Tinsel Talk: A cultural commentary with Chris Saraffian
From booty shaking performances to provocative music videos, Miley Cyrus and her Disney roots are ridiculed while other pop artists are applauded for using the same gimmicks.
Oct. 8 signaled a monumental turning point for the timeline of Miley Cyrus’ music career. On this silent, autumnal Tuesday, the twerking Nashville native unleashed Bangerz, her electro/hip-hop opus, onto the musical stratosphere. The album’s release functions as a not-so-subtle middle finger to her past life as a rated-G prisoner of the sugary Disney Corporation and swiftly followed the media and pop culture hurricane inflicted from her raunchy VMA performance and the notorious ”We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” videos. In addition to the musical and performance-related scorn, public disputes with Sinead O’Connor, the vocalization of her intimate relationship with sex and marijuana, and her obsession with the twerk dance craze, have all contributed to the public branding of Miley Cyrus as a Hollywood “bad girl.”
Strangely enough, the controversy has fueled the former Hannah Montana’s career and has established her as a constant, worldwide headline and the essential pillar of the 2013 pop culture oeuvre. In her MTV documentary, Miley: The Movement, the 20 year old superstar described herself and her now infamous VMA performance as a “strategic hot mess;” following her performance, “Wrecking Ball” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the iTunes charts and the corresponding video became the fastest video on Youtube to garner more than 1 million views. Likewise, Bangerz’s claimed the top spot on the Billboard 200 immediately following its release.
Music enthusiasts are thus separated into three groups in terms of their views on the Bangerz’s hit maker: Those who criticize Miley and refuse to buy her music, those who willingly admit to liking Miley and support her and her music regardless of controversy, and those who criticize Miley, but begrudgingly admit to enjoying her music, purchasing it despite such distaste.
The latter is probably the most alarming—“haters” and supporters alike fund this “strategic hot mess.” This income could be attributed to the mere catchiness of the ballads and dance music promoted by the constant controversy.
However, these buyers admit to liking her music, but detest the girl who records it. What can be said in regards to the long, gray dislike bar perched underneath the 250 million viewer counts on her two Bangerz’s era music videos? Why is she is so openly loathed, yet successful?
To answer this, it’s first important to realize that Miley and controversy have always been synonymous. Dating back to the days when the Hannah Montana wig still crowned her famous head, Miley stirred up heated headlines when various promiscuous pictures of her hit the internet. In addition, her descent down a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards and a leaked video of her smoking a bong also evoked public scrutiny. She later poked fun at herself during her first SNL monologue by performing a song entitled, “Sorry That I’m Not Perfect” which chronicled her various scandals and contrasted them to the unfavorable headlines of other stars. Miley sings, “I never stole a necklace or got a DUI. I never cheated on my wife like that golfer guy. So what, you can see a little boob from the side! I’m sorry that I’m not perfect!”
Thus, the reinvented, shorthaired Miley is not truly shocking or controversial when taking her past scandals into account. However, some spectators can’t seem to shake the Hannah Montana nametag from their perception of her. When Miley Cyrus dons provocative clothing, people seem to overlook the fact that pop artists, such as Katy Perry and Rihanna, perform in a similar fashion. Likewise, her former Disney persona constantly overshadows her modern identity; for instance, her VMA performance provided a platform for her to present herself as an adult, yet to many it was “Hannah Montana Gone Wild.” Truthfully, however, it was clean in comparison to the whipped-cream breasts of Katy or any Rihanna music video. In addition, Miley has stated that the performance was not meant to be taken seriously. “It’s supposed to be a silly night where you can come out with pig tails and come out of a damn bear. I mean how sexy am I really trying to be? I’ve got damn pigtails and I’m dressed like a bear in a onesie,” says Cyrus. “You know that you’re going to get a crazy reaction no matter what you do, so you might as well keep people talking about it,”.
In actuality, though, how “shocking” is Miley’s overall demeanor and VMA performance in comparison to the teens and young adults of today? The children of the 90s, which includes Cyrus who was born in ‘92, often promote the “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) ideology that has become so prominent to the Internet generation. Now, more than ever, young adults are living their lives freely and shirking the shackles that past generations have imposed on them by challenging authority and living life according to their own rules. As shocking as it may seem, Miley Cyrus is a personification of these ideologies. She challenges her good-girl roots, not fearing the self-inflicted rejection and scorn. Thus, can we criticize a pop star for adapting these philosophies and applying them to a larger canvas? Let he who has not smoked weed or attempted to twerk cast the first stone.