Ahead of the release of Plastic Hearts next week (Nov. 27), Miley Cyrus has debuted the album’s second single: a duet with Dua Lipa entitled “Prisoner.” Following the sleek pop/rock blend of “Midnight Sky,” “Prisoner” builds on that foundation with yet another 80s sample and a collaboration that feels genuine and works incredibly well.
Built around a sample of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” Miley and Dua sing about a manipulative relationship that is holding them captive even if they truly want to be free of that baggage. On the sublime pre-chorus the two pop stars sing, “You keep making it harder to stay/But I still can’t run away/I gotta know, why can’t you, why can’t you just let me go?” Their voices are arguably the best possible blend of today’s mainstream pop titans. Dua’s approach to tracks naturally sits in her lower register and this combined with her smoky tone makes the perfect complement for Miley’s raspy mixture of country and rock influences. Vocally, if “Prisoner” had to be a collaboration with a fellow powerhouse pop star, Dua was the only logical choice. In terms of composition, the interpolation of “Physical’s” melody is a smart decision as it allows Miley to bring a bit of darkness to the relentlessly effervescent 1981 track. In a way, the prominence of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” is a call back to Dua’s own “Physical” from earlier this year which also samples the iconic track. It’s no secret that, in pop music, 2020 went back to 80s. The two ladies use the trend to their advantage on this enjoyable track.
From the synths and drums to the guitars and background vocals, “Prisoner” is a winner. At times, it feels that the chorus should be a bit more grand since the excellent pre-chorus hints at a massive climax. Regardless, the relatively quieter chorus makes for a nice juxtaposition that helps the song feel a little bit less predictable. Hopefully, the rest of the album leans further into the rock territory of the album’s covers: “Heart Of Glass” and “Zombie.” Between “Prisoner” and “Midnight Sky,” Plastic Hearts is shaping up to be one of Miley’s best and most cohesive efforts yet.