Miley Cyrus' 'Black Mirror' Music Has A Sneaky Double Meaning
Light spoilers ahead for Black Mirror Season 5 episode "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too." Fans will get more than the usual slate of big-name celebs in the new season of Black Mirror: new Miley Cyrus music is also in the third episode, "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too." In it, Cyrus plays a pop star "whose charmed existence isn't quite as rosy it appears," according to the official description. Naturally, that means the character will, well, be singing, but it's unclear if Cyrus will release the music, or if it was just made for the show. However, Cyrus is currently working on a new album, so it's possible her Black Mirror songs will pop up there.
However, the tracks Cyrus' character sings aren't technically original. As Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker told The Independent, they're all reworked Nine Inch Nails songs. "Actually every song that she performs in this, they're all Nine Inch Nails songs that we adapted into pop standards," he said. "That was actually one thing that was in the script early on that we had to get permission from [Nine Inch Nails singer] Trent Reznor to do that, to re-write some of his tracks as upbeat pop songs."
The music also seems to serve a deeper purpose in the episode's narrative. In an interview with BBC Radio, Cyrus said the story is meant to highlight what women like her character, Ashley O., go through in the music industry, and the music likely reflects that. "I understand everyone's gone through this but I do think for females in the industry… it's hard to be taken seriously," she told Radio 1 Newsbeat. "People assume that if you're not wearing a bodysuit and singing pop music, why would anyone want to see you?"
Ashley O.'s initial songs are reminiscent of the easy and fun — if slightly vapid — hits many people associate exclusively with female pop singers. Cyrus belts out dancey, synthesized, extremely produced tunes while clad in latex and with a team of background dancers behind her, leaning into, as Cyrus said, the unfair and exploitative expectations placed upon female singers.
Songs by Ashley O. featured later in the episode are more complex and poignant — and seem like music she actually wants to be singing. However, she only sings them in the comfort of her own home, away from fans and photographers — only further reinforcing Cyrus' point about the kind of music people want from female musicians. If Ashley O. isn't putting out upbeat party songs that'll skyrocket to No. 1, the episode suggests, then she may as well not be making music at all.
Still, both the songs Ashley O. performs in public and the ones she sings in private are good, and definitely sound like covers that Black Mirror fans will want to download IRL. And there's precedent for thinking they'll be released down the line. After Black Mirror Season 3, the '80s-themed soundtrack for fan favorite episode "San Junipero" received an official release. Besides, if Cyrus recorded a bunch of certified bops for the show, would series creator Charlie Brooker (or Cyrus herself) really let them go to waste?
Whether or not Ashley O.'s songs ever make it beyond the show, music isn't ever just music in Black Mirror. It's a show filled with clues, subtle hints, and Easter eggs — so while you're watching, listen close.