‘Party In The U.S.A’: The Story Behind Miley Cyrus’ Hit

A hugely successful coming-of-age tale of the journey from countrified Nashville roots to Hollywood’s red carpet.

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Miley Cyrus, performer of Party in the USA
Photo: John Shearer/TCA 2009/WireImage

Miley Cyrus has grown into one of pop’s most provocative artists. First introduced as Disney Channel’s titular character Hannah Montana in 2006, the singer quickly ripped up her teen idol status and became known for her outspoken nature that was just as bold as her vocals.

Born Destiny Hope Cyrus in Tennessee, she grew up in a family of performers (including father Billy Ray Cyrus, older brother Trace of Metro Station, younger sister Noah and godmother Dolly Parton). So it seemed destined – pun intended – for the artist to follow suit. In the midst of the Hannah Montana series (which ran from 2006-2011), Cyrus released Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus in 2007, which doubled as her solo debut. She followed with 2008’s pop-rock Breakout album, but it was 2009’s “Party In The U.S.A.” that transitioned her from teen favorite to mainstream star.

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Listen to Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.” now.

Released as the lead single from Cyrus’ The Time of Our Lives EP, it was a coming-of-age tale of the singer’s journey from her countrified Nashville roots to Hollywood’s red carpet. Written by Jessie J, Dr. Luke, and Claude Kelly, “Party In The U.S.A.” was meant to be featured on Jessie J’s debut album. But she later passed on it, deeming it not edgy enough. Luke and Kelly later headed down to Savannah, Georgia where Cyrus was filming Hannah Montana: The Movie. They recorded the song in a makeshift studio that Paula Deen was using to record her audio cookbook.

“When it didn’t end up on Jessie, it’s hard to imagine someone with as much electricity behind her name is gonna care about it. I was a little bit older [and I wasn’t] watching Hannah Montana but certainly knew the impact,” Kelly told The Tennessean in 2018. “I’d heard ‘The Climb,’ and ‘The Climb’ is still one of my favorite songs. It’s just brilliantly delivered in every way, shape and form. So I knew there was an opportunity here to kind of build upon that success and give [Cyrus] some staying power. And she has a rock ‘n’ roll voice.”

The combination of a then-17-year-old Cyrus’ voice, the warm and sunny production, and her charming Southern personality helped “Party In The U.S.A.” soar to success. The single debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, her highest peak at the time. It was also her first Diamond-selling single and has a yearly sales resurgence around Fourth of July.

Cyrus has remained in headlines following the single’s release, dropping five more albums (her latest being 2020’s critically acclaimed Plastic Hearts), sparking controversy with her 2013 MTV Video Music Awards performance, founding the Happy Hippie Foundation that helps homeless and LGBTQ+ youth, becoming a The Voice coach, and starring as Ashley O in a Black Mirror episode in 2019.

“Party In The U.S.A.” has since been covered and parodied by the likes of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Jimmy Fallon and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and NBC’s The Office. The single has also become a mantra for political and personal freedom, re-emerging on various charts following Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win. “Now this is a party in the U.S.A.!” Cyrus tweeted.

And following Britney Spears’ revealing court hearing in June 2021, Cyrus showed her support during a Las Vegas concert by changing the lyrics from “That’s when the taxi man turned on the radio and a Jay-Z song was on” to “He turned to me and said, ‘Free Britney! Free Britney!'” Cyrus also added, “We love Jay-Z, but we’ve got to free this b-tch.”

“One thing that’s become pretty amazing about ‘Party in the U.S.A’ is it’s become a song that represents victory,” Cyrus said on Jimmy Kimmel Live last December. “It’s played when teams win… When you write a song or create a song like ‘Party in the U.S.A.,’ you never know what it’s going to become or what it will represent ten years later.”

Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.” appeared on NOW! ’00s, alongside other classics of the decade like Maroon 5’s “This Love” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.” Looking for more stories behind music’s biggest hits? Check out the Now! That’s What I Call Music page.

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