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Top 10 Miley Cyrus Rock and Roll Covers

on November 12, 2020, 12:00am
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10. “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” (Arctic Monkeys Cover)

This sultry, funky number from Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 album, AM, was perfect for Miley when she performed it on MTV Unplugged in 2014. Bangerz had been released not too long before this MTV performance, so a song about calling someone up in the middle of the night because you’ve possibly had a little bit too much [insert drug of choice here]? Right up her alley. We were well into the swinging-on-wrecking-balls era of Miley in 2014, and her persona would only continue to get weirder the following year when she became very buddy-buddy with The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne. With “Why’d You Only Call Me…” the pop singer starts the song off simply, sticking pretty similarly to how Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner sings it, but by the end, she’s turned it into a full on Miley song, the pop star scream-singing in a way that would wipe the average person out, but makes her even more powerful. –Annie Black

09. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana Cover)

For some people, there will always be something sacred about Kurt Cobain, and they will heap scorn and derision for anyone who approaches that hallowed altar. But the truth is, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a part of the American songbook, and Cyrus seems to be having a blast ripping into this grunge standard. The performance above comes from the 2011 “Gypsy Heart Tour”, which Cyrus didn’t take to America. She said at the time, “I just think right now America has gotten to a place where I don’t know if they want me to tour or not. Right now I just want to go to the places where I am getting the most love, and Australia and South America have done that for me.” Further away from critical eyes, she relished the opportunity to let loose, ping-ponging between the soft and hard sections with reckless glee. –Wren Graves

08. “Just Breathe” (Pearl Jam Cover)

Miley Cyrus could sing any Pearl Jam song and it would be a crowd-pleaser, but her delivery of the Backspacer single “Just Breathe” is something special on its own. She peeled back the layers on the track and found what she was looking for in its true core. Drifting over the song’s gentle melody, Miley’s vocals start softly and get grittier and grittier as the song progresses, turning the original piece of music into something that feels more raw, more powerful than Eddie Vedder’s initial performance. Changing the song into that of a woman’s perspective could be responsible, or it could just be that Miley feels a strong connection to Vedder’s lyrics, but either way, her energy and vulnerability in her performance is palpable. –Annie Black

07. “Wish You Were Here” (Pink Floyd Cover)

Miley Cyrus performed Pink Floyd’s 1975 track “Wish You Were Here” for Saturday Night Live at Home this past April, towards the beginning of the pandemic. An excellent song choice, Miley sings her version of the Pink Floyd classic with a pining that only could come from what we were dealing with as a country in April —  businesses closed, friends and families separated, the world completely at a pause. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Sung over simple strumming, Miley’s rendition could very well have been a capella. All focus was on her strong, yet quiet, unwavering voice. For all of her vocal talent, she keeps it simple on “Wish You Were Here”, letting the song speak for itself in a time of complete and utter uncertainty. –Annie Black

06. “Nothing Else Matters” (Metallica Cover)

The cover that launched the cover album. Cyrus performed “Nothing Else Matters” only once, at Glastonbury 2019. Crammed into the confines of a Festival slot, she skipped most of the original track’s slow building of tension and turned a six-and-a-half-minute epic into a three-minute scorcher. After that first “Nothing else matters!”, the song is already a success, and the second “Nothing else matters!” tops it. She inflects the verses with the appropriate snarl, and when she snaps off the “know” on “And I know!”, her voice crackles like lightning. A powerhouse performance. –Wren Graves

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