Miley Cyrus ditched the glittery theatrics Sunday night when she gave a stripped-down performance of new single “Malibu” at the Billboard Music Awards. Although she’s become more known for her kooky, stoner-friendly persona in recent years, Cyrus’ new sound has reminded the world why she became a star in the first place: her powerful, husky voice. Ahead, revisit eight performances that show off Cyrus’ pipes.
“The Climb,” 2011
In the beginning of her music career, Cyrus churned out pop-radio hits like “7 Things” and “Party in the U.S.A.,” but she went a little country with Hannah Montana The Movie‘s “The Climb,” a soaring, empowering ballad that took advantage of her impressive vocal range.
“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” 2012
This gentle cover of Bob Dylan’s stellar 1975 Blood on the Tracks cut forewent the original’s jangly — and deceptively upbeat — sound in favor of a version that embraced Cyrus’ country leanings and highlighted the somber love song’s wistful lyrics.
Cyrus paid tribute to her godmother Dolly Parton with a rendition of 1973’s “Jolene” for the Backyard Sessions, a series of intimate performances that also included the singer covering “Lilac Wine” and “Look What They’ve Done to My Song.”
“Wrecking Ball,” 2013
Yeah, yeah, “Wrecking Ball” is the one where Cyrus is naked on an actual wrecking ball, and it’s also one of her strongest vocal performances to date, as demonstrated by her 2013 Saturday Night Live appearance during the Bangerz era.
“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” 2014
With the help of the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and plenty of sparkling confetti, Cyrus delivered an appropriately dreamy cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s standout.
“Don’t Dream It’s Over,” 2015
The Backyard Sessions made a comeback in 2015 when Cyrus reintroduced the series as part of her Happy Hippie Foundation, an organization made to raise awareness and funds for homeless and LGBT youth. All the entries — including one jubilant collaboration with Joan Jett and Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace — are worth watching, but Cyrus’ “Don’t Dream It’s Over” duet with Ariana Grande is especially gorgeous thanks to the contrast between Cyrus’ dreamy alto and Grande’s pretty soprano.
“Hands of Love,” 2015
Songwriter Linda Perry (some credits include Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For?”) wrote this piano ballad for the Freeheld soundtrack and handpicked Cyrus to sing it — with good reason: On The Ellen Show, Cyrus gave an understated, moving performance of the hopeful, defiant track with Perry on keys.
“Twinkle Song,” 2015
Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, co-produced by the Flaming Lips, features plenty of delightfully out-there, musically complex tracks, but album closer “Twinkle Song” particularly stands out for its simplicity and soft vulnerability, which was on full display during Cyrus’ Saturday Night Live performance of the song in 2015. It starts off as a lullaby of sorts before Cyrus goes full rockstar about halfway through the emotional ballad when she howls the bridge, a heartbreaking repetition of “What does it mean?” that leads to the singer finishing out the song with tears streaming down her face.