Miley Cyrus' Backyard Sessions: A Love Letter and the 5 Greatest Performances to Watch

Miley Cyrus’ Backyard Sessions: A Love Letter and the 5 Greatest Performances to Watch

If you were a kid in the late 2000s, you probably saw Miley Cyrus in her breakthrough role on Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana. She played the character for five years and was recognised to have a considerably louder voice than most of her Disney contemporaries (excluding Demi Lovato).

Yet it was often difficult to discern with all of the electric guitars, synthesisers, bells, and whistles that typified the show’s soundtrack. The music evolved with her on the show, culminating in the series’ last tune, “I’ll Always Remember You,” an emotional ballad about moving on and growing up. Every Disney kid remembers the song since it signified the end of Cyrus’ youth and many of their own. As the programme ended, Cyrus set out to establish herself as a legitimate artist with exceptional songwriting talents (see: “7 Things”) that would highlight her magnificent voice in ways Hannah Montana had not.

She released her album “Can’t Be Tamed” in 2010, as she prepared for the last season of Hannah Montana. The title tune debuted high on the Billboard 200, but it wasn’t until December 2012 that Cyrus discovered the right arena to showcase her raw vocal ability: her famous YouTube series, “The Backyard Sessions,” in which Cyrus performs stripped-down covers (and eventually originals) in a casual outdoor environment. On Christmas Eve of that year, she posted a version of her godmother Dolly Parton’s famous 1974 country smash “Jolene.” That was one of the first times Cyrus’ characteristic country twang, which worked nicely with the melancholy song, was on full show. Every successive release has achieved at least a million views, with several reaching tens of millions.

Cyrus has subsequently relaunched the famous online series, most recently returning to her previous TV home Disney (in this instance Disney+) for a 42-minute performance special containing songs from her latest album, Endless Summer Vacation, and before that to promote her 2020 album Plastic Hearts.

With the debut of the performance series on the streaming platform, let’s take a look back at some of Cyrus’ most memorable performances from “The Backyard Sessions” on YouTube.

5. MTV Unplugged Presents “Gimme More” (Britney Spears Cover), 2020

Cyrus is no stranger to making a statement. The whole Bangerz period (around 2013) was an effort to declare a new phase in her career, independent from her image as a Disney Channel star. There are undoubtedly similarities between how the media handled Cyrus in her early days of stardom and how they treated her pop elder, Britney Spears. She’s also not hesitant to take an already fantastic song and modify it to make it her own. In the lead-up to the release of her seventh studio album, Plastic Hearts, the former child star slowed down Britney Spears’ “Gimme More” and utilised her gruff vocals to lend a rock edge to one of the pop diva’s most memorable successes.

4. MTV Unplugged Presents “Sweet Jane” (cover of Cowboy Junkies’ version of The Velvet Underground), 2020

Cyrus is singing the iconic Velvet Underground song “Sweet Jane,” but her rendition is fashioned by the popular 1988 cover by New Zealand’s Cowboy Junkies. Cyrus’s wide rock music knowledge is well-known among her followers.

She also understands when to push her vocal range to its ultimate limit, as she did during her “Zombie” performance, and when to back off, like she did on “Sweet Jane.” Cyrus lends a rock-star polish to the song, and her voice smoothly glides over the tune. The video also highlights the range of her following she has touched with her video series, with one YouTube commentator noting, “I’m over 60. This child has undeniable cross-generational appeal. Such a great skill!!”

3. MTV Unplugged Presents “I Got So High That I Saw Jesus” (Noah Cyrus cover and duet), 2020

Noah Cyrus had to grow up in the shadow of her elder sister, which couldn’t have been easy. Nonetheless, the youngest Cyrus has been able to capture listeners’ attention with her own unique voice and honest lyrics, like as in her song “I Got So High That I Saw Jesus.” Noah and her elder sister sang a stunning duet on the Backyard Sessions that showcased their vocal ability without each performer dominating the other. They share the attention and complement each other nicely to give a fantastic performance.

2. Joyful Hippie Gifts “Don’t Think It’s Over” (Crowded House cover, duet with Ariana Grande), 2015

Cyrus’ collaboration with Ariana Grande, who is renowned for her powerful vocals, is a duet that many people didn’t think they needed but are delighted they received. They performed a song of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” while wearing charming animal onesies and relaxing on an inflatable green sofa. The video is plenty of personality, with Cyrus flirting with Grande, leading her to miss her cue to perform the third verse, then apologising for messing her up. Grande returns to the song with ease, and they both shine on the last chorus, harmonising flawlessly.

1. The Backyard Sessions “Jolene” (Dolly Parton cover), 2012

It would be a shame not to place this cover at the top since it is the one that began it all. At this point in her career, Cyrus realised she had much to prove and was trying all she could to distance herself from the Disney character that had stuck with her since her childhood. The cover was posted two years into her difficult relationship with her now ex-husband, Liam Hemsworth, an alleged influence for several of her great songs (including the Endless Summer Vacation smash “Flowers”), and a relationship that would have more ups and downs to come. The release of this rendition of “Jolene” by her godmother, country music great Dolly Parton, signified the point at which Cryus seized command of her story. She effectively exhibited her own singing voice and used tactics from her Disney days to produce an exceptional cover.

It was a watershed point in her career: with a single cover, she sought to demonstrate that she had grown up, that she had a voice, and that she was going to utilise it. And she delivered.

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