Miley Cyrus dropped her new single “Flowers” on Thursday night, and all signs seem to point to the anthem taking inspiration from her relationship with ex-husband Liam Hemsworth.
Of course, the A-listers’ 2019 divorce — which was finalized the following January — is emotional territory that the pop star has mined previously, from the heartache of 2019 one-off “Slide Away” to Plastic Hearts lead single “Midnight Sky.”
But with distance and hindsight, the lead single from Cyrus’ upcoming Endless Summer Vacation offers a new and poignant take on her nearly 10-year romance with the actor, whom she first met on the set of the 2010 big-screen adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ The Last Song.
Below, Billboard dives into all the clues and lyrical Easter eggs that tell Cyrus’ side of her breakup with Hemsworth.
Look for more clues about Cyrus’ relationship with Hemsworth in the “Flowers” music video below.
The Song's Release Date
Smilers first caught onto the idea that the pop star might be referencing her now-ex-husband when she announced the single’s Jan. 13 release date — which also happens to be Hemsworth’s 33rd birthday.
“Miley’s telling the world she can love herself better ON LIAM’S BIRTHDAY?! she definitely didn’t lie when she said she’s got nerve,” one fan wrote after Cyrus shared the news. Another couldn’t help but comment, “Nothing funnier than Miley Cyrus releasing on Liam Hemsworth birthday I know he’s gonna get dragged through filth wrecking ball 2.0 here we come.”
The Woolsey Fire of 2018
Earlier this month, Cyrus began teasing the song’s chorus in a sultry post on social media: “I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand/ Talk to myself for hours, yeah, say things you don’t understand/ I can take myself dancing, I can hold my own hand/ Yeah, I can love me better than you can.” On their own, the lyrics could be about any given ill-fated romance. But once the single dropped in full, the superstar got pointedly more specific.
“We were good, we were gold/ Kind of dream that can’t be sold/ We were right till we weren’t/ Built a home and watched it burn,” she sings on the opening verse, strutting across a Los Angeles overpass in the video wearing a gold lamé sheath. Of course, fans will remember that the couple’s Malibu home was destroyed in the devastating Woolsey Fire of 2018, a tragedy Cyrus later admitted spurred her into marrying Hemsworth nearly a decade after they first fell in love.
“When you experience what we experienced together with someone, it is like glue. You’re the only two people in the world who can understand,” the singer explained in a February 2019 interview with Elle, just months after the pair tied the knot in an intimate ceremony. “I would say that losing the house changed us much more than getting married changed us.”
Roses, Forgiveness and More Lyrical References
In the second verse, Cyrus seems to divulge moments from behind closed doors when Hemsworth tried to win her back, crooning, “Paint my nails cherry red/ Matched the roses that you left.” However, despite proclaiming she “didn’t want to leave” over and over on the chorus, the Hannah Montana star isn’t looking back with sadness. Instead, she nonchalantly declares, “No remorse, no regrets/ I forgive every word you said” before dancing ecstatically around an LA mansion all on her own.
The Bruno Mars Connection
“Flowers” slyly references Bruno Mars‘ 2013 No. 1 hit “When I Was Your Man” into its declaration of independence from a former lover.
Mirroring the chorus of “Flowers” from the other partner’s perspective, Mars croons, “I should have bought you flowers, And held your hand/ Should have gave you all my hours, When I had the chance/ Take you to every party ’cause all you wanted to do was dance/ Now my baby’s dancing, But she’s dancing with another man” on the lovelorn smash, which became his fourth chart-topper in the spring of 2013.
Some unconfirmed fan theories floating around the Twittersphere claim Hemsworth once dedicated the track from Mars’ 2012 album Unorthodox Jukebox to Cyrus after the couple broke off their first engagement back in late 2013.
“Me explaining to the Trader Joe’s employee how Flowers by Miley Cyrus has the same tune as When I Was Your Man By Bruno Mars and her chorus lyrics being a response to Bruno’s chorus lyrics because Liam Hemsworth dedicated that song to her once is pop culture [HERSTORY]!!!!” one fan tweeted to explain the purported connection between the two songs.
The ‘Access Hollywood’ Interview
In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, Cyrus appears to harken back to a particular interview the couple did together back in 2019.
At the time, they were attending the Vanity Fair Oscars party and were stopped on the red carpet by a reporter from Access Hollywood, who lavished praise on Cyrus…but not before Hemsworth thought the compliment was for him.
“We’ve loved you for so long,” the journalist told Cyrus, to which her then-hubby responded “Thank you,” leading the interviewer to quip, “Oh yeah I’m not talkin’ ’bout you!” At this, Hemsworth playfully rolled his eyes and smiled through the awkward moment, as the reporter went on to ask his wife, “You have grown and done so much as a woman and as a person, as a musician. Does it feel good where you’re at right now?”
However, when the Access Hollywood personality followed that up by asking what a dance looked like between the couple, Hemsworth didn’t love Cyrus playfully grinding on him. “Don’t do it, don’t do it. Sweetheart, we’re on the carpet,” he chided at the time.
Well, in the video, Cyrus appears to reclaim her moves for herself, mimicking the grinding motion among her burst of gleeful choreography at the visual’s climax. Why yes, she can take herself dancing, thank you very much!