The Real Meaning Behind Miley Cyrus' 'Prisoner'

One year passed between when Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth announced their separation and Cyrus' November 2020 album, Plastic Hearts. The album marks the first music Cyrus has put out since the breakup and subsequent divorce, and now fans are buzzing about its possible lyrical references to Hemsworth. For instance, the album opener, "WTF Do I Know," has Cyrus taunting over a fast-tempo beat, "Maybe gettin' married just to cause a distraction / Here to tell you somethin' that you don't know." This led fans like Twitter user @springof92_to muse, "wtf do i know' really came for liam hemsworth, huh?"

On the Phil Collins-esque ballad, "Never Be Me," Cyrus confessionally sings, "If you're looking for faithful that'll never be me / If you're looking for someone to be all that you need/ That'll never be me." Followers of the Hemsworth-Cyrus romance saga, which began in 2010, were keen to acknowledge the potential connection to 2019 rumors that Cyrus' infidelity could have caused the pair's demise. "I will never forgive Liam Hemsworth for making Miley feel like she's not enough. Like what'd he do to make her write Angels Like You & Never Be Me??" wrote another Twitter user.

Could Hemsworth also be the muse of the album's lead single, "Prisoner"? Let's explore the lyrics to find out.

"Prisoner" is about owning and releasing one's emotions

The music video for Miley Cyrus' single, "Prisoner," features Cyrus and song collaborator Dua Lipa having a two-person party filled with scantily-clad debauchery. Mid-video, we see Lipa licking what appears to be cherry juice off Cyrus' face. The song's opening lyrics offer clues about what bought on the two women's Wild Things moment. "Prisoner, prisoner/Locked up, can't get you off my mind, off my mind / Oh-whoa, why can't you, Why can't you just let me go?" As Cyrus told Zane Lowe for Apple's "New Music Daily Radio" (via StyleCaster) the lyrics indicate a desire to break free from pent-up angst caused by a former paramour. "Anything that you've tried to suppress or compartmentalize at that point, it's coming up. It's yours to own, to own it or release it," Cyrus said. Sure enough, the song continues with Cyrus declaring, "I'll never escape it, I need the high."

Cyrus also told Lowe that the single, released in November 2020, was, by happy happenstance, a suitable metaphor for the cabin fever many are feeling during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. "I mean, in a way... we're just trapped in our emotions right now," Cyrus observed.

Although the song dances around any specific references to Cyrus's past relationships, the music video did not opt for such subtlety. A title card appears toward the end, reading, "In loving memory of all my exes. Eat s**t." We think they got the message loud and clear!