Miley Cyrus has tried everything once. The teen idol who sometimes seemed to flail in the public eye has matured into a 27-year-old powerhouse of confidence and style. She knows what she’s good at, and her comfort zone is as vast as an ocean. Her current era of ’80s-inspired glam has been simultaneously thrilling and easy, throwing a spotlight on her fashion sense and rock’n’roll voice. Now, for her backyard edition of MTV Unplugged, she’s put all of her talents together for one of the most exciting pop performances of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cyrus has been recording “Backyard Sessions” for the last decade, but most of those were intimate and casual. This concert was arena-ready, with light-displays that helped transform the space over time. Earlier in the day, while the sun shined bright in the sky, the back of the “stage” became a wall of lush green tropical plants. As the set wore on, day turned to dusk, and the same plantings took on the look of a living curtain. By night, the collection of snake plants and palms was allowed to sink into darkness, with only a few individual plants lit so that they looked like neon streaks on a black background.

The “Backyard Sessions” have long been a place for Cyrus to let loose with covers, and MTV Unplugged was no exception. Cyrus knows that melodies don’t care about genre, and the best way to honor a track is to show off its versatility. Joined by her band The Social Distancers, she took on Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe”, The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”, and Britney Spears’ “Gimme More”, which she turned into a pained, bluesy jam.


Update: Pearl Jam have signed off on Cyrus’ version of “Just Breathe”. The band “applauded” the performance on Twitter on Thursday.

Later, Cyrus was soon joined be her younger sister Noah. This past March, the junior Cyrus released the stoner-hit “I Got So High That I Saw Jesus”. In turning the song into a beautifully-harmonized duet, the sisters emphasized the track’s gospel underpinnings.

To close the night, Miley brought the energy back up with her sparkling new single “Midnight Sky”. In its original form, “Midnight Sky” has a thumping disco pulse, but the Unplugged edition finds its heartbeat as a country-rock kiss-off. With her own songs, too, Cyrus wants us to know that swapping out the style is as easy as a costume change.


Replay all of these performances down below.

This past weekend, Cyrus also participated in the #SOSFest. Performing from the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, she turned in spirited covers of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” and The Cranberries’ “Zombie”. She subsequently revealed that she’s working on a Metallica covers album.

Gimme More (Britney Spears cover)
These Days (Jackson Browne cover)
Sweet Jane (The Velvet Underground cover)
Just Breathe (Pearl Jam cover)
Communication (The Cardigans cover)
I Got So High That I Saw Jesus (Noah Cyrus cover) (with Noah Cyrus)
Midnight Sky