Rolling Stone


The youngest member of the Cyrus clan finds her voice


Noah cyrus opens her debut full-length with a stark lyric: “When I turned 20, I was overcome/ With the thought that I might not turn 21,” she murmurs over fingerpick­ed guitars and whispers of feedback.

It’s a grab-you-by-the-throat introducti­on that is a fitting opening for The Hardest Part, a compact yet emotionall­y resonant collection of Laurel Canyon-recalling pop from the youngest member of the Cyrus clan. Channeling Cyrus’ recent travails, which include the death of her grandmothe­r, her parents’ romantic problems, and her own addiction to and recovery from Xanax, The Hardest Part is unflinchin­g yet tender.

That opener, “Noah

(Stand Still),” blooms from a white-knuckle descriptio­n of the anomie caused by the early days of sobriety into a chugging, resolute plea to keep going, with banjo and backing vocals underscori­ng Cyrus’ message. It’s not a fairy-tale ending — the wailed bridge closes out with the slightly doomy mantra “Life goes on and on until . . .” — but it’s determined enough to be a happy one, and it echoes the themes of getting through hard times that abound on the album.

Musically, The Hardest

Part walks the line between modern acoustic pop and classic country, calling back to Cyrus’ Nashville-steeped upbringing while also being in step with of-the-moment young artists. “I Just Want a Lover” grapples with lockdown angst and the gossip press’s intrusive eye as Cyrus longs for “a lover who’s in love with me, not another liar making love to me” over a darkly hued instrument­al that hearkens back to the moody soft rock of the mid-Eighties. “Every Beginning Ends” is another standout, a pedal-steelaccen­ted duet with Death

Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard that’s a solid tearin-the-beer country ballad. Cyrus’ weathered alto and Gibbard’s Willie Nelson-like croon intertwine as they lament the slow dissolutio­n of a romance with the forlorn vocal melody only illuminati­ng the sadness at the song’s core. And “Loretta’s Song,” which closes the album, is named after Cyrus’ maternal grandmothe­r, Loretta Finley, who died in August 2020, but it’s a gorgeously wrought country-gospel hymn, with Cyrus’ voice in full flower as she leads a choir in celebratin­g life and the afterlife.

Cyrus has always been in the spotlight, all the way back to appearing on her father Billy Ray’s TV drama, Doc, when she was two years old. But The Hardest Part is the result of her stepping away and figuring out who she is — and the songs she wrote during that time sound appealing even as they’re digging into knotty, complex emotions.

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The Hardest Part
Columbia ★
Noah Cyrus The Hardest Part Columbia ★

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