Lately, a lot of people have been giving flack to the extremely talented yet equally eccentric approaches Miley Cyrus has taken towards her artistic expression. These days, she is often vilified in the media and social media by fans and critics alike. Everyone’s talking about everything from her twerking to her tongue wiggling; her nudity and self-touching to her acts of fellatio on a blow-up doll. There’s no question that if the second generation star wanted to distance herself from the childhood photo album of Hannah Montana, she has succeeded in grand fashion.
I can understand, perhaps, the frustration of some parents having raised young ladies on the smash-hit Disney television show only to watch the star’s late-teenage metamorphoses into the risqué burlesque peepshow some of her performances have become. But, just remember one thing: Before you light up your torches and sharpen your pitchforks and head out into the night to hunt Ms. Cyrus down, drag her to the stake and set fire to her, she is only picking up where Madonna left off.
Miley has a boat-load of her own talent mixed with an innovative mind to create works pop-music desperately needs–listen to her self-funded, independent free release of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, a psychedelic 90-minute foray into Miley’s musical mind that showcases her ability to experiment and progress her sound, for free, if you doubt her mettle in the face of an ever-changing genre fighting to regain any respect from a jaded generation of music fans. But, there is no question she has taken the same route Madonna began her career on: success on the blatant sexualization of the feminine form.
If someone argues that Madonna opened the door for women in music, remind them of artists such as Joni Mitchell, Karen Carpenter, Janis Joplin, Cher, Dolly Parton, Joan Baez, Rickie Lee Jones, Stevie Nicks, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper and Debby Harry–women who predated her and enjoyed great success–to debunk that claim. However, Madonna did create an environment where women could open up sexually and be more free to express themselves, and it came to a point where women almost had to in order to make it in mainstream music unless they either were married to a producer or born into the game.
When I tell people Miley is just doing what Madonna used to, they say, “Madonna never used to do that.” But, I have to take a moment to remind them that people said the same thing about Madonna’s affinity towards sexual controversy when compared to some of her racy predecessors who obviously influenced her, such as Marilyn Monroe and Dita Parlow. Do I have to remind people of Erotica and the sex book that followed? She might not have been swallowing inflated phalluses on stage, but she was definitely performing almost entirely nude, having simulated orgies, and faux masturbating onstage–things not commonplace in the 90s, and not even now.
Seems to me like we’re just splitting hairs, especially in a society sexually evolved 20+ years between each picture.
A lot of what Miley does is done in a ribald fashion as opposed to just outright attempts at raunchiness, I think. Nevertheless, she does them and people talk about them, just like with Madonna back in the day.
So, before you cast stones, remember where it started. Sure, Miley makes the choice to do what she does, but you cannot crucify one and justify the other.