When the world first met Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana, with her mountain of highlighted hair, giant teeth, and a mouth full of y’alls, no one suspected that some seven years later they’d be watching her twerking in a unicorn suit, sporting a bleached blonde buzz cut and a smattering of tattoos, bizarrely center stage and more relevant than before. Seemingly overnight, Miley Cyrus has mysteriously acquired some sort of cool-kid street cred, transcending her previously marketed aw-shucks Southern sweetness, her father’s epic ‘90s mullet, and that “Party in the USA” song.
What happened to Hannah?
Life’s been a lot easier since the Industrial Revolution and we’ve got time for this sort of mindless garbage.
Humans, as a species, tend to evolve — be it important things like learning how to communicate with one another or discovering how to make fire, everything that further distanced us from the primordial goo. Now, with all the basics taken care of, we turn our rapt attention to the stylistic evolution of celebrities, who, before our very eyes, can morph into something wholly new, shedding past lives like a snakeskin. Why? Because it’s fascinating. More importantly, life’s been a lot easier since the Industrial Revolution and we’ve got time for this sort of mindless garbage.
Cyrus is an interesting case in that her change has been so extreme and unexpected. She was one of those pop star afterthoughts, thrust into the spotlight because of family connections, not necessarily looks or talent. With her Chipmunkian mezzo-soprano, her baby face and those bellbottom jeans, she was neither Spears nor Swift, Katy nor RiRi. It is a lethal, forgettable gray area, one that Jessica Simpson knew all too well and that Madonna, in all her thirty years in the business, has never fallen into. In pop culture, it’s change or perish. And change Cyrus did.
Watching Miley writhe around a bed in her latest video for the song “We Can’t Stop,” I had that kneejerk, high schooler reaction to the dork that comes to school next year with good clothes and bigger boobs. My resistance quickly diminished, however, leaving me oddly charmed by Cyrus’ bubble-gum-popping, possibly-drug-addled, bear-dancing antics. She might not be selling sex, but she’s certainly selling the party.
Hints of Cyrus’ less cool past still remain on her website, though they will surely be smote out as they become increasingly incongruous with “The New Miley,” seen less as totems of pride and more as embarrassing relics of a different kind of PR machine. In a video series called “Backyard Sessions,” Cyrus, her still-long auburn hair thrown up in a bun and country light falling on bronzed cheeks, takes a well-intentioned turn at Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Though charming, you become more aware of the limitations of her voice, the drollness of her personal style, all the “problems” that they’ve slapped a high gloss paint over and set to a new beat. On the next page: a video for her Auto-Tuned, dubstep track “Decisions,” featuring midgets, skanky blondes, and some guy wearing animal hat.
These times they are a-changin’. — Jenny Bahn