Much ado about Miley and MTV

Luna Rossa Challenge heads close toward the bridge during the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in San Francisco.

Instead of watching Miley at the MTV Video Music Awards, I watched yacht racing on TV. In this photo, Luna Rossa Challenge heads close toward the bridge during the first race of the Louis Vuitton Cup Finals on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in San Francisco.

The response about Miley Cyrus’ performance at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards was surprising. The Los Angeles Times has a decent recap. Since I haven’t cared about the VMAs since … well, I’ve never cared about the VMAs or watched them live … I spent my evening watching yacht racing on San Francisco Bay and a travel show about trains and national parks.

Since the response varied from outrage! to mocking to parodying the response, I thought I would give MTV a video/page view and check it out.

The performance was a medley of three songs, in which Cyrus sang in two of them. The first part featuring Cyrus’ song, “We Can’t Stop,” included performers in teddy bear costumes or wearing teddy bears won at the county fair. Cyrus herself wore something that looked like a teddy bear jumper with the bear’s ears forming much of her top.

The first part — which lasted about half of the total performance — was a bit bizarre and off-beat, but perhaps an interesting way to present an underwhelming song from a so-so singer. Or maybe not so interesting — there were some stone faces in some of the audience reaction shots. Some of Cyrus’ dance moves and gestures foreshadow the second part of the medley — where things go a bit bonkers.

The second part featured Robin Thicke and his summer hit, “Blurred Lines.” Before Cyrus continues singing, she tears off the already skimpy bear outfit and reveals a flesh-tone top and bottom similar to what the female dancers wore in Thicke’s video. If you’ve seen the video, it’s OK to accept the costume for what it is, but Cyrus’ performance goes over the top at this point.

There are risque dance moves and extremely awkward poses where Cyrus sticks her tongue out and gestures with her arms in a bratty fashion. Cyrus somehow obtains a foam finger and uses it in sexually suggestive ways. It was more lewd than provocative.

The third part of the song featured Thicke’s new song “We Can’t Stop,” with performances  from Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz. The song seemed energetic, but I didn’t discern a hook that I would enjoy listening to again. Cyrus is absent for most of this part until the end where she and that darned foam finger appear again.

I’ve already tipped my hand when I said Cyrus’ performance wasn’t very provocative. As the performance progressed, I felt her routine was other things — tawdry, annoying, superficial and overdone — but it didn’t seem provocative enough to deserve even a scintilla of the commentary that it has sparked.

Much has been written about how Cyrus has been working to transform from her “Hanna Montana” image and how Sunday’s performance is one more calculated move in that process. Perhaps it was, but all the calculated moves in the world don’t always add up to a winning number. Arguably, Cyrus has been trying to change her image since 2009 when her performance of “Party in the U.S.A.” at the Teen Choice Awards sparked a similar outburst of chattering.

“Party in the U.S.A.” was a hit four years ago. Based on Sunday’s performance, it seems like Cyrus is playing the same schtick and hoping to strike gold again. We’ll see how that goes.

Speaking of the same schtick, several of the commentaries noted that pundits often vent about the VMAs, even if the controversies seem contrived. MTV may fashion these moments to help create buzz and keep eyeballs on their channel, but I have to wonder why at this point. MTV has long since moved past music television in its programming and an event like the VMAs seems as vestigial as an appendix compared to the network’s current offerings of pregnant teen mothers, teen werewolves and more pregnant teen mothers.

That said, MTV’s strategy seems to still work — the performance has gotten eyeballs to the brand. The old folks have done their part by either waggling their fingers at Cyrus or just shaking their heads.

As for me — after dipping my toes in this folderol, I’m just waiting for the next yacht race to start.

About Ryan Olson

Ryan is living every week like it's Shark Week.
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