“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” is the first…and possibly the last…record in a genre I never knew existed — a genre I can best describe as world-weary, chilled-out Country Ibiza.
It is, however, a phenomenal song on many levels and one of my favourite tracks of 2018.
What a comeback “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” is for Miley Cyrus. She seems to have upset all sorts of people over the years as she’s made the undeniably difficult transition from Disney Channel wholesome teen into an adult life of her own making.
Growing up is the hardest thing for any of us to do. Trying to do that while the world’s press follow you around to call you out on anything they think will generate clicks and eyeballs from their readers is about the unkindest way of treating another human being I can think of.
That’s not to say I like everything she’s done over the years…I can certainly live quite happily without hearing “Wrecking Ball” ever again…but I do respect her right to experiment and find her own way.
Pairing up with Mark Ronson for “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” was a masterstroke though. I’ve never met Mark Ronson, but if I could, I’d have his babies. I don’t think there’s a person alive I’ve got more admiration for.
He first came to the attention of a global audience through his inspiring production work, along with Salaam Remi, on Amy Winehouse’s groundbreaking “Back To Black” album. Mark Ronson has since gone on to write and produce, amongst other things, one of the best-selling songs of the 2010s, “Uptown Funk”, which never fails to lift my spirits, no matter what I’m going through when it comes on the radio.
Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus co-wrote “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” and between them may have invented an entire new genre of music….that world-weary, chilled-out Country Ibiza vibe.
“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” is the launch track for a forthcoming Mark Ronson album, due out in early 2019. In interviews, I’ve seen him describe this album as encapsulating the thoughts that go through your head when you find yourself wide awake and all alone in the wee, small hours, staring into the darkness.
I’d be the first to admit this doesn’t seem like the most upbeat premise for a collection of songs, but if they’re all as good as “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” I, for one, will be very happy.
You know you’re in for a very different experience from the start…in a style that was popular in country songs once upon a time, but largely out of fashion in recent years, “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” starts with the chorus…
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
As there’s minimal orchestration at this point, Miley Cyrus is showcasing her voice to great effect. Some people will always be a bit sniffy about TV show teenagers trying to become “proper artists”, but now that it’s a little more “lived in”, I absolutely adore her voice on this track. It’s got just the right mix of determination and vulnerability, and she holds back on the power in all the right places to ramp up the sense of melancholy in the face of life’s struggles.
And the lyrics themselves make us think…always the sign of a great piece of creative work.
We can lose everything we have, is the sentiment, but having our heart broken is worse than having every one of our physical possessions destroyed.
Which, of course, it is…
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
“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” is a brilliant track. And I know this is a bit nerdy, but the aspect of the production I like most of all is the strings.
They’re very much underplayed in the mix. You can hear them, but you’ve got to be looking out for them. Less-talented record producers would be tempted to max out the strings as it’s “the obvious thing to do” in a song with sad lyrics like this one.
The difference between a great artist and an average performer is that the average performer does the obvious thing but the great artist doesn’t.
It also demonstrates another of Mark Ronson’s great skills…taking the traditions of whatever he is working with, but then making a new piece of art all of his own which blends the old and the new in a way that’s respectful to both styles.
He did that with Amy Winehouse, when he essentially reinvented the 1960s soul sound, whilst being respectful of its roots. He did the same with funk in “Uptown Funk” and now he’s doing the same with Country in “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart”.
Of course, someone else could have written a traditional sad Country song with broadly the same theme and lyrics…possibly even the same tune…and made a decent enough record.
What makes “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” great is that it’s respectful of the Country traditions…you won’t find strings and guitar work like this track in many places outside Tennessee…but it inhabits its own space, which as best I can recall never existed before. The world-weary, chilled-out Country Ibiza vibe…
“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” is a great song. I’m not quite so enamoured by the video, but Mark Ronson is a record producer, not a video producer, so I’ll let that one slide in the interests of being able to talk about a great song. Personally, this is a track I’ll be listening to on Spotify, rather than watching it on YouTube, but as usual, I’ve given links to both below so you can access the song in whichever way works best for you.
The video, for me, is trying a little too hard whereas the genius of the track itself is that it doesn’t. The track just sets out its case and lets things be, ready for you to make up your own mind about it, exactly as great art should.
Here’s the second of my three top picks for the best record of 2018…Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus with “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart”…
The video is below, but if you prefer you can listen to the track on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/27rdGxbavYJeBphck5MZAF
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