Something unprecedented happened at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards: an artist took the stage for a performance, and then her dad won Song of the Year.
On Aug. 26, Miley Cyrus gave her most emotionally raw VMAs performance to date with the live debut of her breakup song “Slide Away” — an intense contrast to her raunchy, twerk-filled performance alongside Robin Thicke six years prior. Her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, was also at the awards show, but not just to support his daughter. Billy Ray had earned eight nominations for his remix of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” and walked away with an enviable Moon Person in hand (Miley’s own “Mother’s Daughter” was nominated twice).
This summer, Billy Ray, Miley and her younger sister Noah all stayed remarkably busy: the Cyrus patriarch jumped on “Old Town Road,” which helped launch the song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for a record-breaking 19 weeks; Miley released She Is Coming on RCA, the first of three EPs; and Noah unveiled the country-leaning “July,” her first new single since last September’s Good Cry EP, and accompanying music video. “They sort of snuck up on us all summer, and really dominated when nobody knew they were coming,” Tom Poleman, iHeartMedia’s president of national programming group, tells Billboard.
Since breaking out as a country heartthrob in the early ‘90s with “Achy Breaky Heart,” Billy Ray has remained relevant in various forms: he had a lead role on his daughter Miley’s hit Disney show, Hannah Montana, which ran for four seasons; was cast on Dancing With the Stars in 2007; and guested on Buck 22’s “Achy Breaky 2” in 2014, which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Rap Streaming Songs chart. But thanks to “Old Town Road,” which received a Cyrus-assisted remix in early April, the 58-year-old has astonishingly landed his biggest hit to date, the first Hot 100 No. 1 of his career, and the Song of the Summer for 2019. And it didn’t take long for Lil Nas X to become an unofficial part of the Cyrus family. Miley and Noah have posted a handful of photos on Instagram with him, and Miley even called him her “baby brother” in a celebratory post after he came out.
Now, Miley is celebrating a new chapter in own life, following her split from husband Liam Hemsworth. The pair got married last December, and since, Miley has kicked her career into high-gear with a starring role as pop star Ashley O in an episode of Black Mirror, a performance at Glastonbury (during which she brought out her dad and Lil Nas X), and collaborations with Swae Lee and RuPaul on her new EP.
She capped off the summer with an unexpected breakup single, “Slide Away,” which she performed for the first time at the VMAs and has peaked at No. 47 on the Hot 100 so far. Meanwhile, Noah recorded a special performance of “July” for Vevo, and recently guested in the video for Juice WRLD and Benny Blanco’s latest one-off, “Graduation.” Her “July” clip has over 5 million YouTube views to date.
The summer of Cyrus will likely spill into autumn. At the end of September, Miley will perform at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, her first time back since introducing Noah in 2017, and her first proper set since her split from Hemsworth. Poleman says iHeart’s research shows that Miley is one of the artists driving ticket sales for the event.
Poleman also points out that the festival has a history of surprise onstage collaborations — and it’s no secret that, considering the Cyrus family’s trajectory this summer so far, Miley’s set would “obviously lend itself perfectly” to yet another news-making moment (alongside papa Cyrus, perhaps?).
“They’re a pop culture family,” says Poleman. “They go beyond music, they’re constantly in the press and they constantly feed off of each other and support one another. It’s actually really nice to see that they’re very much still a family.”
Meanwhile, “Old Town Road” has fallen out of the No. 1 spot of the Hot 100, but still sits at No. 5 on the chart. Although Billy Ray’s next move is still a question mark, Miley has two more EPs on the way to follow She Is Coming, and Noah has more music in the works as well.
“They’re always incredibly smart about what they do,” Poleman says of the Cyrus family. “They’re driven and enormously popular, so they have a fan base eagerly waiting for whatever is next.”