Noah Cyrus might be better known for big pop moments such as her 2016 Labrinth collaboration ‘Make Me Cry’, but she has Americana and country in her bones. Miley‘s sister is the youngest daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus’ clan and was raised in Nashville; her new collaborative EP with Australian singer-songwriter PJ Harding feels like a natural next step on the 21-year-old’s musical journey. It’s not so much doing something new as it is coming home.
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The ‘People Don’t Change’ EP is far from Cyrus and Harding’s first time teaming up. The pair originally met back in 2018 at a songwriting camp in Bali and, when they reunited at the same gathering a year later, began working on the songs that would go on to form the core of Cyrus’ 2020 EP ‘The End Of Everything’.
This time, both artists get equal billing and the tracks on this new record seem to pull evenly from the music scenes in their respective homelands. ‘People Don’t Change’ builds on the folky sound Cyrus dipped into on ‘The End Of Everything’ and fleshes it out into something more emotional and beautiful.
Whereas that last EP had some irreverence in the likes of ‘I Got So High That I Saw Jesus’, this record is made for sadder moments. On ‘Cannonball’, the pair sing of “disappointment” and “cold indifference” as a simple piano melody revolves in waltz-time. It’s sparse and poignant, like revisiting the scene of a party the morning after, when the glee has evaporated and all that’s left is dirt and debris. ‘The Worst Of You’, meanwhile, details a relationship that has passed its expiration date, Cyrus and Harding singing in unison over finger-picked guitars: “You’re never gonna change / Hell, you’re never gonna try.”
There are glimmers of hope here occasionally. On the mandolin chimes of ‘Dear August’, the duo refer to last summer, when Cyrus was struggling with quarantine, the loss of her grandma and depression and anxiety. There’s still sorrow embedded here, but optimism peeks through when they sing: “Dear August, tell me that there’s light / At the end of all this starless night.” Things might be dark now, but they still believe things can get better one day – all they need is the sun to come up.
Understated and gentle, ‘People Don’t Change’ is a gorgeous leap forward in the youngest Cyrus’ ever-evolving story. If she continues down this path, it’s not hard to imagine her becoming a household name in her own right, regardless of her family’s fame.
Label: RCA Records
Release date: April 23