Almost all the songs Miley Cyrus performed at Primavera Sound festival on Friday night (May 31) fell into one of two groups: universal smashes that even the most casual fan can sing along to, and brand-new tracks that only the most hard-core Miley fans could recognize so quickly.
The singer was a late addition to the Barcelona festival’s lineup — taking Cardi B’s place after the rap superstar recently dropped off the bill — and Primavera effectively morphed into a release party for She Is Coming, the six-song EP Cyrus released on Friday. Four of Cyrus’ first five songs at Primavera were from the new EP; before she could get to the sprawling sing-alongs of “We Can’t Stop” and “Party in the USA,” Cyrus offered the audience a glimpse into the soul of She Is Coming, a project about identity, sexuality, personal growth and figuring out the artistic path forward. Cyrus, in turn, thanked the crowd for helping her in “celebrating such a fucking monumental time in my life.”
“Mother’s Daughter,” the lead track from the EP and the obvious standout, had its defiant heartbeat showcased inside a rock-show shell, with loud guitar and strobe lights complementing the rattling beats. Cyrus sang the hell out of the driving track, selling its anthemic words while goading on the crowd and shaking her ass. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Party Up the Street” (which features Swae Lee on the studio version) was a wildly satisfying groove, all deep rhythms and hummable melodies; any chance of the song feeling relatively slight was washed away by its live arrangement.
Elsewhere, “Unholy” received a reflective sheen, “D.R.E.A.M.” was the psychedelic trip that harkened back to Cyrus’ Dead Petz days, and “Cattitude” — the new EP’s wildest and most ambitious track, featuring RuPaul — was delivered as a pissed-off rap through a vocal filter. The crowd reactions varied, but so did the tones of each new track; in the end, the presentation of She Is Coming felt intimate, like Cyrus was letting one of the festival’s biggest crowds in on a secret.
To offer a non-secret: Cyrus possesses some absolutely bulletproof pop songs, and the Primavera crowd lapped them up greedily, along with her “Jolene” cover and recent (excellent) hit with Mark Ronson, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart.” As Cyrus polished off the set with “Wrecking Ball” from an elevated platform onstage, fans clenched their fists, turned to their friends and screamed the chorus into their faces lovingly.
Will any of the She Is Coming tracks eventually evoke such a response, once Cyrus’ crowd grows familiar with their respective charms? Maybe, maybe not. But on Friday night in Barcelona, Cyrus made her case for why they’re worth digging into further.