I know Benjamin, Matt and Jordan have all written about Miley Cyrus’ performance at last night’s MTV VMAs. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wish to add my two cents to the discussion. So please bear with me.
It should be clear that Cyrus knew exactly what she was doing. During the red carpet festivities, she promised to do something “crazier” than the kiss Madonna had with both Britney Spears and Christina Aguiliera during the VMAs in 2003. (Yes, that happened ten years ago). Well, Ms. Cyrus was true to her word and she is, for the moment, the center of the universe.
I’ve watched the performance online twice and nothing struck me as particularly out of the ordinary until Robin Thicke hit the stage and even then I think Matt is correct in saying that people who are upset by this still think of 20-year old Cyrus as innocent, little Hannah Montana. But aside from that it is fairly indistinguishable from anything Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or Nicki Minaj have done. And that’s just the problem. It’s all about the spectacle. The music is at best incidental and at worst inconsequential.
Don’t get me wrong. There has long been a theatrical element to popular music. Whether its the swiveling hips of Elvis, David Bowie being a space oddity, Arthur Brown playing with fire and Jimi Hendrix too. Before Kiss donned makeup Leo Sayer performed as a pierrot. But their theatrics was a supplement, not a substitute for the music. It’s a big reason there isn’t much in my music collection that was recorded after 1976.
There are exceptions, of course. Take a listen to Jake Bugg’s “Lightning Bolt” which you might have heard in a recent Gatorade commercial. When I first heard that song, I actually thought it was recorded in the ’60s. Bugg sounds like a cross between Donovan and Dylan. He’s only 19. This kid is alright.
Now I think Miley Cyrus is capable of making interesting music. Indeed, I liked her cover of Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”.
Sure Miley Cyrus is getting attention today, but in six months we won’t remember this spectacle. If Miley Cyrus wants to be remembered then she should be remembered for her music.