Miley Cyrus

Sure, everyone loves a comeback. But everyone loves a good ol’ emancipation just as much—especially when there’s a former Disney pop princess involved.

Miley Cyrus already began stretching her wings and flying far, far away from the castle when Can’t Be Tamed dropped 3 years ago. Since then, Mileybird’s truly discovered her freedom. And now, she’s so in her element in the studio—happily crafting cuts with Pharrell and Snoop Dogg (the murky, reggae-infused “Ashtrays & Heartbreaks” is one of 2013’s better offerings already)—that she barely even remembers what the Magic Kingdom looks like.

The singer’s been pretty tight-lipped about her new project for over a year, which a nearly impressive feat in a world where every tweet and every Instagram is a news story. But the time has come, and Miley is finally starting to speak out.

V‘s fantastic interview captures the pop princess-turned-self-realized songstress at her most assured and outspoken yet: She sounds like a fearless young woman who’s found her voice, much like Britney during In The Zone or Madonna during…well, her entire career. She’s incredibly insightful too, in the way that only a former pop star burned one too many times could be. And, most importantly, she’s in control—Janet style.

The whole article’s a must, along with the bold, sexy Mario Testino-shot editorial spread, of course. (It’s sort of Hard Candy Madonna-meets-Sharon Stone.)

Here are some especially amazing moments.

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Dressed in a midriff-baring vintage tee and Topshop pants, Miley Cyrus is barefoot dancing to her new hip-hop-infused sound at a Burbank, California, recording studio. A few feet away, Pharrell Williams, the megacharming megaproducer who helped to orchestrate this clever, heartfelt sonic breakthrough, leans effortlessly against a console, trading lyrics with the smiley 20-year-old determined to revolutionize her career. They are listening to “#GetItRight,” the possible lead single off her impending, first post-Disney album, and a sure Top 40 diamond with a whistling hook and clever sweetness that partially obscures the frank sexual nature of its lyrics.

My record would have come out like a high school mixtape with these different songs and feelings that don’t blend. Then I met Pharrell, and it was the first time I was in the studio just being really free. Pharrell opened that door…I’ve never been more thankful for someone in my life.

I can never say that I don’t love “Party in the U.S.A.” and that I’m not appreciative of it. It would be like my dad saying that he hated “Achy Breaky.” It’s what gives you everything that you have. I would never take it back. But that’s not who I am, that’s not where I want to sing, that’s not what I want to sing, and that’s not what I want my voice to sound like, because you can’t hear me through there.

In this industry, no one wants to turn a mirror to you and encourage you to see the good things. No one wants you to see yourself fully because then you don’t need them. If there’s nothing missing, then you don’t need them.

I’m going to change, I’m going to be different, I’m going to do what I want to do. I chopped my hair and bought a pair of Docs and never looked back.

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It’s not what people expect where it’s me giving my middle finger and saying, “Fuck you. I didn’t make a record for the people that love me.” I made a record for the people that love me, but then I made a record for the people that I want to start to understand me.

Pharrell: This is a 20-year-old. Do you hear all of this awareness? I kept saying to her, “Your view of yourself, your view of the world, is so accurate. Start to embrace it now so you can be great when you’re in your 30s. Right now you’re really, really good, and you’re super-advanced, but don’t be one of those girls who had everything you needed at a young age but because you were distracted by all of the peripheral bullshit you burn out at 25 or 30 or whatever. Embrace this power of yours.” It’s been a year, and I’ve seen a complete difference.

I don’t have time to go to Starbucks with my boyfriend every morning. I wish I did, but I don’t. I’d rather chill at my house and be there for the time I actually get to spend with him. And then I’m at the studio all day. He gets up to work out at six and I come home at five from the studio. I put this record before everything, and I’ve never done that with anything. I’ve put too much into this record to put anything else in front of it.

I got excited because on this record I can say whatever I want. And then I got more comfortable with that and the record got better and better. If I had made it two years ago when I should have had a record come out, it would have been a little brat trying to say “This isn’t who I am! This is what I’m trying to prove!” Now I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody.

Fuck yes, Miley.