The Personal Trauma Behind “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” by Mark Ronson Ft. Miley Cyrus

Just weeks before Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus released “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” a California wildfire had destroyed Cyrus’s home.

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Both artists survived personal turmoil as their heartbreaking single raced up the charts. They borrowed from a timeless song about heartbreak from someone dear to Cyrus while also filming the music video in a location they couldn’t have predicted would soon be roiled by devastation.

As a result, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” is both deeply personal and globally poignant.

Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” Reimagined

As he put it, Ronson produced a “sad banger” that sounds like an electronic remix of Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene.” Parton is Miley Cyrus’s godmother, which completes the symmetry for Ronson’s electro-country hit.

“Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” is about despair from an ending romance and equally a metaphor for heartrending world events.

This world can hurt you
It cuts you deep and leaves a scar
Things fall apart, but nothing breaks like a heart
And nothing breaks like a heart

A phone conversation details betrayal from a partner. However, many receive news on their phones, and anguish also comes from devastating events like violence and war.

When Cyrus sings, “It’s smoking, we both know it,” she warns that this isn’t sustainable. Meanwhile, while she recorded a verse about a burning house, little did she know how true to life that line would become.

I heard you on the phone last night
We live and die by pretty lies
You know it, oh, we both know it
These silver-bullet cigarettes
This burning house, there’s nothing left
It’s smoking, we both know it
We got all night to fall in love
But just like that, we fall apart
We’re broken, we’re broken

Everybody Hurts

Ronson and Cyrus filmed the music video for “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” in Kyiv, Ukraine. There’s a breaking news report on TV where the chyron reads “Miley’s Wild Ride” as Cyrus is chased in her car by law enforcement.

Key scenes in the video include shots on the New Darnytski Bridge, which crosses the Dnieper River. Cyrus’s car also drives through a strip club as well as a shooting range with children inside firing guns.

The video speaks to the casual violence that consumes the news and the continued tragedy of school shootings in America.

Cyrus told British TV host Graham Norton, “Mark was very trusting about my ideas. It’s all about what is heartbreaking to us in society every single day—waking up to the news of violence, judgment, and hypocrisy.” She continued, “It’s about a deeper heartbreak than losing love in a romance or relationship.”

She wanted to focus on the things that break “us apart every single day.”

Heartache In Their Personal Lives

The tumult in Ronson and Cyrus’ lives influenced “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart.” Ronson had separated from his wife, Joséphine de La Baume, and the Woolsey Fire in 2018 burned down a Malibu home Cyrus shared with then-husband Liam Hemsworth.

In the interview with Norton, Ronson said the song “only came because of where we were and how we met.” Cyrus added “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” was a timely song for what was happening in her personal life and the world.

In 2018, Ronson released the song as the first single from his fifth album Late Night Feelings. Ronson and Cyrus co-wrote it with a team of writers, and it reached No. 2 on the UK singles chart.

Additionally, Jamie xx and the Picard Brothers produced the track with Ronson.

It Must Be a Song Already

In 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and expanded the conflict that began in 2014. Watching Ronson and Cyrus drive around Kyiv in the music video from 2018 adds a haunting element to an already moving work of art.

When Ronson gathered with his co-writers to work on the song, he was surprised to learn a song didn’t already exist with that title. In a world with such regular heartbreak, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” was a song waiting to be written.

He told Billboard, “When we came up with the chorus, it felt kind of special. I came up with the chorus with Tommy Brenneck and Ilsey Juber, this fantastic songwriter, and when she said that line—‘nothing breaks like a heart’—I was like, ‘That can’t be that no one’s ever said that in the history of songs, right?’ I think they probably looked it up real quick and were like, ‘No.’ It’s like what you’re searching for your whole life.”

Both Ronson and Cyrus called their collaboration and its timing “cosmic.” Meanwhile, the grief in “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” remains timeless.

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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

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