What’s Behind Miley Cyrus’s Latest Re-Invention?

From Black Mirror to Glastonbury, we're right in the centre of the Miley moment...

Miley Cyrus

by Nick Levine |
Updated on

Who’d have guessed that 2019 would bring a Miley Cyrus revival? The former Disney star’s Glastonbury setwas a surprise festival highlight. Dressed like a rock star in skintight black vinyl trousers and vegan thigh-boots, she covered Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog and reinvented her frothy pop banger Party In The USA as a rock stomper.

Most of us would cringe at dancing with our dad in front of 100,000 people, but Miley did just that when she got country legend Billy Ray Cyrus and rapper Lil Nas X to perform their hit duet Old Town Road. It could have been horrifically awkward, but instead felt like a ‘were you there?’ moment. Miley left us open-mouthed again when she returned to the stage in the familiar purple wig of Ashley O, the troubled pop star she plays in Black Mirror. When Miley’s episode aired in June, it became an instant cult classic, reminding fans of the acting skills she’d honed playing pop star Hannah Montana. Shockingly, Ashley O is put in a coma by a controlling ‘momager’ when she outgrows her perky pop persona, but Miley reckons this outlandish Black Mirror twist is rooted in truth. ‘This is the story of females in the music industry,’ she has said. ‘It’s hard to be taken seriously. People assume that if you’re not wearing a bodysuit and singing pop, why would anyone want to see you?’

And taking on the role was definitely a strategic decision by Miley. ‘It’s a fun way for her to satirise her Hannah Montana past, which isn’t something she regrets but feels like a lifetime ago,’ an insider tells us. Miley’s own battle to be taken seriously has been both spectacular and messy. In 2013, she killed off her tween-friendly Hannah Montana image by twerking with Robin Thicke at the VMAs and riding a wrecking ball naked in a music video that went viral. I interviewed Miley at the time and remember thinking she was switched-on and super-comfortable in her heavily tattooed skin. When I asked a tricky question about her name becoming a slang term for drugs, she elegantly deflected it by telling me that Dolly Parton – her godmother – had always said there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Miley’s subsequent Bangerz album was hugely successful, but she faced a backlash amid accusations of appropriating black culture. You can’t blame her for returning to her country roots on 2017’s Younger Now album, but she didn’t score another big hit until last year’s Nothing Breaks Like A Heart, a collaboration with Mark Ronson. Miley followed it with this year’s impressive She Is Coming, on which she seemingly responds to criticism by singing knowingly, ‘You hate me, you love me, you just wanna touch me.’

Indeed, an insider tells us, ‘Miley wanted to distance herself from what she describes as her Younger Now “hippy phase’,” adding, ‘Now she’s so happy with [husband] Liam Hemsworth.’ The couple dated on-and-off for six years before breaking off their engagement in 2013. Miley took it hard, (she broke down while performing Wrecking Ball, supposedly about Liam). But after reconciling, the couple married in December. ‘Miley has stopped partying so much,’ our insider adds. She has seriously found the place she wants to be musically, she feels like nothing can stop her.’

It’s impossible to know what Miley will do next – as Glastonbury showed, she’s a real wild card. There are already rumours that she’s being lined up as a future headliner after her game-changing set. That’s no surprise: at her best, she’s probably the most exciting pop star of her generation.

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