Music

13 Times Miley Cyrus Delivered Jaw-Dropping & Empowering Live Performances

From a 2009 Teen Choice Awards performance to her 2021 “Dancing Queen” cover.

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Since her debut on Disney Channel's Hannah Montana, fans have watched Miley Cyrus grow up. While she's reinvented herself countless times throughout her career, one thing has never changed: her ability to deliver show-stopping, headline-making vocal performances.

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Through her Happy Hippie Foundation, she's also devoted time to LGBTQ+ activism. On June 25, she'll combine both passions for Peacock's Miley Cyrus Presents: Stand By You, a Pride concert featuring Brothers Osborne, Mickey Guyton, Little Big Town, Maren Morris, and Orville Peck.

Along with the concert special, which includes the pop star's already-viral take on ABBA's "Dancing Queen" alongside Morris, let’s take a look back at 13 of Cyrus' most shocking, impressive, and uplifting performances of her decade-plus career.

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Three years after Hannah first aired, Cyrus debuted her now-signature hit “Party in the U.S.A.” at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards. Featuring the then-16-year-old singer grasping a pole atop an ice cream cart, the performance sparked outrage among parents across the country.

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In 2012, Cyrus launched Backyard Sessions, a series of performances recorded at her home with a cover of her godmother Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” With over 300 million views, Cyrus’ viral soulful rendition has become a fan-favorite, and she performs it often to this day.

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Just after shocking her audience with a dramatic blonde haircut in 2012, Cyrus appeared at VH1 Divas to perform a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.” While it’s not one of her most-discussed performances, it marks the first of her now-iconic takes on classic rock songs.

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For perhaps her most iconic performance of all time, Cyrus stuck her tongue out and grinded on Robin Thicke for a mash-up of “We Can’t Stop” and “Blurred Lines” at the 2013 MTV VMAs, sparking Twitter-breaking controversy and ushering in a new era of her ever-evolving career.

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Cyrus Bangerz era continued with a performance of breakup power ballad “Wrecking Ball” at the 2013 iHeartRadio Festival that brought the singer to tears onstage in her eye-catching mesh outfit, having just broken off her first engagement with on-and-off partner Liam Hemsworth.

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Her next viral cover was a take on Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” recorded at BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge in 2013, which currently holds over 60 million views on YouTube. Fresh off the VMAs controversy, the set allowed Cyrus to simply show off her impressive, stripped-back vocal chops.

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For another set of Backyard Sessions, Cyrus linked up with Ariana Grande for a rendition of Crowded House’s hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Complete with animal onesies and a flirty moment the caused Grande to flub her second verse, the heartfelt cover has racked up 90 million YouTube views.

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In yet another career reinvention, she collaborated with psych-rock band The Flaming Lips for 2015's avant-garde Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. To close out the 2015 MTV VMAs, which Cyrus hosted, she debuted "Dooo It!" alongside Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and several drag queens.

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Continuing the Dead Petz era, Cyrus hosted and performed on SNL, donning wacky, colorful outfits and questionably braided hair. Her performance of the somber “Twinkle Song” later went viral for the song’s breakdown, when she repeatedly scream-sings the lyric: “What does it mean?”

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After largely straying from performing songs from Hannah Montana since its end in 2011, Cyrus gave the uplifting and emotional “The Climb” a new life by performing it at 2018’s March For Our Lives rally against gun violence.

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Days before Hemsworth officially filed for divorce, Cyrus released “Slide Away,” an introspective track about the deterioration of a relationship. At the 2019 MTV VMAs, she gave the track its live debut in a slinky black (revenge?) dress, backed by a string orchestra.

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To launch her Plastic Hearts era, Cyrus returned to the MTV VMAs for a technicolor performance of “Midnight Sky,” a disco-tinged pop-rock bop that exudes pure confidence. The cherry on top? She even recreated her iconic “Wrecking Ball” video by swinging on a giant disco ball.

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Cyrus’ pivot to arena rock was solidified with her viral cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” at the 2020 iHeartRadio Music Festival, which has racked up over 64 million views. With her mullet and Mugler bodysuit in check, she belted out a rendition of the hit that’s all her own.

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