Miley Cyrus’ 20 Most Underrated Songs, From ‘23’ to ‘On


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Miley Cyrus at the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival Joseph Llanes

From being Disney’s pop princess in “Hannah Montana” to breaking out with “Bangerz” to creating cover songs arguably better than the originals, Miley Cyrus is a master of musical evolution — and a new era is about to begin with the release of her eighth album, “Endless Summer Vacation,” on March 10.

We all may be familiar with hits like “Party in the USA” and “We Can’t Stop,” but Variety took a look at Cyrus’ greatest tracks that may have flown under the radar. Though Cyrus is no stranger to buying herself bouquets, these underrated songs throughout her music career deserve their flowers, too.

  • ‘See You Again’

    Miley Cyrus performs on NBC's Today at Rockefeller Plaza on July 25, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)Miley Cyrus performs on NBC's Today at Rockefeller Plaza on July 25, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage) Image Credit: WireImage

    Today, this song hits just as hard for me, a 23-year-old, as it did when I would jam out to it on my way to ballet class in third grade. Backed by a pulsing club-like beat, “See You Again” evokes all the pre-teen jitters of having a crush and knowing that maybe, just maybe, they like you back. The opening track of her 2007 debut album “Meet Miley Cyrus,” “See You Again” introduced fans to Cyrus’ spunky, confident side that’s still alive and well today. With a powerhouse chorus that’s home to the iconic lyric “my best friend Lesley said, ‘Oh she’s just being Miley’” (where is Lesley now? Did she ever even exist?), it’s my personal hot take that this is one of the best songs of Cyrus’ career thus far. And to think she was only 15 when she delivered such a banger! 

    Ellise Shafer

  • ‘Start All Over’

    Miley Cyrus Start All OverMiley Cyrus Start All Over Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    “Start All Over,” the underrated highlight of Cyrus’ debut studio album, offers a rare glimpse at the two-time Grammy winner’s capacity to nail the pop-punk genre. A heavy electric guitar riff sets the tone for Cyrus to wail into the mic, singing jaded lyrics like: “Out of the fire and into the fire again/ You make me want to forget/ And start all over.” In the corresponding music video, Cyrus even dresses the part of a punk rocker, clad in suspenders, a black sequined vest and fiery red pants. Joining her on-screen for a spontaneous concert is a wacky cast of characters — ranging from an astronaut to a man on stilts — making this track pretty hard to forget. Listen to the track to blow off some steam, or watch the music video for the full, surreal experience.

    — Katie Reul

  • ‘I Miss You’

    Singer Miley Cyrus performs onstage during KIIS-FM's 2008 Wango Tango held at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on May 10, 2008 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)Singer Miley Cyrus performs onstage during KIIS-FM's 2008 Wango Tango held at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on May 10, 2008 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic) Image Credit: FilmMagic

    The first song I remember crying to, Cyrus’ debut album closer “I Miss You” is a sentimental ballad with an earworm of a melody that has stuck with me for over a decade. Can you tell this album had an indelible impact on my life? Written about the death of her grandfather, Ron Cyrus, this song is a rumination on love and loss that was more profound than my 8-year-old self could even comprehend. The chorus is simple, but so effective (“I miss you/ I miss your smile/ And I still shed a tear every once in a while”) and Cyrus’ sugary-sweet voice glides over the notes with her signature country twang.

    — Ellise Shafer

  • ‘The Driveway’

    LAS VEGAS - APRIL 04:  Singer Miley Cyrus rehearses onstage for the 44th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards held the MGM Grand Garden Arena at on April 4, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. *EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE*  (Photo by Kevin Winter/ACM2009/Getty Images for ACM)LAS VEGAS - APRIL 04:  Singer Miley Cyrus rehearses onstage for the 44th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards held the MGM Grand Garden Arena at on April 4, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. *EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE*  (Photo by Kevin Winter/ACM2009/Getty Images for ACM) Image Credit: Kevin Winter/ACM2009

    Cyrus’ teenage romance has hit a roadblock, so the singer describes the end of the relationship and impending breakup through a driving metaphor in this underrated pop-rock ballad: “After 12, not so well/ Won’t pretend it’s too soon to tell/ What’s round this bend?…I guess the driveway will be the end of the road.” The singer realizes it’s time to end the relationship but knows “I can’t think of what I’ve learned right now, but I’ll be thanking you someday.” Sandwiched between hits “7 Things” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” on the singer’s second studio album, Cyrus’ breakup anthem “The Driveway” never blew up despite its emotional maturity backed by stellar instrumentals — but it is nonetheless a passionate, karaoke-perfect track for fans to enjoy.

    — Julia MacCary

  • ’23’ by Mike Will Made It (ft. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J)

    23 Miley Cyrus23 Miley Cyrus Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    In this Michael Jordan tribute song that the Bulls legend has certainly never heard, Miley drops some knowledge on one of her only recorded rap verses. The once-aspiring hip-hop star — who less than four years earlier admitted that she’d “never heard a Jay-Z song” — spits real shit about partying in the club, despite being 20 at the time. While her rhymes might not attract Kendrick Lamar’s level of Pulitzer attention (“Drinking out the bottle, I got no respect/ Looking like a model, who just got a check”), she’s having some goofy fun in this Mike Will Made It track. Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa ride the beat a bit more naturally, as comfortable as possible over a wobbling synth that sounds like a police siren remixed by clowns. Yet all of these elements shoot the moon when cobbled together, blaring out of the loudest speaker possible. What’s the best state of mind to vibe with it? Take Miley’s advice: “High on purp, with some shades on.”

    — William Earl

  • ‘Rooting for My Baby’

    US singer Miley Cyrus performs on stage during her concert at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, on June 22, 2014, as part of her Bangerz Tour.  / AFP PHOTO / ANP / PAUL BERGEN        (Photo credit should read PAUL BERGEN/AFP via Getty Images)US singer Miley Cyrus performs on stage during her concert at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, on June 22, 2014, as part of her Bangerz Tour.  / AFP PHOTO / ANP / PAUL BERGEN        (Photo credit should read PAUL BERGEN/AFP via Getty Images) Image Credit: AFP via Getty Images

    Written by Pharrell Williams and Cyrus, “Rooting for My Baby” was released as a bonus track for the deluxe edition of “Bangerz” and drastically deviates from much of the twerk-inducing urban pop that is a mainstay throughout her fourth studio album. The song’s folky and elliptical harmonies are enough to trigger tears as Cyrus’ ragged vocals describe an innate yearning to ease the pain of her broken partner — “Just hold on, in a minute it’ll be over and gone,” she begs while the music soothingly unspools to support her. Fans of Fleetwood Mac will surely find something to enjoy in this bonus track that somehow snuck under the radar.

    — Thania Garcia

  • ‘Drive’

    US singer Miley Cyrus performs during her Bangerz tour at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico, in Mexico City, on September 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO /RONALDO SCHEMIDT        (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)US singer Miley Cyrus performs during her Bangerz tour at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico, in Mexico City, on September 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO /RONALDO SCHEMIDT        (Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP via Getty Images) Image Credit: AFP via Getty Images

    Cyrus continued the driving-metaphor breakup anthem trend with “Drive” on “Bangerz,” singing “Drive my heart into the night/ You can drop the keys off in the morning/ ‘Cause I don’t wanna leave home, without your love.” Infusing elements of dub-step, hip-hop and EDM, “Drive” shapes up to be a heartbreaking electro-R&B ballad where Miley comes to terms with her ending relationship. The song was produced by Mike Will Made It and written by the producer, Cyrus, P-Nasty, Baby E and Sam Hook. To make matters more heart-wrenching, Cyrus has also said she wrote the song on Valentine’s Day… oof. 

    — Julia MacCary

  • ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ by The Flaming Lips (ft. Miley Cyrus and Moby)

    LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Musician Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips (L) and host Miley Cyrus, styled by Simone Harouche, perform onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images)LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Musician Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips (L) and host Miley Cyrus, styled by Simone Harouche, perform onstage during the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images) Image Credit: Getty Images

    Covering classic rock from the Cranberries to Blondie, one of Cyrus’ least frequently talked about covers is her collaboration with the Flaming Lips on the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Unlike her rendition of “The Bitch Is Back,” Cyrus doesn’t adapt the melody or structure of the hit 1967 song but enhances the hypnotizing elements that fans have loved for decades. The percussions and synths that bookend each chorus become intoxicating, providing an additional psychedelic element to the experimental “Sgt. Pepper’s” favorite. Accompanied by the dramatic instrumentals, Cyrus sings with a powerful yet restrained whisper that guides the listener into a contemporary hallucinatory experience.

    — Charna Flam

  • ‘Twinkle Song’

    Miley Cyrus Twinkle Song SNLMiley Cyrus Twinkle Song SNL Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    After scoring her first No. 1 hit with “Wrecking Ball” (and a No. 2 with “We Can’t Stop”), Cyrus swung away from the hip-hop-influenced commercial success of her fourth album “Bangerz” in favor of the off-kilter pop psychedelia of “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz,” which features song titles like “Milky Milky Milk” and “Miley Tibetan Bowlzzz.” While “Dead Petz” split critics and flopped on the charts — it didn’t even make the Billboard 200 — it’s since been branded as an underrated, bold artistic choice and garnered somewhat of a cult following. “Twinkle Song,” the album’s closer, begins a gentle piano ballad with surrealist lyrics: “I had a dream David Bowie taught us how to skateboard/ But he was shaped like Gumby.” But toward the end of the song, Cyrus blows the roof off, belting out the chorus in one of her most tantalizing, raw vocal takes to date. 

    — Ethan Shanfeld

  • ‘I Forgive Yiew’

    CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 19:  Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips on Her Dead Petz tour opener at The Riviera Theatre on November 19, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 19:  Miley Cyrus and The Flaming Lips on Her Dead Petz tour opener at The Riviera Theatre on November 19, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic) Image Credit: FilmMagic

    There’s a ton of great, messy songs on “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz,” Cyrus’ defiant follow-up to (and double-down on) “Bangerz,” her musical declaration of adulthood. Pairing Mike Will Made It’s hip-hop production with songwriting assisted by the Flaming Lips, she strikes a beautiful, kaleidoscopic balance between romantic melodicism and absolute emotional honesty — never better than on “I Forgive Yiew,” where she navigates feelings of betrayal and liberation in the wake of a former lover’s philandering. For listeners, it offers the exact kind of advice they’re most apt to listen to — from a person acknowledging how complicated it can be — but for Cyrus, whose romantic entanglements she puts on such unvarnished, vivid display, it feels like a celebration and a warning to herself all at once.

    — Todd Gilchrist

  • ‘I Would Die for You’

    NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 29:  Miley Cyrus performs onstage during a welcome home party for Miley Cyrus and her fans to celebrate her new album NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 29:  Miley Cyrus performs onstage during a welcome home party for Miley Cyrus and her fans to celebrate her new album Image Credit: Kevin Mazur

    This heart-wrenching track off Cyrus’ sixth studio album is a true testament to the pop singer’s country roots, pairing stripped-down instrumentals with raw vocals. The chorus is the perfect showcase of Cyrus’ extensive vocal range, as she seamlessly transitions between delicate high notes and husky lows. “I Would Die for You” masquerades as a love song with soft-spoken lyrics like “I am yours and you are mine/ I have your heart, I don’t even need a ring.” But mournful lines like “I’ve heard I’ve got words like a knife/ That I don’t know how to choose just so wisely” suggest the track might be a love letter to a relationship that could have been. Did somebody say Liam Hemsworth? No, just me? Alright.

    — Katie Reul

  • ‘The Bitch Is Back’

    SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1729 -- Pictured: Miley Cyrus performs SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 1729 -- Pictured: Miley Cyrus performs Image Credit: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via

    One of Cyrus’ more underrated covers is her version of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s 1974 hit “The Bitch Is Back” from the 2018 compilation album, “Restoration.” With cowbells and heightened string accompaniments, Cyrus’ version of the rock song — which already embraces country elements — secures the singer within one of her more recognizable genres. Throughout “Restoration,” country singers develop twists for John and Taupin’s songs and hone in on the hidden country elements. Still, Cyrus’ song stands out through its upbeat revision and extreme demonstration of her wide vocal range and genre malleability. 

    — Charna Flam

  • ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ by Mark Ronson (ft. Miley Cyrus)

    Miley Cyrus Nothing Breaks Like a HeartMiley Cyrus Nothing Breaks Like a Heart Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    Miley Cyrus was just entering her next gen-Stevie Nicks phase when she collaborated with Mark Ronson on “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” the song that would become the first single on his 2019 album “Late Night Feelings.” She announced she was already tired of her then most recent album “Younger Now” two weeks before its release, but you can immediately tell how revitalized she was to collaborate with someone who understood, leaned into and amplified her old-soul rock goddess spirit in the way Ronson does here. There’s an urgency and an investment she exudes in the song, a more poetic and yet precise interpretation of the emotional tumultuousness she’d expressed in the past, that instantly catapulted it into the canon of her best work — and more than that, among contemporary songs that fit and deserve a place next to the guitar heroes and heroines on whose shoulders she stands.

    — Todd Gilchrist

  • ‘The Most’

    Miley CyrusMiley Cyrus Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    “The Most” delivers a heartfelt, introspective song at the end of “She Is Coming,” one of Cyrus’ arguably most genre-blending albums. Cyrus teamed back up with Mark Ronson for this track along with Bon Iver and DJ Burton to create the project’s concluding remarks. The singer talks about hurting the people she loves: “How many times have I left you in the deep? I don’t know why you still believe in my… Why do I hurt you so? Is it cause you love me the most?” While “She Is Coming” did not do “The Most” in terms of numbers (except, maybe, “Mother’s Daughter”), this song deserves more praise.

    — Julia MacCary

  • ‘On a Roll (DallasK Remix)’ by Ashley O

    Ashley O Miley CyrusAshley O Miley Cyrus Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    Hannah Montana isn’t Cyrus’ only singing alter ego – Ashley O came to life in the third episode of the fifth “Black Mirror” series entitled “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too.” Through the show, Cyrus created “On a Roll” and “Right Where I Belong,” both of which are based on songs by industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. “On a Roll” uses the melody of “Head Like a Hole” (1989), but changes the lyrics to be optimistic and empowering, unlike the “Black Mirror” episode’s themes. “On a Roll” later blew up on TikTok with its recognizable “Oh, honey.” The DallasK remix adds a beat drop that takes the uplifting track to the next level and demonstrates that Cyrus can nail any kind of song, including an EDM banger. 

    — Julia MacCary

  • ‘Slide Away’

    Miley Cyrus Slide AwayMiley Cyrus Slide Away Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    If Cyrus’ juxtaposition between rock and hip-hop, country and psychedelia didn’t always achieve harmonious results, she navigates a pretty perfect balance between those extremes on “Slide Away,” on which “Bangerz” producer Mike Will Made It and “Plastic Heart” producer Andrew Watt reconcile their differences for a song about an elegant, golden-hour farewell to Cyrus’ relationship (presumably with Liam Hemsworth, but after a few albums’ worth of commentary, it feels less rueful or conflicted than at long last cathartic). It remains to be seen if she’s still working through these feelings on future records, or maybe if she just decides to capitalize on the creative fruit the conflicts bear, but if this is the real farewell to that particular relationship, it thankfully verbalizes it with clear-eyed realization rather than conflicted regret.

    — Todd Gilchrist

  • ‘Golden G String’

    Miley CyrusMiley Cyrus Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    One of Cyrus’ more suggestive titles and unexpected ballads, “Golden G String” doesn’t inherently come off as politically provocative. But the singer has since revealed that the synth-based ballad is about former President Donald Trump. While the chorus negs at the world in which Cyrus wrote the song, it’s in the final verse that listeners can finally feel her passion. Cyrus delicately sings: “So the mad man’s in the big chair/ And his heart’s an iron vault/ He says, ‘If you can’t make ends meet, honey, it must be your fault’/ We all focus on the winners/ And get blinded by their shine.” Given Cyrus’ affinity towards classic rock, it comes as no surprise that she concludes the verse shouting out a year relegated for its rock: “Maybe caring for each other’s just too 1969.”

    — Charna Flam

  • ‘Zombie’

    Miley Cyrus ZombieMiley Cyrus Zombie Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    This pick may not be wholly underrated, but Cyrus’ cover of the Cranberries’ 1994 masterpiece “Zombie” is a triumph in and of itself. Backed by one hell of a live band, Cyrus’ dark and raspy tone fits the song’s apocalyptic mood perfectly, giving her powerhouse vocals perhaps the truest showcase they’ve ever known. It’s a big feat to cover a song Dolores O’Riordan’s yodel-tinged belt originally graced, but Cyrus steps up to the plate here and the result is nothing less than jaw-dropping. Yeah, I’m going to need to see Cyrus as the frontwoman of a badass rock band sooner rather than later. 

    — Ellise Shafer

  • ‘Bad Karma’ (ft. Joan Jett)

    Miley Cyrus Bad Karma LiveMiley Cyrus Bad Karma Live Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    While Cyrus has a discography packed with songs fans can passionately belt along to, her “Plastic Hearts” collaboration with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “Bad Karma,” might be one of the few that hasn’t fully reached audiences. The two slowly build passion as the song progresses, and Cyrus invites listeners to fervently join in her delivery of the chrous: “They say its bad karma being such a heartbreaker/ I’ve always picked a giver because I’ve been a taker/ I’d rather just do it then I’ll think about it later/ Kiss bad karma.”

    — Charna Flam

  • ‘Wrecking Ball x Nothing Compares 2 U’

    Miley Cyrus Wrecking Ball x Nothing Compares 2 UMiley Cyrus Wrecking Ball x Nothing Compares 2 U Image Credit: Courtesy YouTube

    Cyrus proved it is possible to dearly miss the person who completely “wrecked” you in this live mashup. The singer performed the song at the Bud Light Super Bowl Fest at the Los Angeles Arena in February 2022. The song features her hit “Wrecking Ball” (2013) in a lower key and goes into Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1984), and later circles back to Cyrus’ song, adding emotion more raw and real than the studio recording. The transitions are seamless, going from the chorus of “Wrecking Ball” to that of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and then sliding into the verse of the ballad and back into the “Wrecking Ball” bridge. Cyrus’ final chorus is the perfect climax of emotion, sounding even better live than the “Wrecking Ball” recording. Give this one a little more “attention.”

    — Julia MacCary

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