A vocal master. Many Gen Zers grew up with Miley Cyrus —whether it be watching Hannah Montana on Disney Channel or tracking her solo career up to this day. But what happened with Miley Cyrus’ voice since then?
The Bangerz songstress released her album Endless Summer Vacation on March 10, 2023. The album received generally positive reviews and as well as the extremely popular song “Flowers.” Cyrus noted about the album that it was split in two parts: A.M. and P.M., “In the nighttime, it feels that there’s a slinky, seediness, and kind of a grime, but a glamor at the same time. In the evening, it’s a great time for rest, it’s a time to recover — or, it’s a time to go out and experience the wild side,” she said in her Disney Plus special “The Backyard Sessions” in March 2023. “In L.A. there’s a certain energy to the night that you can kind of feel trouble boil up to the surface and it’s very inspiring to me.”
So with that energy, and with eight studio albums to her name, what exactly happened to Miley Cyrus’ voice?
What happened to Miley Cyrus’ voice? In an interview with Joe Rogan on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Miley talks about a health diagnosis that affected her voice. “I had something called Reinke’s edema,” Cyrus told Rogan, “which, when my doctor told me about it, he said, ‘No one shy has this. This is for abuse of the voice. This is for people that talk way too f—king much and usually, this happens when you’re like in your 60s or 70s.'”
Reinke’s edema, according to Columbia University’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, occurs when the layer under the surface lining of the vocal fold – called Reinke’s space – fills with fluid due to long-standing vocal trauma, most often from smoking. In the most severe cases, the entire membranous portion of the vocal folds becomes filled with thick, gelatinous fluid, and the vocal folds look like enlarged fluid-filled balloons/elephant ears.
She talked about the cause of her voice change, attributing it to her early career. “It’s afterward, you’re totally on and it’s really hard to get that sleep. You stay up, talking all night. Later, the talking all night turned into smoking all night.” She received the surgery in 2019, and told Rogan that”having the surgery was a gift because I was able to understand my instrument.” Since then, Cyrus is sober and hasn’t smoked since then.
When Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth were in an on-and-off relationship, she reflected about the trauma of losing her house affected her voice. In one instance in an interview with Howard Stern, Miley also revealed that she didn’t think her and Hemsworth would ever tie the knot. “We were together since 16,” she said. “Our house burned down. We had been like, engaged—I don’t know if we really ever thought we were actually going to get married, but when we lost our house in Malibu—which if you listen to my voice pre- and post-fire, they’re very different so that trauma really affected my voice. And I was actually in South Africa, so I couldn’t come home, and like, my animals were tied to a post at the beach. I lost everything.”
According to Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center, “The first line of management is for the patient to stop smoking and to improve laryngeal hygiene and hydration. This may reduce overall inflammation. If the Reinke’s edema is so severe that it is blocking part of the airway or causing significant quality of life issues for a patient, surgical management may be necessary. Voice therapy is valuable post-operatively in these cases for establishment of improved vocal hygiene and improved voice production.”
The “River” singer talked about how the early start of her career strained most of her voice. “I started touring at probably 12 or 13 and…the adrenaline that you have after a show, it’s not really the singing that affects your voice as much as its afterwards, you’re totally on and then it’s really hard to get that sleep—later, the talking all night turned into smoking all night and now this is kind of where we’re at.”
The former The Voice Coach compared a voice to a face and how aging affects both of them. “It collects wrinkles and it tells a story,” she said. “If you look at yourself and you go, oh, I didn’t have this until this trip. I sat out in the sun or I partied too much or whatever…there is such a kind of stigma with aging. It’s a very kind of scary thing, as a female in the industry.”
In a conversation with Lars Ulrich in Interview magazine, she opened up about the industry’s standard on women’s voices.”My whole life, whether in vocal training or just continuing to hone my craft, it’s always been about, ‘Why do you sound like a man? Where’s your fucking falsetto, bitch? Why can’t you sing the high octave of ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ anymore?’ In this song, I get to sing in that low register, and I get to live in that authentic, genuine sound. My voice is how I represent myself. It’s how I express myself. I’ve worked with so many people who tell me, “We’re going to have to bring in a singer to hit those high parts.” You know, “falsetto” is this Latin term for when a boy goes through puberty, but they still want him to sing in the choir. It means “false.”
She continued, “I don’t have a false voice. You know me personally, we’ve hung at parties. I am who I am. I say what I mean in the moment, even if that changes tomorrow. I was honored by the fact that I didn’t have to sing this song in the way that females are “supposed” to sing. You can hear that at the end of the song when I take the gloves off and just start flying. That part of the song really grabs people. It’s that lower register of my voice. So I’m grateful to have a song where I can lean into that.”
“We’ve been through so much. When we’re out on the road, we talk about loneliness. It really can get that way. I have such a support system in them. I love having these authentic, real rock dudes in my band. We even revisit songs that I wrote before I was able to make this huge sonic pivot in my career, before I discovered rock and roll. Now, we cover my own songs. We take my original songs, and turn them on their head, and make them kick ass.”
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