Miley Cyrus? ‘Nevermind’ that poor girl
I didn’t see the Video Music Awards last weekend, and while the Internet seems to be on the verge of spontaneously combusting thanks to Hannah Montana, I still don’t have a desire to catch up on what I missed.
Not because it’s racy; I see more raunch in the titles of pay-per-view porn when I'm scrolling down the channel guide of DirecTV. And not because it’s provocative, because I’ve interviewed more controversial, albeit lesser known, pop culture figures over the years. (Raise your hands if you’re a fan of Blowfly.)
No, I chose not to watch videos of Miley Cyrus cavorting with teddy bears because it’s boring.
Yes. Boring. And before you ask, I do realize that it’s been water cooler fodder all week, and it’s raised all sorts of ire from media watchdog groups, feminists and those concerned that her stunt has set back feminism by a couple of decades. Here’s the thing about that — they don’t matter. Discussion of those issues is important only because talking heads make them important by bringing them up in the same breath as Miley Cyrus.
As a pop culture milestone, the whole Miley Cyrus debacle is more of an example of how insipid corporate entertainment has become these days.
Fact No. 1: Miley Cyrus is the latest in a wave of prefabricated, overproduced pop artists who sound so similar they might as well be rolling off an assembly line. Thanks to software like Auto-Tune and Pro Tools, a pretty face can be tossed into a studio, given a sheaf of lyrics written by other people and made to sound like a million dollars, even if he or she sounds like a screaming house cat slowly being fed into the garbage disposal. Because technically, that’s all such artists are to record labels these days: Dollar signs.
They have no value other than how fat they can make an executive’s wallet. I realize that labels have never been based on altruism and the common good, but there was a time when label executives took pride in signing bands that were culturally significant, musically experimental or exceptionally talented. Those days are no more, and while true talent does manage to rise to the surface on occasion, Miley Cyrus is not one of those individuals.
(Does this make me a “hater?” Probably. But it also makes me honest.)
Fact No. 2: As far as shock factor goes, Cyrus’s stunt probably doesn’t make the top 10. Remember Howard Stern descending from the ceiling in 1992 as “Fartman,” his bare butt on full display? What about Madonna and Britney Spears swapping spit in 2003? By those standards, Miley Cyrus came across like a pre-pubescent girl putting on too much lipstick and wearing Juicy shorts a size too small — in other words, pathetic and cheap.
Fact No. 3: The Video Music Awards are a pale imitation of its heyday. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that entertainment, particularly music, is now skewered toward a younger audience. It’s always been that way to some extent — see the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync — but these days, it seems like every other act up for an award is a carbon copy of the next, each one wearing designer jeans picked out by some record label focus group and polished to a sugary sheen intended to make young girls lose their minds and beg their parents to spend their college savings on posters, albums and concert tickets.
What happened to the days when rock ‘n’ roll was the menace to society that it started out as? What happened to the days when bands like Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses started feuds, when members of Rage Against the Machine went nuts and climbed the scaffolding, when Michael Stipe changed shirts for every award to call attention to an important social issue?
They’re gone, it seems. I seem to remember G’n’R bass player Duff McKagan and guitarist Slash so drunk they had to hold the podium in a white-knuckled grip to keep from passing out; I can’t say for certain, but I imagine a star of Miley’s caliber probably has a half-dozen handlers waiting in the wings to haul her into a armored car if she seems like she’s even remotely out of control.
Because she wasn’t. You realize this, right? That stunt was a carefully choreographed, publicity-hungry swan dive into the lake of don’t-stop-paying-me-attention. It was an expertly crafted industry “moment,” not a true rock ‘n’ roll one. It has no more to do with the hedonism and rebellious attitude that helped pave the way for a channel like MTV than today’s popular country music does with Hank Williams and Merle Haggard.
It is, like everything consumed by the masses these days, a well thought-out and planned-for bit of faux culture. And, judging by how we’re all still talking about it a week later, a very successful one, I’m sad to say.
I wonder, sometimes, if I’m remiss in my
duties as an entertainment writer for not watching shows like the Video Music Awards, for not
listening to music by people like Miley Cyrus. Last weekend’s fiasco reassures me, however, that
I’m not. If that’s your thing, best of luck to you.
But if you ever find the willingness to break free from “The Matrix” of such popular culture in which the entertainment industry has you imprisoned, let me know. I’ve got the red pill and a glass of water waiting for you.
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.