Guys, we need to talk about Miley.
I don’t have that big of a problem with Miley Cyrus trying to be more of an adult. She’s at that careful age in which Britney did her breakout “Oops” performance in 2000; I cannot even tell you how many crunches I’ve done to that damn video. Plus, when Disney lets go of you it’s probably a sigh of relief to loosen up and try new things.
I don’t even have an issue with her co-opting twerking, considering she does it badly. At least when Madonna stole “vogueing” from the drag community she did it perfectly and actually created a conversation in which people wanted to know more about a dance style that has incredibly deep roots. When Miley twerks, it makes me want to find whatever she dropped on the floor and super-glue it to her hand so she never has to bend over like that again.
Also, I don’t mind Miley trying different things to explore being a ‘sexy’ performer. Like I said, when it’s done right, it’s Britney at the 2000 VMAs – iconic, incinerating, and inspiring.
What I have a problem with is that her entire performance last night at the 2013 VMAs was not based around her song, or showmanship, or her skills as a vocalist, or even the ‘staging’ she attempted to do when she wasn’t sticking teddy bears in her crotch. It was about how she looked – insane – and how she acted – like an ADD kid who got too much ritalin out of the bottle and then broke into her mother’s closet and only found the lingerie drawer. She also was doing all of the things that don’t showcase what she was actually doing – singing a damn song – and were rather showcasing her curiously lean frame as it contorted into positions I don’t even feel comfortable getting into with close friends, let alone total strangers.
She’s not even “just being Miley” anymore. She’s living out a post-Disney identity crisis that involves way too much tongue and crotch grabbing. Seriously, Miley, if you stick your tongue out again I’m going to be concerned you’re having a seizure.
I literally cannot even remember how her vocals sounded, because I was both wishing I were deaf and covering my eyes at the same time throughout her awkward thrustings. That’s why I’m mad about it. She didn’t make it about the performance, it was about acting like a sexualized pre-teen and looking weird. And twerking, of course. God forbid I forget about the twerking.
My other big beef was when Rapist Beetlejuice – I mean Robin Thicke – came out to perform “Blurred Lines.” Now, I’m not going to lie; that song was my favorite of the entire summer aside from the Selena Gomez song (I have zero shame in admitting that). I’ve also been a huge fan of Robin Thicke’s since before I found out he was Alan Seaver’s son. Thicke’s video is totally weird, but I kind of could dig it because it was a parody of rap/hip hop videos in that vein. In that sense, it works to have Miley and Robin duet on the song because their videos are similar.
When Robin came onstage it prompted five straight minutes of my boyfriend and I yelling “what is HAPPENING” at the screen, and dying laughing at the various tweets we were seeing posted online regarding the situation.
When I was watching the 2007 VMAs at 21 years old I saw Britney Spears deliver possibly the most horrible, uncomfortable, and actually pretty heartbreaking performance I have ever seen. I am an enormous Britney fan and I remember watching her ‘comeback’ in my brother’s room, sort of flabbergasted by the whole thing, and just feeling so incredibly bad for her. The press went after it like wildfire and it ended up escalating into Britney going into a psychiatric hold for several weeks and getting diagnosed as bipolar. With that 2007 performance we were watching just one in a long line of warning signs that Britney was profoundly unwell, but you feel a genuine sadness in watching it because you got a sense Britney knew she was in pain, but didn’t know how to deal with it. Even when GaGa talks about her painful situations in her videos they are art directed to within an inch of their lives. Every moment is planned out in order to better create the artistic moment.
Miley’s performance last night was a desperate, floppy stab at art through the depths of desperation and artlessness masking a sense of urgent and profound pain. It was a performance of someone who doesn’t know what she is without an audience, but instead of using that as an artistic statement like GaGa she uses the only thing that has proven to be a commodity for her in the past – her body. It’s like she’s living out a sorority girl Smirnoff binge on a live audience. Who, by the way, judging from the various audience feeds, were as grossed out as we all were at home.
If she isn’t in pain and just genuinely trying to make an artistic statement, maybe she needs to get some lessons from Marina Abramovic.
I feel like if Miley had gone through a normal education, she would have learned what I learned at my college watching junior girls get drunk and dance weird – desperation isn’t cute. It isn’t art. It isn’t even going to make you happy. Figure out who you are, and come back when you’re done.
But hold up! There was a child/tween star at the VMAs who proceeded to redeem everything involved.
Justin Timberlake’s rumored reunion with NSYNC made me quite possibly the happiest girl on the face of the earth. Back in my younger years when I got my music off Napster and listened to it on a Walkman, NSYNC’s CDs were the soundtracks to my summers. I was legit obsessed with them; I wish I had a picture I could show you of my teenage bedroom covered wall to wall in NSYNC and Britney Spears posters.
When JT came out on stage, the vibe was control and style. He didn’t need the theatrics because his presence, dancing capabilities, and vocals were more than enough. He didn’t need to come out of a bear’s vagina. At one point I tweeted out “Miley better be taking copious notes.”
When the lights changed about 5 minutes into his seemingly 50 minute revue of Greatest Hits, my Twitter feed (and my heart) exploded. I actually put my computer away and my phone down so I could regress to 15 years old for just a moment without distraction.
Granted, it was only 90 seconds. But that 90 seconds of my favorite boy band of all time doing original 2000 VMAs choreography and looking so damn happy to be together nearly completely negated the nausea accumulated from the TwerkFail.
When moments like that occur, followed up brilliantly by Macklemore’s moving performance of “Same Love” featuring guest vocals by Mary Lambert (a tremendously talented singer who does NOT look like anybody on MTV, and thank God for it), we’ll all be okay.
Look. I’m saying that if Miley wants to be sexy and grow up and experiment with a different sound, she should up her showmanship, remember that she’s supposed to be showcasing a SONG rather than her body as a commodity, and try to not borrow ratchet culture in a way that is decidedly insulting.
If you want some commentary that goes into the racial/sexual implications of Miley’s performance, I suggest you take a look at the following links:
Solidarity is For Miley Cyrus: The Racial Implications of her VMA Performance
Miley Cyrus’ Performance At The VMAs And How Ratchet Culture Became The New Implied Bisexuality
Vulture: The Miley Cyrus Minstrel Show
What Miley Did Was Disgusting, But Not for the Reasons You Think
And if you want something more important to think about, here’s Miley Cyrus Twerking On Things We Should Talk About.
PS. I saw some foolishness on Twitter last night about how people are pissed off that a straight guy like Macklemore is the one getting the popularity on gay rights whereas gay artists can’t speak on their political intentions. My opinion on that is, the fact that we even HAVE a song like “Same Love” on the radio right now is indicative of a huge cultural shift in consciousness, and whether that message of equality and tolerance and love is delivered by a gay-straight-bi-trans-queer-questioning-GIRAFFE person, it doesn’t matter. People are hearing it. And more importantly, people are listening.