Miley Cyrus Unplugged
I haven’t written a real rant in a while, but I thought I’d take a stab at an easy target. Miley Cyrus has been doing crazy things ever since she left home and embraced her budding drug induced sexuality. She has been overly criticized by the media for going from a pre-teen Disney channel star to a hypersexual deviant, but one thing has remained true in that time: she still has a damn good set of pipes. I first had to force myself to watch Cyrus perform on Saturday Night Live late last year as I always watch the musical guest regardless of who they are. Cyrus’ first performance wasn’t bad, but it was her basic pseudo dramatic pop song with Wrecking Ball, but the second song “We Can’t Stop” was preformed acoustic with only 3 guitarists. While one of them was a midget, I still found it to be emotional and real, which I haven’t seen her be in a really long time, if ever. I’m no Miley fan to begin with, but I’m trying to give her a benefit of the doubt on all this rather odd streak she’s been on lately. After that I gave Bangerz a listen and found over half the songs tolerable and well written (even if not by her). Which leads me to this review, this past week Miley recorded a session for MTV’s Unplugged series.
People may remember this series for bringing us some of the greatest and gut wrenching performances out of artists such as Eric Clapton, Alice In Chains, and Hole. For me personally, I think Nirvana’s performance has always been the most emotional for me and brought Nirvana’s cover of David Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World and the Vaseline’s Jesus Don’t Want For a Sunbeam to the mainstream. Kurt died 5 months later and I believe it was his last televised appearance or at the very least televised performance. It was beautiful, raw, emotional, and most of all real. The band played maybe two of their popular songs, did a slew of covers, and brought the Meat Puppets on stage to play 3 of their own songs. This is highly regarded as the best episode/performance of Unplugged in the show’s history. The band did it in one single take and had a funeral like theme to the decor of the stage. It was perfection.
So I decided to watch Miley’s performance on Unplugged, she had made a positive impression on me after the acoustic SNL performance. I thought she could do something close to that, maybe with less midgets. Although I was fully aware of her tendency to twerk on everything that moves on stage, I didn’t see it coming. Cyrus takes the stage in what I can only describe as a jump suit made from a picnic blanket and belts out her first song. On stage there were two people in horse costume that she twerked upon at some point and a cacophony of country style instruments and backup singers. She explained this away as she is from Nashville where the Grand Ole Opry is and she since she could take all them there, she was bringing the Opry to them. I personally have never seen someone twerk on a person in a horse costume before at the Opry, but I’m sure the next time Miley performs there that’ll happen. The second song, a female midget appeared to get her ass slapped a few time’s by Miley. And then on the third song, I believe she started groping herself. All this is fine, and the song #Getitright wasn’t that bad (even without the self-groping). I forgot to mention with the Opry thing, she made the crowd chant “down” when she would say “hoe.” Halfway through the show, she changes into a bikini, parachute pants, and a ripped jean jacket. I honestly preferred her jump suit since she was wearing a wig. I really wish she’d grow her hair back out and stop bleaching it. She sang Adore You, which was slightly powerful because she said it’s the song that affects her the most from the album, but it wasn’t until Drive that I felt like she was taking this seriously. She cut down the band to maybe 3 pieces and sat under a spot light to make things feel personal.
She finished the night with a spirited country ghetto cover of Jolene followed by Wrecking Ball. To end the show (I hear rumors she covered the Arctic Monkeys afterward but that got cut), she did a horrendous cover of Madonna’s Don’t Tell Me mashed up with We Can’t Stop. The surprise guest of the night was Madonna popping out of the crowd with the microphone to duet with her. And then in a strange twerk of events, Madonna twerked on Miley and even did her patented bump and grind on her. That ruined my night. Miley redeemed herself and then went the wrong direction. To me, We Can’t Stop is Miley’s best and most powerful song. Wrecking Ball might get the waterworks going for people, but We Can’t Stop is the most real out of her album for who she is at the moment. Thanks for playing Miley, I’m going to let you keep doing what you do, but I’m going to say that I was thoroughly disappointed in your Unplugged performance. You had so much potential. And if you are even remotely curious as to how it is possible I saw potential in Smiley Miley, watch this clip from SNL I was talking about and compare it with her duet of the same song for the MTV performance below.
I don’t pretend to know how much creative control she had over this, I’m sure MTV had a hand in some of this. But as you can tell from the first video, she had the potential to do so much more than what she delivered. This was a real opportunity to widen her reach and show people she wasn’t just some reckless child testing the boundaries of social norms. But she was true to her current self, so I can’t fault her for that. I just wish it had lived up to its potential.