Miley Cyrus has released “Midnight Sky,” her first song of 2020. Cyrus self-directed her brazen new music video, which dropped in tandem with the track.
The new clip and song was inspired by female music icons including Stevie Knicks, Joan Jett and Debbie Harry, according to a statement. However, that inspiration may be rooted more in attitude than sonics. In the new visual, Cyrus boldly showcases her independence. “I was born to run, I don’t belong to anyone,” she sings over rhythmic programming — her blasé expression juxtaposing the disco ball above, while she broadly twirls her mic cord.
The star started hinting at something through her social media platforms last week, posting part of the music video for “Start All Over,” a guitar-driven pop/rock song that a 15-year-old Cyrus first released as Disney character Hannah Montana in 2008. She captioned the post “Meet Miley Cyrus… again. #SheIsComing #ButForRealThisTime,” throwing in black-heart and guitar emojis for good measure.
By last Wednesday, she had released a 15-second audio clip of “Midnight Sky” through Instagram Reels, the app’s brand new tool that allows users to digitally stitch together videos and set them to music. In doing so, Cyrus became the first big star to tease music through Reels, which launched last week. (Unfortunately for Instagram, even Cyrus couldn’t save the app from the public shaming it received for poorly ripping off TikTok.)
Cyrus — who further built anticipation by sharing a photo of herself in the studio with Dua Lipa and Ozzy Osbourne’s Ordinary Man producer Andrew Watt — then encouraged fans to make their own Instagram Reels using the song, sparking instant interaction with the just-introduced functionality. But the marketing doesn’t stop there.
Also last week, fans started posting screenshots of text conversations with an unknown 323 telephone number. Cyrus — or perhaps someone on her team — instructed fans to call the number, addressing them by their first names. When they’d understandably ask who was texting them, the person on the other end responded with two words: “It’s Miley!” If fans went as far as to actually call the number, they’d hear 15 seconds of the not-yet-released “Midnight Sky” before the call dropped. (Multiple alarmed fans admitted on Twitter that they probably signed up for text updates through her website at some point and had forgotten.)
“Midnight Sky” marks Cyrus’ first new music since 2019, when she released EP She Is Coming. At the time, Cyrus said the EP would be the first of three six-song EPs, which, together, would comprise a new album, She Is Miley Cyrus. That specific project, however, never materialized and was partially delayed after Cyrus was hospitalized for tonsillitis in October, and later underwent vocal surgery.
While she didn’t end up treating fans to any parts of the promised album, she did release “On a Roll” — which she recorded for Netflix show Black Mirror — an original single called “Slide Away,” which appeared to be a one-off and was never serviced to radio, and “Don’t Call Me Angel,” a collaboration with Ariana Grande and Lana Del Rey for the latest Charlie’s Angels film.
Over the past few months, Cyrus has stayed busy with a variety of projects during the COVID-19 lockdown. She briefly hosted a talk show on Instagram live, covered Pink Floyd on an at-home episode of Saturday Night Live, directed a music video in quarantine for Cody Simpson’s new song, “Captain’s Dance With the Devil” and performed the Beatles’ “Help!” In an empty Rose Bowl Stadium for the Global Citizen Global Goal: Unite for Our Future livestream.
Additional reporting by Jon Blistein.