It’s fair to say Miley Cyrus has been going through a personal and artistic revolution lately, and last night’s surprise midnight drop of her new breakup ballad “Slide Away” acutely encompasses both areas of change in which the 26-year-old is definitely knee deep at the moment.
Arriving just five days after her breakup with actor Liam Hemsworth was announced, the emotional trap-pop ballad, co-produced by Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt and Cyrus’ frequent collaborator Mike WiLL Made-It, has Cyrus fans, social media and gossip sites sleuthing over the lyrics (co-written by Cyrus, Wyatt, Made-it and Finnish singer/songwriter Alma) to dig up clues that would confirm the song is indeed about her recent uncoupling with her on-and-off-again partner of 10 years (and husband of only 8 months.)
With an opening verse sung in the upper reaches of Cyrus’ usually grounded vocal register (“Once upon a time, it was paradise / Once upon a time, I was paralyzed / Think I’m gonna miss these harbor lights / But it’s time to let it go”), it’s hard not to think this song is about the recent change in her relationship status which, if you believe certain entertainment news outlets, had actually changed some months ago (that would give a fair amount of time to put this track together.)
Don’t let the subtle synth strings, slight beat and sunset-drenched beach metaphors fool you, there’s definitely anger and disappointment behind the words (“Move on, we’re not seventeen / I’m not who I used to be / You say that everything’s changed / You’re right, we’re grown now”). And Cyrus lands a punch with a hook that’s definitely her kiss-off (“So won’t you slide away / Back to the ocean, I’ll go back to the city lights / So won’t you slide away / Back to the ocean, nahh nah nah you’ll slide away…”)
Presumably slated to feature on her forthcoming seventh studio album She Is Miley Cyrus due out later this year, it’s the perfect bookend to 2017’s hopeful “Malibu” from Cyrus’ commercially-disappointing Younger Now, where she sang happily about reuniting with Hemsworth who brought her to the beach for the first time (“I never came to the beach or stood by the ocean / I never sat by the shore under the sun with my feet in the sand / But you brought me here and I'm happy that you did / 'Cause now I'm as free as birds catching the wind.”)
Now, in “Slide Away,” Cyrus is sending her beau back to the beach where he feels at home, while she returns to “my home in the hills.” It’s over.
Well…until it’s not over, right?