Prisoner (Miley Cyrus song)

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"Prisoner"
Miley Cyrus - Prisoner cover art.png
Single by Miley Cyrus featuring Dua Lipa
from the album Plastic Hearts
ReleasedNovember 19, 2020 (2020-11-19)
RecordedJuly 2020[1]
Genre
Length2:49
LabelRCA
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Miley Cyrus singles chronology
"Midnight Sky"
(2020)
"Prisoner"
(2020)
Dua Lipa singles chronology
"Fever"
(2020)
"Prisoner"
(2020)
Music video
"Prisoner" on YouTube

"Prisoner" is a song by American singer Miley Cyrus featuring English singer Dua Lipa. It was released on November 19, 2020 through RCA Records as the second single from Cyrus' seventh studio album Plastic Hearts (2020).

Background and release[edit]

Following the October 2019 release of her single "Don't Start Now", Lipa confirmed that she and Cyrus were planning on recording a collaboration together.[2] In May of the following year, Lipa stated that she and Cyrus had decided to scrap their collaboration and record something different.[3] On September 14, 2020, Cyrus confirmed the collaboration with Lipa and that it would appear on her seventh studio album, Plastic Hearts.[4] At the beginning of October, after being spotted shooting a video together in New York City, rumblings that Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa were working on a secret project got even bigger.[5] In an interview with Spanish radio station Cadena 100 on October 13, 2020, Cyrus stated that due to her and Lipa's fans "begging" for their collaboration to be released, they "[could] expect something pretty soon".[6] On November 13, 2020, Cyrus announced the song's title as "Prisoner", along with the Plastic Hearts track listing reveal.[7] Cyrus began teasing the single in a series of tweets where she confirmed its release and posted videos of her fans reacting to its music video.[8] Cyrus and Lipa announced the release of the song on November 18, 2020. The song was released on November 19.[9]

In an interview to Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Cyrus said they had worked on other songs together in the past and praised Lipa:

For her and I, there's just no competition. That changes just everything. There's a true partnership. Then I also liked that it wasn't the first song we'd cut together. We actually cut other songs. She wanted to keep going until it was right, until we found the one that honors our individuality. [...] We just waited until we felt like, 'Now this is Dua-Miley song. You can just, everything about it reflects us.' I mean, there's even something to me, like how I talk about like fashion being a way to flip yourself inside out. The colors that I see, when I listen to a song, I see colors. Some people's charisma is really overwhelming. I see, when Dua's around, that her charisma, there's no sense of desperation to it, like, 'I've got to be the best because if I'm not what if...' There's a calmness to her success, which I really like. Because I feel like when you can tell someone is too much of a… or a survivalist. That I don't like.[10]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

Cyrus described "Prisoner" as a perfect blend of her and Lipa's styles.[6] It is a dance,[11] dark-pop,[12] disco-punk,[13] disco-rock,[14] glam rock,[15] and nu-disco track with a length of two minutes and forty-nine seconds.[16] The song's chorus interpolates the melody from Olivia Newton-John's 1981 hit "Physical".[17] The song was composed using 4:4 time in the key of Eb minor, with a moderately-fast tempo of 126–132 beats per minute.[18]

The lyrics to "Prisoner" relate to angst inpired by isolation feelings and were described by critics as a "heartache anthem" and a "glam declaration of independence".[17] In an article about the song's lyrics for Elle, Alyssa Bailey described the track as "a dark song that captures what it's like to be trapped in an unhealthy, manipulative relationship where their partner keeps pulling them back".[10] Some parallels can be drawn between the lyrics to "Prisoner" and Cyrus' old songs. The verse: "I try to replace it with the city lights" is an allusion to Cyrus' 2019 song "Slide Away", about her split from then-husband Liam Hemsworth, where she sings: "So won't you slide away?/Back to the ocean, I'll go back to the city lights".[19] Another allusion to a Cyrus' old song can be seen in the pre-chorus where she sings: "You keep making it harder to stay", in which is a contrast to the lyrics to her 2010 song "Stay" that contains the lyric "And if you ask me, I will stay".[19]

Cyrus spoke about the song's lyrics to Zane Lowe on Apple Music where she stated that it also reflects being in quarantine: "I mean, in a way... I feel too, I mean, we're just trapped in our emotions right now. I mean, really me, there's no escaping it. It's like, 'Locked up, can't get you off my mind.' Anything that you've tried to suppress or compartmentalize at that point, it's coming up. It's yours to own, to own it or release it."[10]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
NME 5/5 stars[13]

Ali Shutler of NME gave the song five out five stars, calling it "a disco-punk anthem that goes off like a cherry bomb", stating that it "hit[s] the sour-sweet spot between grit and glam" and described Lipa as "the perfect partner in crime for [Cyrus], as they take the basement snarl of punk and give it some '80s disco swagger". Shutler also remarked that "the track gives [Lipa]'s excitably shiny Future Nostalgia space to shine without forcing [Cyrus] out of the spotlight", further praising the artists for "elevat[ing] each other rather than competing" and added: "If only every collaboration had this balance."[17] Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone wrote that "'Prisoner' perfectly splits the difference between Dua Lipa's neo-disco pop and the late-Seventies/early-Eighties rock vibe that's defined Cyrus' Plastic Hearts era".[20] The New York Times' team of music critics ranked "Prisoner" as the most notable song of the week in their weekly updated column "The Playlist", where Lindsay Zoladz called the track "truly outrageous" and stated that Cyrus and Lipa "make a harmonious pair".[21]

Eli Enis from Consequence of Sound said that "the two stars exude a natural chemistry on 'Prisoner'" even though "the pairing is a little bit unusual on paper".[22] Mike Wass of Idolator remarked that Cyrus' previous single "'Midnight Sky' set the bar exceedingly high, but Miley Cyrus proves that lightning (or pop genius) can strike twice with 'Prisoner'", pointed the inspiration by "the unique fusion of pop, dance and rock that briefly occurred in the early 1980s" in Cyrus' Plastic Hearts era and stated that "there are elements of all three genres in 'Prisoner' which wouldn't sound out of place sandwiched between Pat Benatar and Blondie on '80s playlist".[23] Justin Curto from Vulture praised the song saying "their team-up on Cyrus’s new song 'Prisoner' a match made in ‘70s heaven".[24] Erica Gonzalez from Harper's Bazaar praised "Prisoner" calling it a "killer collaboration" and saying "the song itself also evokes a gritty, vintage feel", further noticing "the hook is even reminiscent of Olivia Newton John's 'Physical'".[25]

Music video[edit]

Background and release[edit]

The music video for "Prisoner" was filmed over two days on September 30–October 1, 2020 in Brooklyn.[26][27][28][29] The video was co-directed by Cyrus and Alana O'Herlihy.[30] On November 18, 2020 Cyrus teased the music video release on her social media with a 20-second clip where the two artists are seen, covered in blood, partying it up and eating cherries.[31] On November 19, the next day, the video premiered on YouTube alongside the song's release and it was described by Liam Hess of Vogue as "packed with grunge-inspired fashion and enough black eyeliner to make Jett herself jealous".[31][5]

Synopsis[edit]

The road-trip inspired video begins with Cyrus' mouth singing the first verses of the song with a visual reference to the 1975 classic film The Rocky Horror Picture Show.[32] Performing as unnamed rockstars, the clip follows with Cyrus and Lipa driving a tour bus together, where the two then vamp it up and party in the back of the bus like an 1980s rock band.[5] During the party it can be seen both of them dancing and smoking together until Cyrus dumps a jar of maraschino cherries down her face, making it look like she's covered in blood.[32] Right after that, Cyrus and Lipa start grinding on, licking each other's bodies and singing the song's chorus face to face. Subsequently, the video portrays the duo arriving at a dive bar and delivering a riotous show with Lipa giving the audience the middle finger while wearing an ultra-rare 1990s Gucci cut-out dress designed by Tom Ford.[5][32] Lastly, a message pops up onscreen: "In loving memory of all my exes, eat shit".[32]

Reception[edit]

The music video for "Prisoner" was well-received by critics. After calling it "truly outrageous" and "blood-splattered", Lindsay Zoladz of The New York Times drew parallels between the video and two classic films: "Rock of Love: Thelma & Louise"? The Runaways biopic if it were directed by Ozzy Osbourne?", she reflected in her review of the song.[10] Similarly, Ali Shutler of NME pointed that the video is "packed with attitude and big on Thelma & Louise energy" in a five out of five stars review.[17] Sydney Bucksbaum of Entertainment Weekly described the video as "a sexy, bloody road trip"[33] and Eli Enis of Consequence of Sound stated that "the two stars exude a natural chemistry".[24] Justin Curto of Vulture praised the video saying: "emotionally and physically, however, they are quite free, dancing and licking each other on the bus before rocking out at a dive bar together."[24] Mehera Bonner of Cosmopolitan pointed the final scene with a message to Cyrus' and Lipa's exes as the standout moment of the video, calling it "iconique".[34] Wonderland magazine called it "already iconic", "a trip itself" and noticed its "references to Jennifer's Body, The Runaways and even The Rocky Horror Picture Show, we're also getting mad Thelma & Louise vibes, just without any death-defying cliff jumps (as of yet)"[35] Erica Gonzalez of Harper's Bazaar praised its visuals saying it "exude[s] pure raunchy, '80s rock 'n' roll vibes, complete with mullets, a disheveled tour bus, and ripped fishnet tights" and further commented "they play up the old-school aesthetic with film footage, heavy eye makeup, and layers and layers of jewels".[25]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[36]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2020) Peak
position
Argentina (Argentina Hot 100)[37] 52
Australia (ARIA)[38] 14
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[39] 15
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[40] 32
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[41] 40
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[42] 17
Canada CHR/Top 40 (Billboard)[43] 38
Canada Hot AC (Billboard)[44] 32
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[45] 14
Denmark (Tracklisten)[46] 36
France (SNEP)[47] 76
Germany (Official German Charts)[48] 20
Global 200 (Billboard)[49] 12
Ireland (IRMA)[50] 5
Italy (FIMI)[51] 34
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[52] 34
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[53] 32
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[54] 24
Norway (VG-lista)[55] 11
Portugal (AFP)[56] 13
Singapore (RIAS)[57] 27
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[58] 10
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[59] 26
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[60] 23
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[61] 11
UK Singles (OCC)[62] 8
US Billboard Hot 100[63] 54
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[64] 40
US Rolling Stone Top 100[65] 18

Release history[edit]

Release dates and formats for "Prisoner"
Region Date Format Label Ref.
Various November 19, 2020 RCA [66]
Australia November 20, 2020 Contemporary hit radio Sony [67]
United Kingdom November 21, 2020 Adult contemporary radio RCA [68]
Netherlands Contemporary hit radio [69]
United States November 24, 2020 [70]
United Kingdom November 27, 2020 [71]
United States December 7, 2020 Adult contemporary radio [72]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]