From Foam Hands To Philanthropy: Why 2014 Is The Year Of Miley Cyrus

12 months on from her VMA performance she's stuck a (literal) tongue out to her critics... and it's paid off


by Stevie Martin |
Published on

At last year’s VMAs, Miley Cyrus rubbed herself all over Robin Thicke and wanked herself off with a giant foam hand. This year, she underlined the importance of youth homelessness. The difference marks a real change in Miley Cyrus – from Hannah Montana, to scandal-mongering foam-wanking ‘I’m all grown up’ statement, to bona fide pop star.

This second transformation pretty much started with a Rolling Stone interview the 21-year-old gave shortly after exploding the internet with her frankly bizarre VMA performance. ‘I know what I’m doing. I know I’m shocking you,’ she said. ‘When I’m dressed in that teddy bear thing, I think that’s funny.’ People called her out as desperate, slutty, pathetic, faux-controversial, but you couldn’t really deny that everyone was talking about her. Even my boyfriend, who thought Usain Bolt was from the UK and that Madonna had probably died, knew that Miley Cyrus was ‘grown-up Hannah Montana’. Even if he didn’t know who Hannah Montana was.

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The Bangerz tour made scandalous headlines, of course, but the stories were always diluted with praise.

She didn’t – as many people predicted – go on to have a full-on meltdown. She didn’t dissolve into a dark, bleak drug-fuelled mess á la Lohan or Spears, despite being way more vocal about her drug use. Instead, she rode the release of a frankly brilliant album by nailing a world-class international tour that garnered glowing reviews from publications as diverse as The Guardian (‘it’s so gleefully demented, cartoonishly vulgar that it’s almost impossible not to be entertained’) to NME (‘a thrilling, brazen celebration of freedom, individuality and choice’) and even The Daily Mail (after listing all the sexually provocative aspects of the show, they begrudgingly admit that ‘the majority of guests had an amazing night’).

The Bangerz tour made scandalous headlines, of course, but the stories were always diluted with praise – she’s ‘doing her thang’, she’s ‘being Miley’, she’s downright ‘entertaining’. As well as fellating a man in a Bill Clinton mask and calling the audience a ‘bunch of fucking sluts’. As an audience, we’ve collectively a) got used to her and b) come to respect her. Another pic of her smoking weed on Instagram, or lying in bed half naked with her dogs doesn’t really merit a square in the Sidebar Of Shame because we already know she smokes weed. We know she’s naked quite a lot. We’ve all pretty much seen her vagina and, while it was divisive at the time, it’s nothing that Madonna wasn’t doing all those decades ago. Or Rihanna isn’t doing now. Except with Rihanna, you can imagine she takes it all a little too seriously. The Pour It Up video rivals Miley in ass shots and writhing, but you can’t compare it to Wrecking Ball. You just can’t. There’s a sense of humour and a knowingness in Miley’s flesh-flashing that makes Rihanna just look a bit silly, despite the fact Miley rode a wrecking ball naked and licked a hammer.

In terms of respect, she’s proved herself this year to be an artist in the true sense of the word – playful, talented, hard-working and human. Her reaction to the death of her dog, Floyd, showed her more fragile, relatable side – something we, as the celeb-guzzling audience, both identify with and can’t get enough of. Even her declarations of drug taking are starting to sound way more respectable than 90% of the coked-up celebs who fervently deny it all. ‘Hollywood is a coke town, but weed is so much better. And molly, too. Those are happy drugs – social drugs. They make you want to be with friends. You're out in the open. You're not in a bathroom,’ she said in the Rolling Stone interview. Yeah, she’s advertising her drug use to, among others, a fanbase that’s probably way too young, but you can’t fault the motive. Happiness. Fun. Friends. Oh, and honesty. It’s sort of refreshing to hear a celeb admit what we all know is going on anyway.

In terms of respect, she’s proved herself this year to be an artist in the true sense of the word – playful, talented, hard-working and human.

When she fell ill during the Bangerz tour after taking antibiotics, her response to the media’s ‘omigod she OD’d’ frenzy was as blunt and honest as we’d come to expect: ‘I didn’t have a drug overdose. I took some shitty antibiotics that a doctor gave me for a sinus infection and I had a reaction’. You believe her slightly more than when Lindsay Lohan waxes lyrical about being sober.

READ MORE: Miley Cyrus Takes A Three-Day Break From Instagram, Fans Assume She's Dead

And this latest stunt at the VMA just solidifies what’s been happening over the last year: she doesn’t need to shock anymore, it’s time to use her celebrity for something beneficial, to cause a different type of scandal. To shock people in another way. Predictably, the media have focused on the homeless guy she chose to accept her award – Jessie Helt is apparently a wanted man in Oregon for violating probation – rather than the issue of youth homelessness, but it marks a real change.

If 2013 was the year of mass hysteria and controversy for Miley, 2014 is the year where she justified herself and stuck her tongue out (literally) to the critics. She’s been working on her new album, killing it with the live shows and cementing herself in the music industry’s hall of fame, inspiring the likes of Katy Perry (tell me This Is How We Do doesn’t have a whiff of Miley about it) and changing the face of pop music as we know it. It can be big, it can be honest and it can be controversial, provided you’ve got the talent, the drive and the bangerz to back it up.

Follow Stevie on Twitter @5tevieM

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Picture: Getty

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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