Review: Noah Cyrus’ debut album ‘The Hardest Part’ offers a healing journey for life’s heartaches

The singer-songwriter’s debut album juggles country sensibilities with modern pop aesthetics as it tunes into the worries of the modern heart.

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Singer-songwriter Noah Cyrus released her debut album in September. (Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Paree Chopra, Staff Writer

At only 22, Noah Cyrus has crafted the deeply mature, vulnerable and raw “The Hardest Part.” Releasing a debut album is a major step towards growing as an artist, and with this record, Cyrus demonstrates that she is wise beyond her years. The album is a beautiful mesh of pop with Cyrus’ country roots. She takes listeners through a journey of heartbreak, substance abuse and the of the pandemic as she eventually finds strength and hope in her familial bonds to face the uncertain future.

The first track, “Noah (Stand Still),” sets the tone for an album that heavily emphasizes on healing after chaos. With soft strums of the guitar, Cyrus bares her personal struggle in the heartbreaking opening lines: “When I turned twenty, I was overcome / With the thought that I might not turn twenty-one.” Echoing advice from her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, who is also featured on the track, to “stand still” as the tough times pass by (“And my father told me, ‘Noah, when you don’t know where you’re going / Just stand still’”), the song builds up to country-pop rhythms with every chorus, turning the melancholic undertone into a voice of hope.

The soft guitar melodies that thread through the next few songs highlight soft pop and folk instrumentals which meet Cyrus’ old country soul. This is exactly where “Ready To Go” finds itself musically. Cyrus’ voice gracefully croons about the bittersweetness of one-sided love that ultimately leads to pain. “Every Beginning Ends,” with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, dwells on another way that love gets away, as Cyrus and Gibbard lament the realization that nothing is meant to last forever — “You have to wake up every morning / And choose to love someone / But I’m finding that harder the more that I’m falling out of love with you.”

Leaning into catchy acoustic melodies without letting go of the folk elements of the songs that precede it, “Mr. Percocet” focuses on toxic relationships with substance abuse at their core. However, it’s the title song, “The Hardest Part,” that enters into modern pop. Distorted violins and harmonies highlight the overarching theme of the first half of the album — “The hardest part of going home / Is facin’ that you’re gettin’ older.” Life’s hardest lesson is the realization that every peak and valley is one more experience that makes you more mature than the last. The heavy drums that get louder with each chorus emphasize the inevitable endings of every era.

While the first half of the album comes straight from Cyrus’ personal journal, the second addresses larger, global issues. “I Just Want A Lover” comments on the societal implications of isolation during the pandemic and “I Burned LA Down” vocalizes issues surrounding the climate crisis. “My Side of the Bed” is a gorgeous piano ballad that gives way to Cyrus’ soft and raspy voice. In her commentary on these social issues, Cyrus highlights the basic human need for love, and the anxiety that comes with being alone.

“Loretta’s Song” closes the album by reminiscing about familial bonds the same way the first track did. A country-folk lullaby with religious undertones, the song is a tribute to Cyrus’ grandmother, who passed away in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns. With lyrics like “Cause life’s too long to keep regrets / And love’s too strong to lay down for dead / I know you’re hurting, but it’s not the end,” the song celebrates the circle of life and underscores how every moment and memory is precious. 

“The Hardest Part” is an album about appreciating life and healing through all the difficult moments that come our way. It’s an album that needs to be listened to holistically to acknowledge the healing that exists alongside the struggles of life.

Contact Paree Chopra at [email protected]