The singer took the stage after her dad and little sister, Billy Ray Cyrus and Noah, introduced her, but not without some gentle ribbing first. "For the first time with pants on in years!" Noah joked before introducing her most famous sibling.
Clad in a beach-ready outfit, Miley performed her stripped-down, twangy "Malibu" flanked by a video broadcasting ocean waves and balloons that aptly fit the tune's summery vibe (and accompanying video).
The song marks a return to Miley's roots as well as a sentimental side the artist doesn't always reveal. Towards the end of the performance, the power behind her voice grew quieter and the heartfelt emotion took over as she delivered the last lines seemingly on the verge of tears.
Cyrus wrote the lyrics and melody for "Malibu," which debuted at Number 64 on the Hot 100 this week. Producer Oren Yoel also wrote and produced her deeply romantic tune, "Adore You," the third single from Cyrus' Bangerz album, and he contributed to several songs on 2015's Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. In a recent interview with Billboard, Cyrus said the initial inspiration for the song came to her while she was in an Uber on the way to The Voice, where she served as a judge during the 11th season. (She's also planning to return to her judgeship during the 13th season.)
The former child star has been in full single-promo mode since "Malibu" came out earlier this month. In a single day earlier this week, she appeared on Today, showed up again on The Tonight Show dressed as a giant panda, and then played "Malibu" on Late Night With Seth Meyers. The reinvented superstar also performed an acoustic version of the song on Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.
"Malibu" precedes a new album, currently untitled, that's due out later this year. "My record is political, but the sound bite doesn't stop there," Cyrus said. "…I want to talk to people in a compassionate, understanding way – which people aren't doing."