I’ve been seeing a flurry of tweets about how the new Miley Cyrus album isn’t “rock” it’s pop and this to me just feels like fighting words for a multitude of reasons.
Genres are Dead
- It’s 2020, genres are fluid, we live in a beautiful time of distinctive genres being dead. It’s so hard to classify anything especially when there’s so many crossovers. It’s like how hip-hop is the new punk rock and rock is the new pop. You can’t classify something as one or the other. Rock itself is a blend of country and blues, rock has always been a hybrid so why knock the idea of blending it further.
What even is “rock”?
- Is rock music defined by the instruments? If so is any song with guitar and drums a rock song? According to most sources it’s classified as “a form of music with a strong beat,” which is broad af. Miley’s new album has direct inspiration from the 80s form of rock, with obvious allusions to her features and samples from Joan Jett, Billy Idol, and Stevie Nicks. What’s considered “classic rock” is debatable, but I agree with this Britannica definition: the defining term in rock ideology is authenticity. Rock is distinguished from pop as the authentic expression of a performer’s or composer’s feelings and the authentic representation of a social situation.
Are there female rockstars?
- Look it has to be said, if your idea of rockstars is all males maybe that’s your bias. A lot of people wouldn’t even classify Stevie Nicks, Blondie, Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, etc. as rockstars but would name them as pop. Miley has released pop albums in the past but even those albums had a rebellious, dangerous undertone that showed off her love for controversy and rejection of societal norms. She even put off her last project because it didn’t feel like her true self.
Is it just because it’s Miley?
- Miley has been a topic of controversy since she held on to a pole to sing “Party In The U.S.A” and the publics need to tear her down is pretty persistent. From slut-shaming to body-shaming Miley has been through it all and at a super young age. This album feels like a new Miley, one that is embracing all of her past and putting it all out in a very authentic and interesting way. When you look at past histories of what we would deem “iconic rockstars” it’s not their classic rock styling that makes them worthy of that title, it’s their controversy, their innovation, their ability to go against the norm. With all of those qualities, Miley embodies the rock star archetype more than a lot of her peers.
So is Miley’s new album a rock record, yes, of course it is, it’s authentic and brings together an eclectic mix of genres and instruments. It bleeds authenticity and controversy, it’s filled with individuality but also gives credit to iconic predecessors like Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks. It’s a melding of the past and the modern. There’s hints of Miley’s country upbringing, her love for 80s power ballads, and of course her growling rock voice that ties it all together.