Noah Cyrus orders a birthday cake for her mother. She hasn’t seen her mom in three weeks since the world went into lockdown following COVID-19, but she is excited for their reunion — even if it is for a few, socially distanced moments sitting across from one another outside. “I’m more scared about my mom more than anything,” says Cyrus, who has been self-isolating at home in Los Angeles. The city could remain shut down for several more months, so this birthday is the perfect occasion to sneak in a safe — and masked — visit with her mom.
Just two days after this conversation, Cyrus will have another reason to celebrate. Global pandemic or not, her new EP and follow up to her 2018 debut, Good Cry, will finally hit. The End of Everything is exactly that: the end of everything — well, just the world.
Inspired by John Boswell’s ‘Timelapse of the Universe” video, which explores how the world will meet its demise billions of years from now, Cyrus was moved by this notion of everything coming to an end one day. “It will all come to an end, and so beautifully, with two black holes that have completely swallowed and obliterated everything we’ve ever had,” Cyrus says. “They’re going to circle each other and dance with each other. It’s so beautiful to think that those two black holes will literally hold everything that we’ve ever known is inside of them, and the second they end their last dance, the world goes black.”
The video hit Cyrus hard but gave root to the EP. “It just made me think about life, and you, me, my mom, my dad, and everybody and how much it matters,” she says. “And the little things that seem so important, they just got smaller again, and the things that weren’t really important got prioritized and bigger.” She adds, “It just put everything into perspective for me.”
Completely baring herself, The End of Everything opens on the more cathartic and melodious swell of “Ghost.” Originally written in 2018, “Ghost” serves as an anthem of hope, traversing Cyrus’ own struggles with mental illness in its refrain, “I’m staring at a ghost in the mirror.” Nowhere near the realm of pop, The End of Everything is heavily steeped in infectious and affecting balladry, all exposing the artist’s deepest and darkest sides through the more reflecting “I Got So High I Saw Jesus,” “Liar” and “Lonely” — the latter song born from a therapy session, where she came to terms with her own loneliness — and the acoustic-drive “July,” the song that kicked off the writing of the EP for Cyrus.
Slow-churned and soulful, “Wonder Years,” featuring rapper Ant Clemons, pressed Cyrus to get clearance from Paul McCartney and the John Lennon estate to sample The Beatles’ 1967 hit “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
Coming out on the other side, “Young and Sad” started out as a song wallowing in sadness and self-deprecation, but evolved into a battle cry for happiness. It opens on an excerpt of an encouraging answering machine message her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, left for her — something she listens to frequently for comfort. Initially, she wrote the lyrics, “let me be young and sad a little while longer.”
“After I wrote that, I was like, ‘fuck that’s not it at all,’” Cyrus says. “I do not want to be young and sad. I want to be confident, and I want to feel happy. That’s something my mom struggled with when she was in her 20s. My mom was borderline agoraphobic and struggled with anxiety when she was younger, and my dad definitely relates with me on the anxiety and the depression side of things, so that’s not something that you really wish upon anybody, including your worst enemy.”
Cyrus dives deep into her own personal struggles, but The End of Everything is more of a bright new beginning for the 20-year-old. “I was never really able to write songs that aren’t personal,” Cyrus says. “That hasn’t changed, but for me, I was in a really dark place during that Good Cry EP, and I’ve gotten so much healthier. Every day I’m still working hard to stay healthy. My mental state has just improved so much.”
An advocate for mental health awareness, in 2019, Cyrus launched LONELY, a clothing line benefitting the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit that supports mental health and the prevention of suicide among teens.
At one point during her deep depression, Cyrus admitted locking herself in her bedroom. Her father had to knock the door down. Her savior: Therapy.
“There’s no way that I would have been able to get where I am mentally had I not had someone helping me work there,” Cyrus says. “The second I started doing that and accepting that it was helping me, I had such a huge turning point. From 2018 to 2020, I’ve just been through a hell of a lot of changes in my life, a lot of ups and definitely more downs, so working through that has just helped me evolve so much.”
Today, everything is different. There’s more levity and happiness exuding from the young artist. In many ways, The End of Everything is really the beginning of everything for Cyrus.
As the interview comes to an end, Cyrus’ cake has just arrived.
“She’s having two friends come over later, and they’re going to sit around in a circle around the fireplace, one on one side and one on the other,” says Cyrus of her mom Tish’s small gathering. “I’m going to bring her a cake for her and her friends that says, ‘I love you mommy’ and Travis Scott sneakers as a birthday gift. I’m making her a cool mom.”