I was on the west coast and the north coast the last two weeks, so forgive me if I missed something. But I arrived back in Brooklyn yesterday and found the neighborhood around the Barclay Center in lockdown. Television has landed in our neighborhood. The MTV Video Awards were being presented. I didn’t watch.
Upon waking today I discovered that the most important news of the day was Miley Cyrus’s performance on the show of her own excellent desultory party song “We Won’t Stop” and the execrable-y danceable “Blurred Lines.” For a girl in a teddy bear suit who stripped down to a latex bikini, I think Miley did okay for herself. Which is why I post here.
The first point is that Miley Cyrus was a huge child star for the Disney Corp, and she isn’t any longer. She, as she has famously said, won’t be tamed.
I almost certainly wouldn’t have paid any attention to this, except I have a daughter who is 14 years old, and who grew up with Miley. Her first 3D movie was Miley’s concert, with the exploding drumsticks, for what it’s worth. And she, and I, have appreciated an awful lot of excellent Miley Cyrus pop music over the years. Most of the Miley product is not crap at all and I think that’s an important distinction.
But it is product, and because it is product, it is easy to marginalize. Miley is not the Beatles. Or Wire. At the same time, she’s made more money than any performer over the last, um, number of years, except maybe Oprah. And to ascribe her motives to desperate attention seeking, as today’s social commentators seem to be doing, is naive. Or ludicrously cynical. And just plain insulting.
Miley’s job is to entertain, and her performance as a plushie who strips down and actually humanizes Robin Thicke’s and Pharrel Williams’s Blurred Lines seems kind of noble to me. Goofy, antic, like Lucille Ball perhaps, but ultimately noble. Anyone who condemns her for her performance should watch the “unrated” Blurred Lines video. Here. Which is exploitation? Which is satire? You decide.
As a rock fan I love that Miley pissed everyone off. She confused them. She is funny and fun, no matter what the situation, and kind of fearless in her VMA performance. She’s one of the few stars who can do whatever she wants, with no fear of consequence. It’s her party! Unbridled id? Isn’t that rock?
(There is a rather significant aesthetic issue. Miley’s music is way more interesting as social statement than musical achievement. That’s a good reason not to overplay her significance, but not a reason to ignore her contributions to the cultural discussion.)
Here is a link to video of We Can’t Stop.
But there is also this: Miley says: “It’s my mouth, I can say what I want.” I like that, it has always been Miley’s message.
You don’t have to like Miley’s music or even her performance to see the critical outrage about her performance as asinine. Beat her up for bad choices, she’s a fair target for that, but first grant that they are her choices, not some sort of desperate irrational girlish plea.