley Cyrus’s sixth album Younger Now was a reassuring return to more straightforward music after the fan-scaring experimentation of 2015’s Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. Bad Mood broods both lyrically – on the patriarchy – and musically: there’s a vague hint of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk about the rhythm track; it never explodes into the cathartic chorus you expect.

18. Flowers (2023)

A record-breaking hit single that wilfully tapped into the public’s prurient interest in Cyrus’s private life, Flowers is more subtle than the speculation around its inspiration suggested: compare its relatively subdued approach to self-reliance to that of the song that audibly inspired it, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

17. Something About Space Dude (2015)

Behind the lo-fi production of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz lurked some genuinely fantastic songs: if the ballad Something About Space Dude had been arranged differently – losing the weird synth tones and ensuring the guitar was in tune – it could have made it on to one of Cyrus’s less demanding albums: as it is, it’s got a stoned charm of its own.

16. Who Owns My Heart (2010)

Can’t Be Tamed was an album that pointed towards Cyrus’s future, reshaping her image and eschewing the sound that had made her a Disney star in favour of electronic dance-pop. Who Owns My Heart is a little cuter than the music she would go on to make, but there’s something beguiling about its fizzy depthlessness.

15. Angels Like You (2020)

Plastic Hearts came in a cover inspired by punky US shock-rockers the Plasmatics (compare the title font to their logo) but the influence of Wendy O Williams and co didn’t extend to its contents: Angels Like You goes for the big lighters-out ballad jugular with style, the throatiness of Cyrus’s vocal adding a hint of rawness.

14. #GetItRight (2013)

Pharrell Williams comes up with an appealingly off-beam production – trebly guitars pitched between funk and new wave scratchiness, cheap-sounding synth, whistling – and a song that seems to underline Cyrus’s transformation from Hannah Montana to weed-smoking, twerking purveyor of more adult concerns with an irresistible breeziness: “I feel like I got no panties on!”

13. Adore You (2013)

A soft launch for the rejuvenated Bangerz album, opening track Adore You is miles away from the noisy, electronic, rapper-featuring, how-do-you-like-me-now? mood struck by the rest of its contents: a lovesick ballad with tasteful orchestration, it works for the prosaic reason that it’s a really, really well-turned song.

12. 7 Things (2008)

Inspired in equal parts by pop-punk and Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn, 7 Things’ video featured teens hugging cuddly toys and lip-syncing the lyrics. But you might have guessed that Cyrus was cut out for more than kids’ TV fame: 7 Things is a superior example of pop songcraft; moreover she sells it with an intensity and professionalism beyond her years.

11. See You Again (2007)

Cyrus went so far out of her way to dismantle her initial image, it’s easy to overlook the music she made when she was still best known as Hannah Montana, but, as the Strokes-y guitar chug and taut, clipped synths of See You Again proves, it was frequently a distinct cut above will-this-do? kid fodder.

10. We Can’t Stop (2013)

Cyrus later revealed that she “got fought so bad” by a record label horrified by We Can’t Stop’s references to drugs and pansexuality, but as gleeful musical expressions of emancipation from the shackles of teen stardom go, it takes some beating: “We can do what we want … say what we want … kiss who we want … screw who we want.”

9. Nothing Breaks Like a Heart (2018)

Cyrus was born into a Nashville entertainment dynasty; the Mark Ronson-produced Nothing Breaks Like a Heart digs into her country roots, albeit tangentially. You could imagine it rendered as straight-ahead country and western; equally, you can argue that it works precisely because of Ronson’s dancefloor-focused production. Either way, it’s brilliant.

8. Malibu (2017)

The opposite of the shock tactics Cyrus employed during the Bangerz era, you can view Malibu as the singer reaching an accommodation with the pop-rock direction she pursued in her Hannah Montana years. The end result is the perfect summer single: hazily toned, lazily carefree, driven by guitar, super-hooky melody.

7. Can’t Be Tamed (2010)

The best of Cyrus’s early experiments with an electronic pop direction, Can’t Be Tamed suggests at least a passing familiarity with the oeuvre of Goldfrapp circa Black Cherry: stompy glam drums, distorted synths, swaggering lead vocal. There’s a hint of lyrical frustration at her cutsey image, too: “If you try to hold me back, I might explode.”

6. Midnight Sky (2020)

The defiant first single from Plastic Hearts provoked a lot of discussion, but the question of who or what it’s about feels secondary to the fact that it’s just a fabulous slice of pop music, its debt to Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen made more explicit by the (excellent) remix Edge of Midnight, complete with appearance by Nicks herself.

5. Slide Away (2019)

On which Cyrus picks through the wreckage of her failed marriage, reminiscing about the home the couple shared, before announcing that she has cut her losses. It’s so evidently heartfelt that it doesn’t need much more than a killer tune to make its point, but the understated production is lovely nonetheless.

4. The Climb (2009)

Taken from the soundtrack of Hannah Montana: The Movie, co-written by minor country star Jessi Alexander, The Climb is just a far better song than the climactic number in a daft teen movie needed to be: a country-inflected classic power ballad that showed off Cyrus’s fast-maturing vocal chops.

3. Mother’s Daughter (2019)

The She Is Coming EP was all over the place (the RuPaul duet Cattitude might be the worst thing Cyrus has ever recorded) but its opening track was an untrammelled triumph: covering everything from her relationship with her mum to the anti-abortion lobby, it’s authentically furious but hooky as hell.

2. Party in the USA (2009)

Apparently equivocal about the song, Cyrus included Party in the USA on her debut EP out of a lack of other suitable material. But the breeziness of the melody and the Red Hot Chili Peppers-ish guitar contrasts with the anxiousness of the lyrics; the chorus is nailed on and it has sold 7m copies in America alone.

1. Wrecking Ball (2013)

Miley Cyrus has released a succession of great singles in a surprising variety of styles, but Wrecking Ball still reigns supreme over her catalogue. A perfect expression of the pop songwriter-for-hire’s dark arts – a track designed to be a big hit that packs a raw emotional kick – it’s blessed with the kind of tune that sounds weirdly familiar on first hearing, as if it’s a forgotten classic rather than a new song. Cyrus, meanwhile, throws herself headlong into the lyrics, which apparently mirrored her personal situation at the time, and into the track’s quiet-to-loud surges: she sounds alternately vulnerable and livid.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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