Most people recognize Noah Cyrus for her famous family, especially her sister: Miley. Although Noah has followed her siblings and her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, in becoming a musician, the twenty-year-old defines herself as her own person in the industry with her own sound, audience, and self-image. Cyrus’s second EP, THE END OF EVERYTHING, captures her emo-pop aesthetic meshed with her country roots, to create a stripped down sound that is simplistically beautiful. In the two years since her first EP, Good Cry, Noah has maintained the central theme throughout her music: sadness. Noah’s stunning voice is almost haunting as she presents songs filled with self-deprecating lyrics that present the realities of dealing with mental illness. Listening to the eight songs on the EP it feels as though you are hearing the voice in the back of Cyrus’s mind, as each song presents a truthful portrayal of not feeling good enough and struggling to overcome internal issues.
“Help me/ Oh, please someone help me” Noah cries throughout “Lonely”, in regard to her long battle with depression. The piano-based ballad translates the frustration that comes with battling depression and the hopelessness of looking in the mirror and not liking who you see. Cyrus sings “’Cause I don’t know much about me/ I’m still ashamed of who I used to be/ So I try way too hard but I still miss the mark to fit in,” calling attention to her self-image and self-doubts. Cyrus’s whole-hearted belting throughout the song articulates her frustration of not only dealing with sadness and depression, but with the increasing weight that comes with dealing with it for so long, and how that comes to warp your vision of yourself. “And when you’re looking/ in the mirror/ Demons may be closer than/ they may appear” Cyrus sings on “Ghost.” The Lana Del Ray inspired tune clarifies the feeling of not recognizing yourself and viewing yourself differently due to your bad thoughts. These songs paint an authentic picture of the artist and make you feel as though you’re in the room with her as she’s sharing her story.
However, the most personal song on the album with regard to Noah’s depression is actually the song “Young and Sad”. The song opens up with a voicemail from Noah’s dad, telling her to try and keep a smile on her face and that everything will be ok. Throughout the song, Noah presents an honest interpretation of dealing with depression, without glorifying it. The songs chorus “Don’t wanna be young and sad another day longer/ Don’t wanna feel numb or mad until a go under/ And I know that you only want me to be happy/ but I still feel lonely tonight/ Don’t wanna be young and sad another day longer” describes the endless battle of trying to make yourself appear happier than you actually are so that other people won’t worry about you. The lyrics also describe the battle of wanting to be happy so badly and still not being able to, no matter how hard you try. You can hear the choking back of feelings as Cyrus sails from one note to the next with complicit ease. The music builds with confidence as more instruments accompany Cyrus as she creates hope from her sadness throughout the song.
Later in the song Noah describes the influence her sister’s fame had on her. “My sister’s like sunshine/ Always bringing good light/ wherever she will go/ And I was born to rain clouds,” Cyrus sings in “Young and Sad”. Despite their close friendship, Noah calls attention to the hardships that come along with her sister’s fame and growing up in her shadow. Despite Noah’s entrance to the music world via her family, with her EP it is evident that she belongs there and can stand on her own. Noah’s voice is like a placid lake deep with intention and hidden complexity. Overall, “Young and Sad” gives insight into Noah’s mind while also allowing you to share in her feelings and understand her grief.
Despite Noah Cyrus’s heavy topics and sad sound, they are presented as not overtly “sad songs,” but instead just beautiful and reminiscent to listen to. Instead of mourning, they are a call to understand her feelings and a cry to move on. The album as a whole calls for the listener to self-reflect and acknowledge the feelings that they themselves are experiencing or in many cases, ignoring. “If you want me to leave, then tell me to leave and baby I’ll go,” Cyrus sighs in “July” followed by melancholy whistling that becomes characteristic of the song. The song was first released as a single in 2019, and Cyrus even later featured Leon Bridges on an additional version. “July” and “Wonder Years” transcribe the pain of heartbreak and the complications of knowing who you or your partner is in a relationship.
In a word, the album is unapologetic. The songs are transparent in thought and presentation, making it impossible for the listener to escape Cyrus’s mind. The songs are left unpolished enough to appear authentic and the pain felt through Noah’s voice is poignant and special. The vocals throughout the album feel detached as though they are floating amongst you. Cyrus also offers controversial discussion throughout her song “I Got So High That I Saw Jesus.” The jarring title and philosophical lyrics show Cyrus isn’t afraid to stand out in light of her spiritual side and use of marijuana. The song draws on the Nashville native’s country roots while still allowing for her to make it her own. Furthermore, the album is overtly honest and candid in its reflection on Cyrus not only as an artist, but as a person.
In Francesca Royster’s Sounding Like a No-No, Royster defines eccentricity as “not only out of the ordinary or unconventional performances but also those that are ambiguous, uncanny, or difficult to read” (8). All in all, an artist’s eccentricity relates to their ability to ability to challenge the norm and be considered unique in lyrically and sonically. In relation to the writing, Noah Cyrus proves herself as an eccentric artist by her unexpected style and persona. In addition, Noah Cyrus shows her eccentricity through her use of her everyday life and inspiration for her world for her music, as she takes her reality and makes it into art. Noah blurs the lines of what we consider normal in the music industry by mixing various genres and relying primarily on her vocals in her music. Noah Cyrus is unapologetic in the dreary tunes and unprecedented self-image she presents to the world.
Presented in 2020 in the midst of Coronavirus, THE END OF EVERYTHING’s melancholy messages become much heavier and intrinsic. During this global pandemic where everyone is forced to quarantine and social distance, there is an inevitable feeling of isolation and loneliness that develops over time. As everything normal about life before Coronavirus becomes much more stressful and unclear, it is easy to feel a weight on your shoulders or general uneasiness. Yet for me, one of the most difficult aspects of quarantine has been constantly having to be alone with my thoughts. Without being able to see my friends or have a real schedule that exists outside my home, it has been hard for me to chase out the critical voices in the back of my head and move on from the past. Yet, hearing THE END OF EVERYTHING I was relieved to listen to someone who understood how I was feeling. Noah Cyrus captures the essence of adolescent anguish and the heartbreak that comes with not being the person you want to be. To me the album is having a heart-to-heart in my best-friend’s car after a bad day, the anxiety of standing alone at a party, or lying awake at night wondering what would’ve happened it if I had done things differently. THE END OF EVERYTHING highlights the hardships of growing up and the emotions that are hard for people to talk about. Overall, Noah Cyrus’s unapologetic introduction to herself via her two EP’s automatically establish her credibility as an artist. Paired with her gorgeous voice and honesty, Noah Cyrus is an artist to watch out for in the coming years.
Francesca Royster, Sounding Like a No-No: Queer Sounds and Eccentric Acts in the Post-Soul Era, P 1-33.