If you haven’t heard about or seen her “strategic hot mess” (as Cyrus put it) of a performance on the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards with singer Robin Thicke, you probably haven’t turned on a computer. That performance alone sparked 360,000 tweets per minute, breaking Beyonce’s record from her Super Bowl act.
“You’re always gonna make people talk. You might as well make them talk for like two weeks, rather than 10 seconds,” Cyrus said in her recent MTV documentary “Miley: The Movement.”
But we are now a month and a half past her twerk-filled performance, and she still fascinates us. Her songs and videos continue to dominate the charts and YouTube, most notably with the music video for her single, “Wrecking Ball.” In the video, which has more than 221 million views after only one month, Cyrus rides a wrecking ball completely nude and sensually licks a sledgehammer. That video isn’t even her most popular from her new “Bangerz” album. Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” music video has accumulated more than 236 million views to date.
She’s not the first to play the shock-factor card though. Pop idols such as Madonna, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga are known for controversial music and statements. But Cyrus has received a significant amount of backlash for her jaw-dropping number, with some critics calling it racist and vulgar. Even the inventor of the foam finger weighed in and expressed his disappointment, saying she “certainly misrepresented its intent to encourage team support.”
Cyrus also used little people in bear costumes as back-up dancers during the awards show. Hollis Jane, a performer dressed as a pink teddy bear, said on her blog she felt “less than human” during the performance.
“I walked out of the Barclay Center shaking and crying,” Jane said. “I was being stared and laughed at for all the wrong reasons. I was being looked at as a prop … as something less than human.”
While controversy sparks attention, degrading another performer for the sake of being “out there” is unnecessary and, frankly, unacceptable.
Through it all, Cyrus said she has no regrets. In fact, she wants the attention, whether it’s good or bad. It doesn’t matter what their opinion is, as long as people have an opinion about her. I think the real reason for our obsession with Cyrus is because she keeps providing things for us to obsess over.
Her first album in three years, “Bangerz,” hit stores Tuesday. In my mind, it’s sure to go No. 1 on the charts based on the sheer success of singles like “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball.”
After listening to “Bangerz” from start to finish, I have to say I’m not impressed. The album has zero consistency, and the production is sloppy. The beats behind the uptempo songs are unoriginal and repetitive. She goes from rapping in one song to singing with a country twang in the next. Later on in the album, she has two letters for you: “One of them’s F and the other is U.”
I went into listening to this album with an open mind. I enjoyed her most recent singles, and I think she is a talented ballad singer. I wanted to like it, but after listening to it, I wasn’t excited. Most of the songs are about sex and drugs—there’s literally a song called “Love Money Party.” I think Cyrus’ music sounds forced and uncomfortable with her new identity.
I will give her this: she has successfully locked away her Hannah Montana wig. When I see or hear the name “Miley Cyrus,” I no longer think of a family-friendly Disney product. Now, I think of a provocative young woman trying too hard to set herself apart from other celebrities.
This isn’t the first time she’s tried to separate herself from the Disney franchise. Remember when she posed for Vanity Fair in 2008 at age 15, sporting nothing but a blanket? Or when she performed “Party in the USA,” pole dancing on top of an ice cream truck at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards?
The difference between those attempts and the 2013 VMAs is that this time, it stuck. She made us stop and react to her absurdity. Cyrus is going to be remembered for the rest of her life as the most talked about pop star in 2013. And I’m sure she’s chill with that.
Bjorn Saterbak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.