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Team Miley

team miley

I’m on Team Miley.

I don’t usually get caught up in the fray of societal commentary on pop stars, and there’s been way too much hype about Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance. From the beginning, I didn’t see the big deal. I didn’t see any more skin on display than I do looking at the endless vintage snapshots of Brigitte Bardot on Pinterest.

Sinead O’Connor accusing Miley of allowing herself to be prostituted by the music industry does not strike me at all as the motherly advice it claimed to be (here’s hoping I never talk to any daughter I might have that way). Amanda Palmer‘s post-feminist retort arguing that Miley can be a strong woman and still dress and act lasciviously seemed reasonable at first, but then she went on to criticize Madonna for getting surgery to look more youthful. I think society has got it twisted if on the one hand we praise and even revere young women for their beauty and sexuality and then harangue them when they try to hold on to those attributes once we’ve deemed it “unseemly.”

I just keep thinking about Miley the artist. All artists go through phases. Picasso had his Blue Period and Monet had a thing for water lilies. Miley is publicly honing her craft and experimenting in her own way. As a child apprenticing for a master, Renaissance artists-in-training copied marble busts until eventually they became, as Darth Vader did, the master. Miley’s not a Disney apprentice any longer. Miley’s an artist who is going out on her own and testing things out.

Being an artist is living in a continuous feedback loop. Some who choose to work within the constraints of mass market expectations (Norman Rockwell) can have thriving careers. Others (and I’m greatly simplifying) push the boundaries more, although usually while working within the constraints of sub-cultural expectations (Damien Hirst). And they too can have a legitimate, valuable, thriving career.

What I’m saying is, Miley’s in a phase, as all artists are at any stage of their developmnt. Eventually, she’ll be in her next phase. (And we’ll be on to the next controversy.)

I really love her new songs. I had to ask someone what “molly” was and a club is about the worst place on earth to me but I love her music and I’ll be interested to see what she explores next with her image, her dancing, her music, and let’s all just call it what it is: her art. Period.

Are you on Team Miley?

13 Responses to Team Miley

  1. Rachel October 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    For me, it’s about her inherent racism and appropriation–not her twerking or tongue-wagging. I think it’s important to navigate exactly what about her is problematic–and we definitely need to stop talking about anything that she wears/does not wear/twerks on.

  2. Samantha Hahn October 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Hi Rachel,

    this is definitely one of the more interesting issues I’ve heard discussed regarding her performance. I’m not sure that she was doing that move to be parodic or if she was just doing a popular move that happens to derive from a certain culture. Modern dance is such a appropriation of various cultures. I just don’t know if it’s possible to dissect how modern artists appropriate moves. I don’t even know that she was directly appropriating it or whether she was emulating a move that had already been popularized? Still, interesting to talk about.

  3. KC October 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    I’m not usually a commenter but I’m also “team Miley.” And as far as racism/cultural appropriation goes, youths & artists have been doing it for years (Elvis took moves from black cultures, right?). I don’t think Miley liking music/sounds/clothing/dance moves/etc. that have typically been seen as “black” is racist and I don’t think using those sounds or twerking is racist either. However, fhe fact that Miley can use these things in her art and we on some level give her credit for them/associate them with her/pay her like a superstar IS something to think about, when the originators of these dance moves, fashion trends etc. don’t receive nearly the same attention. It’s fine for Miley to twerk, etc. and it’s fine for us to dig her twerking, but society should also be giving credit where credits due. I’d like to see some stories on where/how/by who twerking got its start. I know there are a lot of [minority/black] artists out there who started these trends [and others that white artists now use for themselves] on a smaller scale and aren’t getting Miley-sized rewards for it. In other words, I don’t think Miley is being racist, I think there’s a whole system of racism that’s much bigger than her.

  4. Samantha Hahn October 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Well said Kayla. I think you really nailed it. White culture has always appropriated black culture. It’s society’s obligation to look into where the origin of the thing we’re celebrating comes from so we can give credit where credit is due.

  5. decor8 holly October 8, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    I thought I was the only one on planet earth who felt the way that you’ve expressed in this post. When I saw her recently on SNL, I really saw a human being, a young girl, who may be 20 (which is an adult) but still, a person who is testing the waters. I think her management team should be more concerned and help her so that she doesn’t become another Britney, because in some cases an artist needs guidance or else they can definitely go “there” and lose their reputation as an artist and in essence, their entire career. But honestly, I don’t understand why people are picking on her. Is it because she’s southern, comes from country music and has christian roots? Honestly, when Rhianna got sexed up and changed her image, and even when Britney did it (before the head shaving but during her “Toxic” days) and Madonna and every other artist who went from kiddie to sexual goddess, it wasn’t made out to be much of a big deal. Look at Christina Aguilera and Kylie Minogue, talk about going from teen dream to absolute sex kitten.

    But now the media is trying to peg Mylie as being the only absolute disgrace of the music industry? Are they just looking for stories these days and totally bored or what? Who isn’t being racy in the music industry, I mean does anyone bother to listen to lyrics? If so, start with Rhianna. She sings about everything from Sadomasochism to drug abuse and all that is cringe-worthy (at least for the average kid to be humming along on the school bus). I overheard a bunch of 6 year old girls in a car (windows were rolled down) in Boston once singing every word to S&M. “Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it. Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones. But chains and whips excite me.”

    Yeah, 6 year old GIRLS singing this stuff. I mean, is it the fault of the artist or of the mom driving the car singing along to it herself?

    We can’t tell the music industry to not produce this stuff, just as we cannot tell the movie industry to not make rated R films. We can only do our best to safeguard our young children and teach them good values so that, by the time they are old enough to download their own songs, they at least understand what they are hearing and know it’s racy but at least aren’t going to go out and do what the artist is singing about. I mean, I watch “violent” action films and I haven’t killed anyone and never plan to. But I still enjoy the thrill of enjoying something a little “bad” now and then yet I have strong enough morals and values, planted in me early on by my parents, to be able to decipher between good and evil.

    Do I think Miley Cyrus could be smarter about this? Yes. I think she has more of a responsibility before her fans than most because of her background, her family and most of all, her start on Disney and her massive fan-base stemming from her Hannah Montana years which put her on the map and road to fame in the first place. Those little girls are now older and look up to her. So in a way, she is responsible to them to at least give them something that is somewhat worth admiring. But she seems to want to dodge the Hannah Montana fans and years and become something very different now, which I also understand. It’s a hard tightrope to walk and I think her management team, unless she is absolutely 100% rebelling against their direction, should be steering her career a little bit more so that she can have the best of both worlds. You can still be sexy (look at Beyonce running around in the equivalent of bathing suits and lingerie) while still maintaining dignity. Miley seems to be like the typical kid who was heavily managed early on and guarded and then the second she turned 18, just sprang to the roof like a spring after being held so tightly and compressed for years. I think she is the result of growing up too fast and working full-time instead of being able to enjoy her childhood. Now it’s gone and she seems to be trying to reclaim it but through the only thing she feels will get attention – sex.

    But yes, I wish the media would lay off of her. I’m so sick of this Miley obsession and think if they backed off, she’d have less fuel and attention which would mean less time for her to be so caught up in the flames and more time to work on her “journey”. If she blinks, her “youth” will be over – I mean, it’s that way for all of us. Twentysomething today and married with kids tomorrow. It would be nice to see her hit pause and actually enjoy her wealth for a few years – I cannot imagine being her and never having a moment out of the spotlight since childhood. Gosh.

    Holly

  6. Jesse October 8, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    Not anymore. At first, yes,
    because I read the performance as a satire of the over-sexualization of young girls in the music industry and loved that she seemed to make even
    Thicke uncomfortable, but not anymore because I believe the entire approach was a publicity stunt. And especially not now that she has gone after Sinead O’Connor who was rebellious, but with intention.

  7. Samantha Hahn October 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Jesse,

    I see what you are saying but I was thinking the performance was perhaps a satire on her manufactured Disney roots. It was an over the top, all over the place performance art piece to shock and break out of her old constraints. I think there’s over sexualization everywhere, people only seem to talk about it when it’s girls. Is anyone talking about how Bieber’s butt is always hanging out? Even if it was a publicity stunt, so what? She was garnering attention for something she’s trying out. I think her response to Sinead was just. Sinead basically called her a prostitute.

  8. Samantha Hahn October 8, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    Holly,

    Love your thoughts.

    Regarding lyrics, Miley’s are full of drug references (I honestly didn’t know what “molly” was..ha). To me it’s not really about the lyrics, I just enjoy the emotion and vibe of the few new songs. That being said, Rolling Stones, Neil Young…and countless other highly respected artists make drug references without the backlash. I think it’s because she’s a young women, there’s a sort of expectation that she behave like a nice Disney Princess forever.

    I think many adolescent girls are playing around with image and exploring who they are and may become as women. They’re also dealing with sexuality, societal expectations of them and the crazy mixed messages coming in from every direction about who they are supposed to be. Miley happens to be doing all that exploring publicly. I thank goodness there’s little to no record of some of my outfit choices and sullen teenage poetry, let alone crappy art. I guess I was lucky to go though all those bumps semi-privately without all of society weighing in on my choices and phases.

    I definitely think it’s up to parents to monitor what their kids are listening to. I don’t think it’s super cute to have 6 year old girls singing some of the lyrics. That being said, if they’re exposed to media and music it can be explained rather than denouncing the artist, that “singers sometimes sing about how they feel. Sometimes they sing about doing naughty things but that’s ok, in our family we take good care of our bodies.” I think you are dead on when you say “We can only do our best to safeguard our young children and teach them good values so that, by the time they are old enough to download their own songs, they at least understand what they are hearing”. I think we just need to teach our kids critical thinking and media literacy in general.

    This is where we differ:

    “I think she has more of a responsibility before her fans than most because of her background, her family and most of all, her start on Disney and her massive fan-base stemming from her Hannah Montana years which put her on the map and road to fame in the first place. Those little girls are now older and look up to her. So in a way, she is responsible to them to at least give them something that is somewhat worth admiring.”

    I think that artists don’t have to stay within constraints. I don’t believe that because an artist has done something before that they owe it to their fans to do it again. I don’t think creating within those constraints would leave room for growth, experimentation and most of all the mistakes that lead to development and inspiration.

    I agree that “she is the result of growing up too fast and working full-time instead of being able to enjoy her childhood.” That actually makes me sad. The plus is that she seems to love what she does and has had more than her 10K hours of training and honing her skills to now be fully capable of seeing what she’s capable of.

    All this being said, I love 2 of her new songs. They’re catchy and fun. Are they my favorite songs ever? No. Do I think they’re going to be around forever? No. I just think this whole VMA backlash against her has opened up a can of worms and I’m just tired of seeing women hate each other and tear each other down. I’m also sick of society’s odd ideas that people are only allowed to magically blossom when they turn 25 and then they have to go into hiding when they hit 35. Artists each have their own path. Some start young and some come into it later in the game. There’s no one way to be an artist and I just think we can give her room and let her do her thing, even comment on its merits or shortcomings without tearing her down as a women and artist.

  9. Aly October 8, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Wonderful discussion Everyone!

    I’m a sex-positive person, and am always going to support strong women putting their art out there. I looked up the performance the day after because “everyone was talking about it”. My first reaction was to be disgusted that everyone was talking about HER performance. I saw it as a group performance. Everyone was part of it, consented to it, produced and practiced it. She was the target of the criticism to the point where media was questioning if she victimized the male singer who performed with her. (Not). So, I’m not against her performance choices, per-say, but I don’t find her new work creative, inspiring, fresh, or even *fun*. What about her fan base? Does she take them into consideration? If I want fun, playful, creative, surprising, sassy, smart, amusing pop videos, I look to Katie Perry.

  10. larry lustbader October 8, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    Most performers use nudity to attract to their performance, she uses it to distract because she is that good. I cannot help though but be reminded of the old joke that the best way to pick up a girl in a bar is to casually lick your nose.

  11. larry lustbader October 9, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Aly, I consider myself a part of her new fan base and she took forty years off my age. An artist immerses their audience in their performance so that they feel each others feelings, a type of emotional telepathy, empathy, entelechy, artistic intercourse; call it what you will. Watching her enjoy herself made me enjoy myself. With talent to spare she has the artistic license to explore new territory. Humor and political correctness don’t mix and the political mind never gets the joke.

  12. decor8 holly October 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this Samantha and came to a conclusion. I don’t think Miley Cyrus is an artist after I gave this a lot of thought. She’s a product. She didn’t become a child star at a young age to be an artist, to sell her art, she became one because of her parents and the ability she had to sell product. She was mass-marketed, put on stage and flaunted on television. She was never really an artist, she was told what to do, what to sing, and I honestly wonder how many of her songs does she actually write? Even today, is she really the one developing her concepts and music and writing her songs? I am not sure. Maybe you know Samantha, I don’t own a single Miley album so I’m not sure.

    When I think of an artist, I think of someone who spent some time incubating their ideas and then had to work to make themselves seen, and then it just happened for them – they got the gig, the record deal, whatever. But there was some work involved. They were old enough to have experienced rejection. They had an image and some idea of what they wanted to do. Maybe they were already writing their own music. I think of Madonna and Prince and David Bowie. People who had to find their way and get their start. Someone who continuously reinvents themselves a long the way and does their thing. They are true artists to me. They may become less so down the road – I see this with indie artists who start off small and then end up with their stuff all over Target and they are telling their friends that they no longer have full control over their careers or designs. But when I think of a true artist, I think of someone who really has a vision for themselves and their music and is pretty dead set on voicing it publicly no matter what the rejection, set back or the years it takes to make it.

    So I guess that’s the only thing that has resulted in this “problem” that we call Miley’s new image. She may be trying to breakaway from being a product but it’s still really hard to determine if what she is showing us is her inner artists or is she just clever enough to know what sells and shocks and wants to cash in? Or are dancing teddy bears, nudity and humping men twice her age on awards shows her inner artist surfacing?

    I guess I just ask, if all of this IS her inner artist, then what is she trying to say through all of this? I think every artist has something they want to say through their work. What is their message? What is in their heart?

    So I wonder, what is she trying to say through her new look?

    xo
    Holly

  13. Amit Shah October 17, 2013 at 3:13 am #

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    http://www.sketchysultaan.blogspot.in

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