Miley Cyrus may have started out life as the daughter of esteemed country musician Billy Ray Cyrus, but she soon broke out on her own becoming a Disney star for the ages. Soon enough, the confines of children’s TV proved too much for the singer to endure and she broke out as a singing sensation. While it’s easy to poke holes in a former child star and their catalogue of work, often far more closely linked to the charts than any kind of credibility, Cyrus has always had the lungs to back it up. One thing is for sure, Miley can sing.
What’s all the more pleasurable for us, especially in recent years, is the singer’s ability to not only write pop tunes but pay homage to the past masters of music with some sensational covers. In fact, she’s been pretty prolific in her delivery of cover songs. Starting way back in the early ’00s her repertoire only grew in 2012 with her Backyard Sessions which was then again reinstated in 2015. With television appearances, Radio 1 Live Lounge showings and her time spent in lockdown, the canon of covers has only increased. Below, we’re bringing you seven of our favourites.
In 2020, Cyrus’ classic show Backyard Sessions was brought back to life as part of a special for MTV Unplugged. The new edition of the show was a stunning reminder of just how far the singer has come from her ultra-pop days. It was a performance that showed she had not only matured in age but in musical style too as she effortlessly handled some of the great rock songs of all time.
In fact, we’d go as far as to say that Miley Cyrus is leading her class in regards to perfecting what a great cover truly is. The truth of the matter is that making a creat cover song is all about the expert balance between delivering a tribute to the past and the original track with a searing new spin on the song. It’s no easy feat to achieve and one which Cyrus should be more resolutely applauded for finessing.
Here, we’re doing just that as we bring you seven of Miley Cyrus’ best covers.
Miley Cyrus’ best covers:
‘Zombie’ – The Cranberries
One of the most imposing songs of the 1990s, ‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries is one of Cyrus’ most recent and most impressive performances. To come anywhere close to matching Dolores O’Riordan’s astounding original vocal is impressive enough but Cyrus puts her own spin on things.
The ’90s banger is built out of folk rhythm and the delicacy of the content at hand — ‘Zombie’ is to this day a fierce anti-war anthem but Cyrus crashes through that with a sincere authenticity on the song. While it may be difficult to see how Cyrus can accurately connect with such material in such a commanding way, it’s equally hard to deny she does it with aplomb.
Performed at the Whisky A Go-Go as part of the Save Our Stages Fest, this cover is worthy of its famous setting.
‘Sweet Jane’ – Velvet Underground
It’s hard to fathom how Lou Reed would have felt about Miley Cyrus taken on one of his alt-pop anthems from Velvet Underground. While we hope he would enjoy the subversion of his sound, something he was more than partial to completing himself, he certainly would have had to admire the confidence of Cyrus.
The singer takes on the track in a sunshine setting as part of the aforementioned MTV Unplugged Backyard Session. The juxtaposition of Cyrus’ final performance and the surroundings Reed would have written the song shouldn’t be lost on anyone and the former child star makes sure of it.
She does that by providing rich and luscious vocals, something Reed couldn’t muster, and polishing every rough edge of the track. It may upset VU fans, but out on its own as a singular song, it’s remarkable.
‘My Future’ – Billie Eilish
OK, so this one is a bit tricky. As mentioned, the usual route to perfection for a good cover sees one singer pay homage to the past talents of another. On this cover, however, it is two contemporaries who share credit. Miley Cyrus sings ‘My Future’ from Billie Eilish.
It’s one of Eilish’s most potent and vulnerable songs and yet, somehow, Miley Cyrus makes the song her own. The gravelled-tone Cyrus brings to proceedings highlights the years of restraint she has practised in her career.
She, in turn, makes Eilish’s song into a unifying anthem for all the generations, not just Gen-Z.
‘Summertime Sadness’ – Lana Del Rey
At this stage in Cyrus’ career, she was having a bit of wild time. A period in her life permanently remembered as the image of Cyrus with her tongue out, begging for attention. Thankfully exiting such stunt-driven pursuits, it’s clear that the singer never lost her talent in those crazier days.
Lana Del Rey is a figure of inspiration for many acts of the time and she clearly had an impact on Cyrus. When given the opportunity to cover a song as part of the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, she chose Del Rey’s anthem ‘Summertime Sadness’. Adding her natural country twang to the vocal performances transforms the power of the track.
What was once a dusky and destitute plea to avoid despair, Cyrus’ cover feels more forthright and vicious. Cyrus absolutely commands the song, proving every ounce of her ability on a bridge like no other.
‘Wish You Were Here’ – Pink Floyd
One of the band’s most iconic songs was given a fresh lick of paint by Miley Cyrus when she took on the track as part of her appearance on Saturday Night Live. It’s rare for a band such as Pink Floyd to get any airtime on a show like SNL but with the guiding hand of Cyrus, the song is given its rightful audience.
The track is often seen as the archetypal Floyd tune and Cyrus, clearly a fan of the band’s melodies and storytelling, remains faithful to the ballad. She provides, however, a far more refined, powerful and ultimately sweeter vocal performance than Roger Waters or David Gilmour could have hoped to.
The fact she decided to opt for such a track for such a coveted TV spot is anyone’s guess but we’re glad she did.
‘Help!’ – The Beatles
The Beatles’ 1965 tune is often mistaken as a simple pop song, after all, the fab four were at the height of their fame when it was written and the chance for another chart-topper was never far from their mind. On this song, however, John Lennon turned his attention away from selling singles and instead cried out for help.
Lyrically, the song sees Lennon at his lowest ebb with The Beatles, desperately trying to reach out to people for a helping hand. Later billed as one of his favourite songs from his time in the group, Cyrus does a stellar job of capturing the mood of the track though perhaps over-eggs the vocal power a touch.
Chosen perhaps more stringently for its title — the performance came as part of a COVID-19 relief special — it still sees the singer pay homage to one of the biggest bands pop music has ever seen.
‘Heart of Glass’ – Blondie
Originally performed live but so widely adored that it has now been made into a single, Cyrus’ cover of the fellow blonde bombshell Debbie Harry and Blondie has proved to be one of her best. It’s not often that Cyrus goes full rock ‘n’ roll but she can’t help but embody it on this one.
Covered for iHeart Music Festival, where Debbie Harry’s angelic vocal once stood strong, Cyrus adds a hefty dose of filthy devilishness to turns this song on its head. Feeling far more akin to a classic rock model in comparison to the original’s disco-punk roots, Cyrus is at her attitude-driven best.
Lover of the original song won’t be best pleased with the change of pace but as a song it’s hard to deny the enjoyment one feels from belting this one out like Miley.