Anyone vaguely aware of Miley Cyrus and something she does called ‘twerking’ can see a young woman in trouble. The 20 year old singer, once a child Disney star, has been going through a very public metamorphosis – no doubt at the behest of her management – to turn into this generation’s next sex symbol. It’s a pretty well trodden path for saccharine sweet female teen idols to extend their career into their twenties, and probably ruin their lives in the process (think Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes). Sex sells, and greedy record executives know that middling talents like Cyrus can make millions from taking their clothes off in public and simulating sex acts on stage with other hand selected stars. It’s not exactly rocket science, and it’s a heck of a lot easier than finding someone with genuine star power.
From a cultural point of view, phenomenon like Miley Cyrus are mildly interesting – they represent the culmination of modern capitalism and consumerism; the relentless monetization of every aspect of human life resulting in young women degrading themselves in front millions of people while selling soft drinks. Modern rappers are the male equivalent – a phenomenon just as humiliating for young black men who are tricked into playing gross stereo types of African Americans to sell albums.
The music industry is generally a place where good music goes to die, and idiots like Miley Cyrus are ruining it for people who want to do it the right way. It’s all pretty sordid and the more people that speak out about it, the better.
Yaasin Bey (formerly Mos Def) released ‘Niggas in Poorest’, a brilliant and scathing remix of Jay Z and Kanye West’s ‘Niggas in Paris’, highlighting the reality many black people face in America while mocking Jay Z and Kanye’s grotesque lifestyle.
“What’s 50 grand to a muhfucka like me?” goes ‘Niggas in Paris’. “Whats fifty grand to a nigga like me? More Than My Annual Salary,” retorts ‘Niggas in Poorest’.
Bey uses the same language to speak to the same audience, making his rebuttal effective and, and most importantly, culturally relevant.
After Cyrus’s ludicrous performance at the VMAs – a Vegas stripper routine every male in the country tivoed for ‘research purposes’ – the time was ripe for someone to take Cyrus down a peg or two, and maybe point the confused young lady in the right direction. Sadly, the world’s most sanctimonious musician, Sinéad O’Connor injected herself into the situation making everything a whole lot worse for pretty much everyone involved. The Irish singer who famously tore up a photo of the Pope during a performance on Saturday Night Live and tattooed the initials of ‘a man who annoyed’ her on her face decided that she was the one to give Cyrus a talking to, penning an open letter on her site warning the young singer about allowing herself to be prostituted by the music business. “I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos,” wrote O’Connor. “It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping…..don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying fuck about you. They’re there for the money… we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way.”
Predictably, Cyrus didn’t respond too well to the lecture, tweeting out a screen shot of O’Connor’s tweets from 2012 in which the singer, who has bi-polar disorder, referred to her own mental health problems, and asked Twitter followers to recommend a psychiatrist. Cyrus also compared the singer to former child actress Amanda Bynes (who is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment).
O’Connor then did the mature thing, and escalated the conflict further by threatening to sue Cyrus over the tweets. O’Connor then replied to Cyrus’s offer to meet her by saying “I have no interest whatsoever in meeting you. When you end up in the psych ward or rehab I’ll be happy to visit you … and would not lower myself to mock you. Cease behaving in an anti-female capacity. You will become the victim of it shortly.”
The sad truth is that Cyrus and O’Connor suffer from the same affliction – a desperate need for attention. While Cyrus does it by getting naked and licking giant hammers, O’Connor does it by courting controversy and turning serious subjects into platforms to promote herself. When O’Connor tore up a photo of the Pope while singing the words ‘evil’, she was undoubtedly highlighting the very serious topic of sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But just as some anti war protestors show up to marches wearing clown outfits playing the banjo, it’s hard to say whether their behavior is about the cause, or themselves. O’Connor famously stated that “Fame is a curse… it was the worst phase of my life, which I thank God I’ll never have to go through again.” Which is obviously why she is writing open letters to global pop stars and engaging in twitter beefs….
It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for both of them – Miley Cyrus for the life she has just signed herself up to, and O’Connor for her continued struggle with mental illness and need for attention. Sinead O’Connor is 46 years old, and at this point in her life should know better than to engage in a public row with an idiotic 20 year old pop star. She could have done Cyrus and herself a huge favor, and left the situation alone – sparing the public from yet another bout of suicide inducing celebrity self indulgence that does nothing other than promote the participants involved.
But then O’Connor knew that before she did it. Which was of course, why she did it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.