Noah Cyrus
The Hardest Part


4.4
superb

Review

by Mathias STAFF
September 21st, 2022 | 36 replies


Release Date: 09/16/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Celebrities - They're just like us?

It is so tempting to try to ignore Noah Cyrus’s personal life and background when talking about The Hardest Part, her stunning debut album. I first listened to this album wanting to be able to judge it entirely by the music and talent on display, not thinking about her sister or father or bad past relationships or substance abuse or tabloid news. I don’t want to have to acknowledge the fact that she made her acting debut two decades ago, that her musical career has spanned the past six years, that she was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2021, and that, despite those numbers, she is only 22. I didn’t want to Google to try and find specific context behind lyrics that I was curious about, something I wouldn’t be able to do with an artist of lesser stature. However, how can you ignore the personal terms of an album that starts off with a track named specifically after the artist themselves? Noah Cyrus has made an incredibly personal album, and while the details about what inspired it are out there if you really want to find them, The Hardest Part can (and should) be fully appreciated without understanding her celebrity because of how beautifully crafted it is.

It was immediately clear from the opening lines of The Hardest Part that this was not just a celebrity sibling cashing in on fame - In fact, I immediately felt guilt upon even assuming that pretext could be true as soon as I heard the opening lines of “Noah (Stand Still)”. “When I turned 20, I was overcome/With the feeling that I might not turn 21”. I automatically pictured Billy Ray the first time I heard Noah start the second verse referencing advice her father gave her, the second time I noticed the beauty of the line, and then I pictured my own late father on each subsequent listen. Enter the banjos, the layered harmonies, the harmonica, all paired with Noah’s powerful alto, and it didn’t take long to realize that Noah Cyrus had created a perfect pop-tinged country song with the opening track of her debut. While the rest of the album doesn’t quite hit the same highs of “Noah (Stand Still)”, it comes pretty damn close.

Cyrus has chosen to occupy a world of melancholic pop infused with country elements. The best comparison is what would seem like the perfect stepping stone between Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour and star-crossed eras, with some songs leaning more into the country side of things and some leaning more into pop and some going into a new direction all together. The opening duo of “Noah” and “Ready To Go” seem to imply that she’ll be leaning fully into the country world, but then “Mr. Percocet” comes in as a certified pop hit, and just as you’re processing that, here comes Ben Gibbard with an acoustic ballad duet, which itself is followed up by a song that seems to be coming from Bon Iver’s self-titled/22, A Million period, just a whole lot poppier. However, this genre hopping doesn’t come across as the sound of a young artist attempting to find their sound, but instead as an artist confident in their voice and applying it to different styles. While I believe there is still a place for her to find where her style is strongest (the two most forward country songs “I Burned LA Down” and Loretta’s song” are great in their own right, but don’t cause the excitement the rest of the album does) there isn’t a weak song to be found on the album.

Cyrus relies on blunt lyricism, a more mature version of the Olivia Rodrigo style literal storytelling that seems to entering the Gen Z pop world. “Mr. Percocet” addresses both her own substance abuse issues and a toxic past relationship without the use of any metaphors - Cyrus has no illusions of trying to hide what she’s singing about and while lines like “But I wish you'd still love me when your drugs wear off in the morning” may seem juvenile and occasionally distracting, they’re also powerful in that Cyrus is not trying to change the narrative or hide the dirty parts of her life, taking cues from some of the best of country music. The deeply personal songs are about Cyrus’s experiences from the past few years and that raw, unfiltered storytelling sets Cyrus apart from her contemporaries, both in age, genre, or status. You could be shocked at times to believe she’s just 22 from the way that she writes, but, for better or worse, she has also not shied away from her age either, making the album that much more real and engaging to listen to. Cyrus sometimes lets us into moments that are so personal, so intimate, that it almost feels as though we are intruding. Piano based ballad “Wrong Side of the Bed” is the best example of this, with the basic storytelling painting a clear picture of a relationship gone wrong, all punctuated with Cyrus’s strongest vocal performance on the album.

Yes, much of The Hardest Part is based around Noah Cyrus’s proximity to celebrity, her ability to access privileges that many of us could never dream of, and the potential fall from grace that we see from many young people exposed to those sorts of environments and privileges. However, it can be true that she is able to experience those things and also make incredibly good music out of them. I almost envy those who go into this album with no knowledge of who Cyrus is, as The Hardest Part contains some of the most genuine sounding country/pop that has been released in quite some time. To enter that world only and experience it mainly in how you’re able to relate to it would be a special feeling. Regardless, with the wonderful album Cyrus has created, it is likely only a matter of time before you get there anyway.



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user ratings (19)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
dmathias52
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2022


1766 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

Dang I love this album. Listen to it

g40st
September 21st 2022


870 Comments


This is like the highest rated album on Metacritic rn lol

Gyromania
September 21st 2022


35131 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Album cover looks like the artist played and loved ghost of tsushima

g40st
September 21st 2022


870 Comments


Still haven't played GoT, waiting to get a PS5 to play definitive edition as my first experience of it. Plus they are making the GoT expanded universe (movie or TV show, don't remember which) and the obvious sequel.

g40st
September 21st 2022


870 Comments


But from what I've seen it has perhaps the best color use in any game last gen.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2022


17733 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Very glad you covered this Mathias. Somebody had to, and if you didn't I was going to.

Digging: Darkthrone - Astral Fortress

Slex
September 21st 2022


14782 Comments


Daaamn I was eyeballing this, looks like I need to dive in

Digging: Alex G - God Save The Animals

luci
September 21st 2022


12844 Comments


checked the rym average so I don't get baited

Sowing
Moderator
September 21st 2022


42158 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh wow. Great review and I'm glad to see lots of people so high on this. I personally didn't understand the hype, however - it's very basic musically and Cyrus' voice - while good - didn't live up to its billing from reviews which sold her voice as some kind of velvety goddess-like presence. To me this was kind of like a lesser Golden Hour - still great obv, but not strong enough to launch a full blown obsession. The opening track has great lyrics and 'I Just Want a Lover' is fun and super memorable, but outside of that it was mostly just decent/pretty.

Digging: Alex G - God Save The Animals

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2022


17733 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Comparable by my limited scope of the genre, I don't think this is anything 'lite'.

Sowing
Moderator
September 21st 2022


42158 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Maybe it's just me, but it didn't seem like a hugely emotional heavy hitter, or anything overtly memorable beyond "yeah, this is pleasant". It's good don't get me wrong, I'm just unlikely to be shaking up my year end list for it.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
September 21st 2022


16671 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Checked this out, and I'm very pleasantly surprised. Crazy how it took only one album for Noah to wipe the floor with her sister's discog quality-wise

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2022


50461 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Yes, much of The Hardest Part is based around Noah Cyrus’s proximity to celebrity, her ability to access privileges that many of us could never dream of, and the potential fall from grace that we see from many young people exposed to those sorts of environments and privileges. However, it can be true that she is able to experience those things and also make incredibly good music out of them"



felt this + a strong songwriting voice in all of the opener and ig some of Mr Percocet (hamfisted as it is), but that was about... it? I rly liked this review, but it prepped me for such a strong personally charged statement that i was rather taken aback with how interchangeable (lyrically and musically) the likes of Unfinished, Ready to Go, My Side of the Bed, I Burned LA Down turned out to be with just about anything i've heard from this arm of vanilla acoustic-adjacent mainstream-cosy pop? would have struggled to find much special here beyond the backstory



so hmm sowing take correct / sput country-pop canon be clutching hard

Digging: Ada Rook - UGLY DEATH NO REDEMPTION ANGEL CURSE I LOVE YOU

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2022


7528 Comments


Mathias you’ve made an album I’d never touch in a million years sound worth a spin I.e. great write up

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2022


7528 Comments


Mathias you’ve made an album I’d never touch in a million years sound worth a spin I.e. great write up

mynameischan
Emeritus
September 21st 2022


2134 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I had this on my 2022 playlist already but don’t know when I’d get around to it if not for this review. Now it’s next in the queue.

Purpl3Spartan
September 21st 2022


5026 Comments


This probably blows but will check

Digging: Laufey - Everything I Know About Love

dmathias52
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2022


1766 Comments

Album Rating: 4.4

I think the reaction from Sowing and Johnny is fair. I think the lyrics are both just personal enough and just generic enough. It was more specific about her personal life I would have felt more disconnect but if it was more generic it would have been, well, generic. There is definitely loads of room for improvement, but for now I think she balanced that line pretty perfectly. With that being said, totally think its fair if people want more from the lyrics



I am pleasantly surprised to see folks who might not naturally gravitate towards this enjoying it (looking at you Chef and Koris). To be completely honest, I wouldn't be surprised if I was the highest rating on here. Not sure what it is, but I don't think anyone is more surprised than me about how much I like this



(Also appreciate the kind words y'all)

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
September 21st 2022


16671 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Tbf, I've already been on a bit of a country kick this year -- the Zach Bryan, Molly Tuttle, and Orville Peck albums are all in the running for my AOTY list so far -- so I was definitely down to try some more :]



Also, excellent review!

Gyromania
September 22nd 2022


35131 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

that orville peck album is hella overrated. way weaker than that ep he dropped like a year or so ago.



i gave this album a once over and it's pleasant enough but this kind of country just doesn't do much for me. very well produced and silky smooth but doesn't leave a lasting impression



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