Ask any Miley Cyrus fan what they were doing at 7 p.m. ET last night, and you’ll likely get the same answer: awaiting her comeback. The singer dropped her new single “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” in collaboration with DJ Mark Ronson on Thursday, much to the delight of her Smilers, and it was exactly as catchy and multiplex as you’d expect.
So, predictably, the accompanying music vid follows suit. It’s strewn with cultural references — an O.J. Simpson-like car chase, kids playing with bullets and shooting guns, strip clubs full of religious figures, and football players kneeling — ending with the singer standing in a T-shape in front of a suspiciously vertical car, not unlike Jesus Christ.
This kind of obvious provocation is a Miley staple, and has been through pretty much every musical era of hers (post-Disney pop, her alt-rock phase, even her Dolly Parton-esque bluegrass period), but the video’s fashion also calls back to the ghosts of styles’ past.
Instead of quick changing, Cyrus sticks to one outfit throughout the video: an occasionally butt-bearing metallic Isabel Marant dress, thigh-high boots, and a slicked back braided ponytail with ’90s hair ties featuring round plastic bobbles on the ends.
Remind you of anything?
Cyrus looks like an updated version of herself on the 2015 VMAs red carpet, when she famously (or infamously, depending on who you ask) wore revealing Versace metallic suspenders, pulled back hair featuring accessories, and similar thigh-high boots. From the materials to the silhouette, Cyrus seems to be taking a page from her own wardrobe rule book with this one, though her new dress is substantially less body-bearing.
In the less-than-24-hours since the video has gone live, there are already multiple interpretations of the song’s meaning. Miley and Liam are “totally in love,” according to a report released before the song itself, so it’s not likely about romantic heartbreak. Some, however, have theorized she’s referencing political heartbreak, caused by the era of Donald Trump, mass shootings, and the necessity of Black Lives Matter (represented by the kneeling football players).
Fans on Twitter have also guessed that she was mourning the loss of innocence caused by growing up in the public eye, where frenzied media attention — symbolized by the chase of an in-control car — watched and waited for her to trip up, all while blaming her for being a poor influence on her impressionable young followers. The video’s imagery seems to imply that there were other factors ultimately more corruptive (see: priests in a strip club). Should we follow this line of thought, then her callback to the VMAs look might have been a middle finger to critics who worried that she was the one responsible for poisoning the cultural well with both her mostly-naked VMAs hosting gig, and her performance with Robin Thicke at the show in 2013.
Of course, that VMAs look had plenty of people talking, but this time around, with all of the other visual cues to tuck into, most chatter probably won’t be about the toned-down version she wears. 2018 Miley seems to want the other visuals to do the talking instead.
Welcome yourself to Miley Cyrus’s Heartbreak era by watching the video for “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” below.