I understand a thing or two about childhood expectation. I’m no Disney starlet, but as the son of a vicar there was a certain expectation amongst my community that I grow up good, virtuous and a paradigm of respectability. However, it is a general accepted truth that nearly all vicars’ kids rebel. The majority of priests’ children I’ve met have had drug problems, teenage pregnancies, alcohol dependency, jailtime, or all of the above. The expectation loaded on these children from a young age is tremendous and their automatic reaction is to rebel. Now as it goes, I didn’t rebel… as long as you put aside my angsty teenage “look at me I’ve got barbed wire around my neck” phase. My parents think I rebelled (I don’t call that rebellion, I call that homosexuality), but in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t. But I totally understand those that did. If someone tells you “Be good, be good, be good” over and over again, the last thing you want to do is be good. I’m surprised I wasn’t injecting heroin into my eyeballs during an orgy at fourteen.
The first signs of Miley’s rebellion came at fifteen with *that* photoshoot with Annie Liebovitz. Yes, she was fifteen and she was naked. The press went wild. The reaction was enormous. I’ll bet she loved the attention. We should have seen this later rebellion coming really, but immediately the press-machine rumbled back into action, glossed over this blip and she went back to smiling through photocalls and spouting well-rehearsed soundbites. But taking her clothes off made people react back then, so it’s hardly surprising that this is how she’s deliberately trying to get a reaction now.
The Hannah Montana image was shed long ago. Party In The USA was a global success, wholly independent of the Disney brand. Suddenly, Miley is an (albeit young) adult and she wants to express herself through the media and her music. We have to understand that she’s already had a very good career; she’s been around for a long time in celebrity-terms. She has clearly seen popstars and moviestars who master the art of “Sex Sells” and wants to be one of them… Except how many 21 year olds do you know who have mastered the art of “being sexy”? Yes they can look hot, yes they look sexy, but the moment they start parading around attempting to be provocative, they just look like children attempting to provoke. Miley just appears to be doing what she thinks is sexy… except she hasn’t really got a clue.
When Rihanna struts on stage, a comfortable confidence oozing from her sassy sneer, barely clad in more than a bikini and heels, she brims with sexual magnetism. The older she gets the more provocative she’s become, but the operative word here is “older”. Do you recall Rihanna’s younger days, the videos for Pon De Replay and SOS? She wasn’t exactly covered up, but she wasn’t parading herself like a hooker. She was sexy, but she was young. Rihanna is now older, more experienced and when she sings about sex, I believe that she’s had a hell of a lot of it. I think she knows what she’s singing about. And her music is about sex too. Miley has insisted that the media are focusing on the wrong aspect of her recent music, that they should stop focusing on the sexuality of her videos and focus more on the lyrics of the songs… Then if We Can’t Stop is to be believed, she’s singing about… a drug addiction? If there wasn’t a reason to be concerned about Miley before, surely there is from that?
Now what I find most fascinating about all of this is that Miley is currently producing the best music she’s ever made. They say there’s no such thing as bad press and in this case, Miley is riding the wave of publicity and doing tremendously well from it. We Can’t Stop hit number one all around the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wrecking Ball will do the same and, from a PR point of view, Miley is currently like golddust. There will be a lot of people making a lot of money from Miley’s current super-exposure. I’m not going to start tutting and become all judgemental about a young and attractive girl wanting to capitalise on her sexual allure, but if that’s what she’s intent on doing, I just wish someone would tell her how to do it properly. Aside from people occasionally protesting that Rihanna is just a little too provocative, has anyone ever protested that what she’s doing is just “not sexy”? Never. But look at Miley’s most recent video, cavorting around on the wrecking ball naked, licking a sledgehammer, but then trying to be all “seriousface” into the camera. No wonder Sinead O’Connor felt she had to write a public response when Miley cited her as an influence. The video is one of most unsexy things I have ever seen. And don’t get me started on that performance at the VMAs.
It’s one thing for someone to be a Rihanna and it’s another to be an Amanda Bynes, but what exactly is Miley attempting to do? It seems like she is attempting to be both, but with a controlled objectivity that I find a little disturbing. In that interview with Jonathan Ross, her self-control and formulaic composition almost came across as robotic and I think that same well-oiled “celebrity” is still basically the same person, except where once she was programmed to be a kid, she’s now punched “S-L-U-T” into her keypad and ended up like a kettle trying to toast bread. It would be like Lady Gaga now attempting to be a pop princess, like trying to be, well, Miley Cyrus. It wouldn’t work. Remember that time Beyonce was a rock chick and sang with AC/DC? No you don’t, because it would never and should never happen. Take heed Miley, and stop it.
I have no doubt that Miley is going to continue to have a successful career and I certainly don’t think she’s having a breakdown. In a year or two she’ll calm down a bit and in ten she’ll look back on this period with horror and shame, but for her own sake I just wish someone would take her to one side and give her a stern talking-to. “What are you doing Miley? Who are you trying to impress? It’s not big, it’s not clever and instead of making people take heed and think of you as an adult, we just pity you a little bit. I’m not angry Miley, I’m just disappointed.”