‘Wrecking Ball’ and the Problem with Miley Cyrus

Not a day goes by without some mention of Miley Cyrus within social media. Since displaying a rather provocative enthusiasm for the humble foam finger at the MTV Music Awards, Cyrus has become something of a hot topic- with the focus directed towards her being either positive or negative with seemingly no in-between. Cyrus has stirred her spot of controversy and, sensibly, sought to gain from it with the recent release of the music video for her single ‘Wrecking Ball’, a single choice overflowing with lyrical vulnerability, the solemn ballad to the previous house party anthem of ‘We Can’t Stop’.

So what can we expect from the young woman with a fascination for keeping her tongue anywhere but in her mouth? That tongue developing a sudden interest in a sledgehammer, obviously.

What Cyrus has presented in her newest video (the work of photographer Terry Richardson) is a strange confusion of identity. ‘Wrecking Ball’, a lyrical storytelling of breaking down walls and launching yourself into love with closed eyes and open hearts is the type of song that you’d imagine requires an understated video. In parts, Cyrus is successful. The video breaks to shots of Cyrus, face close to the camera, relatively bare faced and with a white wall behind her as she projects various emotive expressions that are actually quite fitting with the songs theme. Likewise, shots of her demolishing a concrete wall with a sledgehammer, essentially becoming the titular ‘Wrecking Ball’, also work well. But then moments take a puzzling turn.

It’s a strange sight within the video, that of Miley licking the tip of a hammer, eyes closed in an image that you can only imagine somebody intended to be sensual. She lounges on an actual wrecking ball too, pouting from over her shoulder and writhing against its chain. She’s nude too, which may be a reach for a sense of vulnerability, however alongside rubbing herself against a hammer it all appears as a massive push to force us all to realise that the wig came off years ago- Hannah Montana is a woman, look at her!

Maturity appears to be Miley’s agenda as of late, and the trouble is her intentions are having the opposite effect. In her pursuit to distance herself from the child star, Cyrus appears more as the child who has just discovered how to unblock the parental guidance on their computer- now all too eager to show the world that she now knows what’s ‘adult’. She’s twerked, she’s licked her lips and just about the entirety of her face, spanked a little person on stage, spent a reported seven hours in a ‘coffee shop’ in Amsterdam, asked a reporter where the nearest ‘Tranny Bar’ is and pressed her face into the rear of a female backing dancer all as part of a grand scheme to be seen as a legitimate artist.

She’s using everything that she imagines absolutely shocks the world in the most blatantly obvious way. What has resulted is an ongoing performance that seems like a poor imitation of all the things that Cyrus believes will make her ‘edgy’. Edginess, she seems to believe, is the first step to achieving that adult singer gold star.

The difficulty in establishing herself as an adult artist was always going to be undeniably more troublesome for Miley. Where once an audience expressed shock at a snake wearing Britney Spears gyrating to ‘Slave 4 U’ (a performance that Miley perhaps looked to draw from), at least Britney came onto the scene with the potential to steer towards that direction with a pigtail, cropped shirt, short skirt wearing schoolgirl debut. However what Miley doesn’t seem to understand is that nowadays to be considered an adult you don’t need to pull these constant tactics. For every ‘S&M’ Rihanna has a tasteful ‘Stay’ and ‘Diamonds’, ‘Stay’ especially the perfect example of how nudity doesn’t have to be a tool for controversy at all. There is no problem with expressing sexuality in a music video, however Miley’s sexuality has come quickly and forcefully and none of us are allowed to forget it. It’s constant and without break.

Of course, breaking a VEVO record for the most views on a video in 24 hours, there’s obviously an audience devoted to Miley who don’t seem to mind at all that she’s splitting her screen time between a strange juxtaposition of fragile and highly sexualised personas. Or do they realise her needlessly driving her alleged sex appeal into our faces for a song that quite honestly doesn’t call for it in the slightest.

But for those of us who can see it, it’s a bit of a shame. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is actually half decent but any praise for the song itself is massively overshadowed by Cyrus’s habit of clamouring for a bit of controversy at every opportunity, a problem that threatens to continually undermine any music she releases.

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