Following up on MTV’s non stop barrage of “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” ads, the 2013 VMA’s lived up to its billing of providing headlines. Whether it was a toned down Lady Gaga opening performance or the long rumored N’ SYNC reunion during Justin Timberlake’s medley of his biggest hits, the VMA’s had a little bit of something for everyone. However, there was only one superstar who would garner all the morning headlines from the show; Miley Cyrus.
It’s been quite a road of stardom for the woman whose biggest role to date was starring as the titular character on Disney’s Hannah Montana, which ended in January 2011. Breaking free of that image (one that’s been so carefully manufactured and sanitized with a family friendly sheen) is something many child stars have struggled with over the years. Nothing quite signified this hardship for Cyrus, until Sunday night when she performed her double platinum hit single “We Can’t Stop” on live TV.
Whether it was the Cynthia-doll inspired hairstyle from Rugrats, the awkward twerking on Robin Thicke or the winking bear leotard, everything was over the top. Cyrus has been transitioning to this stage for the past four years with “Can’t Be Tamed” and taking on more mature material, but her latest move isn’t quite registering with audiences.
“I think she’s changed a lot and it’s really bad,” said Jennifer Denuden, a student of the Belk College of Business. “She is just trying to be so different.”
Even fellow music contemporaries such as Drake, Rihanna and One Direction could be seen grimacing, cringing and even smirking during Sunday night’s most memorable performance. “They might have been caught off guard too,” said marketing major, Shelby Cuthbertson. “I know she’s trying to get out of the child star phase, but she could have went about it a different way.”
Reactions online ranged from general disgust to second hand embarrassment and comedy gold in the form of memes. Still there was an undercurrent of problematic dissent concerning Cyrus’ behavior. Rather than criticizing the performance and its merits, people have resorted to criticizing the choice of clothing and the provocative nature, while remaining silent on other acts such as Lady Gaga. “People are use to Lady Gaga acting like that,” Cuthberthson added.
Most people can’t accept that Miley Cyrus is an adult and still see her as Hannah Montana, despite her attempt to shed her image of four years ago. Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato have dealt with this to an extent and each has explored their transitions from post-Disney stardom differently.
“If you had to be a perfect Hannah Montana, you got a little leeway to go crazy,” said Sean Triplette, a civil engineering major. “There’s so much pressure on her, she has to be the perfect person, she’s Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter, she was on the Disney Channel, and she really has a lot to live up to.”
Miley Cyrus is just the latest in line of former child stars crossing over into the crowded waters of mainstream pop. Although others like Ariana Grande (Victorious) or Selena Gomez have successfully crossed over in the adult world without much controversy, Cyrus has literally grown up in the media spotlight, making the transition more difficult. Despite her enormous success from “We Can’t Stop,” Miley Cyrus is at a crossroad where she may be finally putting to rest her days as a Disney powerhouse, while embracing an edgier path that may isolate some fans.
Will the price of making headlines and living in VMA infamy with the likes of Britney Spears and Kanye West be worth it?