Learning to Love Miley
She spent years on your little sister’s television screen as a Southern-accented megastar whose flaws made her lovable. That was followed by a painfully transparent party girl phase which was subsequently followed by an even more asinine stoner phase. It’s undeniable; Miley Cyrus has done plenty to warrant your disapproval. Still, in this music fan’s humble opinion, if you don’t have love for Miley you simply aren’t listening. If those constant in-your-face identity crises and the lack of a truly strong album has caused you to write her off as an artist, let me implore you to deploy your inner record geek’s fine-toothed comb. You are going to learn quickly how to love Miley Cyrus.
The easiest way to draw a hesitant audiophile into the world of Miley is with her vast repertoire of cover tracks. You’re not listening to Hannah Montana, bro! You are just checking out a pop star version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” or Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. Follow those up with “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”, which is kitschy but fun, only to surprise yourself when her “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” (Dylan) burrows its way mercilessly into your head and heart for days on end. Lorne Michaels tapped Miley to perform her cover of “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” on SNL’s 40th anniversary special. The only other musical performances that night? Paul Simon himself, Paul McCartney, and Kanye West. If you’re bought in at this point, you can look forward to the next holiday season and Miley’s breathtaking “Silent Night” on Bill Murray’s Netflix Christmas special.
Working backwards here, let’s dig into Miley Cyrus’ own material. The first concession I require of you is that both “Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” are lit — perhaps not veritably beloved, but valued in the way a Chainsmokers song might be. “Rooting For My Baby” though was named one of Rolling Stone’s “Best Fleetwood Mac Songs Not By Fleetwood Mac”. Now that’s an acclaimed comparison. Returning to Saturday Night Live, do yourself a favor and YouTube Miley’s tearful performance of her at-times puerile “The Twinkle Song”. The recorded track has been largely lost to a sloppy, SoundCloud-exclusive album release, but this performance ranks among the most emotional in recent live television history.
If you’re still with me, put your music snobbery aside and let all of Miley in, even her rhymey-named Disney alter ego Hannah Montana. The sassy lassy cornered the market on songs called “Party in the U.S.A.”. Boy, that was an oversight eh 20th century? Beyond that, sure, it’s mostly terrible pop; but both “7 Things” and “See You Again” reveal a genuine punk-rock songwriter sensibility. Like Hannah’s pop superstardom, Miley seems to hide this talent from all of us in plain sight. Music fans, don’t be some side character at the butt of the joke. Get clued in to the fact that Miley Cyrus the celebrity leads a double life as Miley Cyrus the important musician.