A sonic mirage? The mysterious reverb of distant guitar? A hazy musical apparition? Nonetheless the ear perceives the preliminary seconds of Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers,” the six-week Billboard Scorching 100 No. 1 and record-breaking streaming smash, the seed behind the runaway observe was planted throughout a easy writing train.
“The idea really began with the word ‘flowers’ itself,” says “Flowers” co-writer Michael Pollack, chatting with Billboard from a music camp forward of the discharge of Cyrus’ new album Infinite Summer time Trip. “It’s been really incredible to watch,” he says of the fervent response to the music. “This is the kind of record you dream about having your whole career and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”
Pollack has loved a charmed rise. When he was only a scholar at Vanderbilt College, he accompanied his idol Billy Joel on the piano throughout an viewers Q&A (he requested to return as much as the stage, Joel accepted, and the next video went viral). Since that auspicious introduction to the general public sphere a decade in the past, he’s been a detailed collaborator to artists like Lauv, Ben Platt, Justin Bieber and Maroon 5. For the latter band he co-wrote “Memories,” and with Bieber he collaborated on his Justice observe “Holy.” On account of Pollack’s prolific discography, he shared the title of songwriter of the yr for 2022 on the BMI Pop Awards, tying with fellow chart-topper Omar Fedi.
In terms of Pollack’s harmonious musical relationship with Cyrus, the 2 first met in Could 2021 throughout a writing session. “We started working together periodically then, but really hit our stride in January of 2022,” Pollack says. “There’s an endless list of what makes Miley special as a collaborator, but one of her greatest strengths is her taste. Miley has impeccable taste. She listens to and loves such a wide breadth of music. Because of that, I don’t have to guess if something is great or not when we’re writing. If Miley says something is great, I trust her wholeheartedly.”
Pollack, who says he virtually at all times writes on the piano (“It’s where I feel most comfortable and it’s where my best ideas have come”), is credited as a co-writer on “Flowers” alongside Gregory “Aldae” Hein and Cyrus. In terms of the music’s delivery, the songwriter says the vast majority of the observe simply got here into view.
“Compared to other songs, the lyrics for ‘Flowers’ came relatively quickly,” he notes. “The only line that gave us trouble was the end of the pre-chorus.” Pollack is referring to when Cyrus potently muses, “I didn’t wanna leave you, I didn’t wanna lie.” “I think it was really important to contrast the empowerment of the chorus with a little bit of sadness and vulnerability, and that line ‘started to cry, but then remembered I’ does exactly that. I also love that the sentence is incomplete. It’s a subtle cliffhanger to take you to the chorus.”
Maybe that’s why “Flowers” soars with its singular sound, presenting a mix of genres that concurrently compete and gel collectively. Whereas a pal instructed him it delivered to thoughts Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” (alluding to its crescendos, disco violins and empowering theme, little question), many have additionally identified similarities to Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.” Pollack received’t touch upon the connection (maybe that’s Miley’s story to inform), however any listener can detect that the music boasts a refrain that’s the inverse of what Cyrus sings on “Flowers.” (Bruno croons, “I should have bought you flowers and held your hand.” Apparently, Mars’ co-writer Philip Lawrence as soon as stated that “When I Was Your Man” was impressed partly by the artistry of Billy Joel.)
Pollack will say that the unique refrain was initially much less empowering than what it developed into. “I remember singing the tagline with the lyric, ‘But I could never love me like you can,’ and Miley and Greg wanted to flip the script and say, ‘Yeah, I can love me better than you can.’ Once we had the tagline established, the rest of the lyric came rather quickly.”
With that, a breakup anthem morphed right into a hardy unbiased roar versus one thing sorer. In line with Pollack: “That was without a doubt one of the biggest moments of the writing process.”
Using that inspiration, an ephemeral and anthemic second in “Flowers” comes within the type of a cacophony of voices the place Cyrus proudly publicizes to the world, “I can love me better, baby, I can love me better.” Pollack says the invention of that puzzle piece was his favourite second within the (excuse the metaphor) blossoming of the music. It got here late within the course of. “We had finished writing the entire song and sang it down to see how it flowed from top to bottom,” he remembers. “After the second chorus, Miley freestyled the post-chorus (when she says “I can love me better”), however the way in which she initially sang it was on this cool, talky tone. That part introduced a sexiness to the file that we didn’t even understand it wanted.”
Whereas Pollack stated he “felt the magic” on the demo he recorded with Cyrus, the songwriter was greatly surprised by its success. “We were also so engulfed in the writing process for the album that I didn’t really overanalyze any of the individual songs we made, but instead just focused on what we were going to write next.”
Along with different cuts on Infinite Summer time Trip, Pollack has different main tracks floating round, starting from the melancholy (Selena Gomez’s “My Mind and Me”) to the romantic (“Marry Me” from Jennifer Lopez and Maluma). Nevertheless it’s the record-breaking success of “Flowers” that has grown highest; not simply on the charts, however to grow to be one of many largest success tales in Cyrus’ already blockbuster legacy. (Rolling Stone went to this point to say that “Miley’s whole career has been building to this moment.”)
“I think they’re all easy types of songs to write, as long as there is a genuine emotion to tap into and an authentic muse,” says Pollack. “I personally struggle to write songs when no one in the room can tap into the source of the emotion. Each of these songs is rooted in truth.”