On Friday, Sept. 16, American singer, songwriter and Grammy Nominee Noah Cyrus finally released her debut studio album, “The Hardest Part,” which had previously been scheduled to drop in July but was delayed for September.
The album follows Cyrus’ emotional journey through heartbreak, substance abuse and eventual healing, all accompanied by the twangs of country soul, the strings of acoustic pop and the occasional venture into the rock-pop genre. "The Hardest Part" consists of 10 tracks and has a run-time of 34 minutes.
The album opens with the track “Noah (Stand Still)” and the steady sound of bass and guitar, a fitting and melancholic prelude to a melancholic album. Cyrus recites the advice her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, gives her when she feels overwhelmed and in pain, singing, “Remember just stand still.”
Cyrus’ voice practically croons over the light and folksy instrumental, creating the atmosphere that will set the mood for the rest of the album. This trend continues through the track “Ready to Go,” as Cyrus reminisces on a relationship that is falling apart, knowing that if she stays in the relationship they’ll both fall apart, and even if it hurts she must move on.
“Ready to Go” is, at least instrumentally, far more upbeat than the previous track but lyrically it is just as heartbreaking.
The album isn’t all folk though. For example, “Mr. Percocet” revels in a more pop feel and embraces a strong acoustic hook. The song details Cyrus’ relationship with drugs, including Percocet, a pain medication that is often abused by those who are prescribed it. Its instrumental is fast-paced but contained. And while elements of folk are still present, it abandons the standard twangs of your normal folk track and adopts elements of acoustic pop in its place.
Furthermore, the title track “Hardest Part” continues with the pop trend with a strong kick and vibrating violins accompanying the opening. The song itself details Cyrus’ struggle with aging and that all things, especially childhood, come to an end eventually. Booming drums illustrate Cyrus’ pent-up anxiety and fear before soft violins close the track, releasing with it all that emotion.
But this album isn’t just about Cyrus’ own personal experiences. In “I Just Want a Lover,” Cyrus details her frustration with the state of the nation. Clearly written during the worst of the pandemic, the sixth track is one of sharp kicks, piano and bass. The track ventures more into a rock/pop feel, and it’s infectious. The lyrics are clever and intricate, weaving seamlessly with the instrumental. The fast pace is also heard on the ninth track “I Burned LA Down,” which serves as a breakup song but also expands on Cryus’ feelings on America, as the song works to be a metaphor for the impact of climate change on California.
Jumping back a bit, the rock trend is continued on the seventh track “Unfinished,” which is a fairly generic breakup song. Out of all the songs thus far, this is the weakest, adding nothing new to the album besides a simple key change in the bridge. It is a disappointing follow-up to “I Just Want a Lover,” but still doesn’t feel too out of place in the album. It just leaves the listener wanting slightly more. To be completely honest, the track itself feels unfinished, as if Cyrus was just padding for time.
On the other hand, “My Side of the Bed” feels like a combination of Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish. Accompanied by intricate harmonies and soft piano, Cyrus details the aftermath of an argument and the anxiety that comes with it as she asks herself, “Are you leaving me? The beautiful background vocals intertwine beautifully with the belty melody. Clearly, the production team was flexing a bit in this song and it pays off, leaving the listener with goosebumps.
And finally, the tenth track closes the album in much the same way that the album is opened, as “Lorretta’s Song” carries the same folk-country feel of the first track. The track itself is hopeful, as Cyrus resolves to move on from her pain and acknowledges that though things may be bad that does not mean that things won’t ever get better. While she may be hurting, it is not the end. The song also reaffirms Cyrus’ relationship with religion as she sings, "Just keep Jesus in your mind.” She also asks the listener to not cry when she’s gone, saying that when she does leave, she will be going on to a better place.
Overall, the album is the story of Cyrus’ own journey through her psyche, her heartbreak, her fear and her resolve. For the most part, it sticks to a folksy, acoustic pop feel, though it occasionally ventures into more mainstream pop and rock. The production throughout the entire album is immaculate, and Mike Crossey, who is well known for his collaborations with the Arctic Monkeys, clearly knows what he’s doing.
Cyrus’ vocals blend well with the instrumentals on each track and the melodies and harmonies never feel out of place. Lyrically the album is intricate, and while at some times it borders on cheesy it does feel as though Cyrus truly believes what she is singing. While it is not a perfect debut it is a good album and tracks like “I Just Want a Lover,” “Mr. Percocet” and “My Side of the Bed” are great tracks and could easily go on a more downbeat playlist.