Well, it’s been a hell of a month for Miley Cyrus, right guys? And with opinions still split on her foam-finger Thicke-fondling performance at the VMAs, it clearly seemed about the right time to frenchie a sledgehammer and straddle a wrecking ball ass-naked. Gays set the internet ablaze with opinions for and against, helping the ‘Wrecking Ball’ music video rack up 19.3 million views on the day of its release – breaking the VEVO record previously set by One Direction’s ‘Best Song Ever’ – thus proving that controversy is the best publicity.
But why is this video so controversial? Pop stars like Rihanna and Lady Gaga often get naked, using their bodies to sell their music, and most people don’t even bat an eyelid. Maybe Miley is just trying to join the trend, and the negative reaction to her nudity says more about our society, for allowing the objectification of women in music videos to take place, than her. Then again, is it really ‘objectification’ if these artists are choosing to get naked? Maybe they’re smart businesswomen? (Although if nudity is your ‘business,’ then you’re treading a fine line)
Speaking out against naysayers, Miley says: “if people get past the point I’m naked and actually look at me you can tell that I actually look more broken then the song sounds.” (Great grammar there!) For Miley – or at least her PR people via her mouth – her nudity is a visual representation of the vulnerability in the songs lyrics. If that is the case, ‘Wrecking Ball’ should be interpreted as Miley’s artistic expression, even if that expression is an error of judgement.
Yet for something that’s meant to be interpreted as vulnerable, it simply doesn’t seem sincere. Firstly, the way she rubs, licks and caresses that poor sledgehammer reads as sexual. It may sometimes be uncomfortable to watch, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a pop star sexualising an object when the song itself is sexual. And let’s be honest, most of pop music is sexual. But ballads aren’t. I mean, you wouldn’t expect Celine Dion to seductively lick the deck of the Titanic in the music video for ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ would you?
Secondly, Miley seems very self-assured whilst riding that wrecking ball; there’s a type of smugness on her face saying, ‘I’m the shit.’ Now if that were me, I’d probably feel the same – swinging around like the goddess of destruction – and heck, even Ciara looked like a badass boss atop one for her 2009 ‘Work’ video. But at least me or Ciara would attempt to look less conceited when expressing our heartache.
Also, ignoring its unashamed literalism, the visual impact of the wrecking ball is lessened by her nudity. It still looked cool when she was on it and clothed, but seeing her naked on it cheapened the original desired affect. Miley looks most vulnerable when she’s singing and crying directly to camera, however this, juxtaposed against cocky Miley and cock-munching Miley, ends up feeling disingenuous. (Anyway, that bit is a blatant rip off of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U.’)
For me, Miley’s public image has always been something I’ve never understood. Maybe it’s my fault for not really looking into her, but I don’t feel I’ve ever really known who she is. And I don’t think other people do either. However, it’s understandable why a grown woman would want to disassociate from her ‘Disney princess’ past, especially when she wants to be taken seriously as a musician.
Problem is, it seems Miley doesn’t even know who she is herself and it’s hard to take her seriously because of that. This video may have been intended as an artistic statement, but it comes across as more ‘shock and awe’ for a song that’s simply lacking a real message. But as long as controversy keeps getting her hits, it’s unlikely she’ll ever take a step back to assess which Miley is the true Miley. And that’s kind of ironically tragic for the girl who played Hannah Montana, wouldn’t you say?