If the character of Hannah Montana that made her famous in the mid-2000s seems far behind her now, it is because Miley Cyrus has shaken up the morals of an overly puritanical America in order to leave the Disney studios with which she has spent a long time. While the star is about to release her new single Flowers on January 13th, as well as a new album later this year, those days seem long gone and erased by her brand-new rock and sultry era. The singer set the tone when she unveiled her single Can’t Be Tamed in 2010. Standing as the angel of the night, she opened her wings to show the world that she wouldn’t be “tamed” ever again. In other words, Miley Cyrus intended to live her life as she saw fit, judging by the multiple antics and provocations that made the front pages of magazines, which portrayed her as a new Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. A perilous yet necessary road to take in order to completely and aggressively get rid of her country girl image – her father being none other than the famous singer Billy Ray Cyrus. Throwback to three scandals that shaped her career.
1. Posing almost naked on a magazine cover at 15
In 2008, Miley Cyrus was playing the role of Hannah Montana in the TV show of the same name for nearly two years. She was only 15 when she became a global star worshiped by a whole generation of young girls thanks to the show. However, she found herself on the front pages of American magazines for a completely different reason than her recent success. Photographer Annie Leibovitz shot her for the cover of an issue of Vanity Fair, in which she poses almost naked, with a simple satin sheet covering her breasts. The photo was picked up by the media, which took offence at the young girl’s nudity that went against the image that Disney Channel was trying to impose on her. Faced with the controversy, Miley Cyrus apologized but withdrew her apology ten years later on her Twitter account with a past copy of the New York Post with the caption: “I’M NOT SORRY. Fuck YOU #10yearsago”. A humorous reminder that she repeated in 2020 by posting a video of herself using drugs ten years earlier, wishing a happy anniversary “to the groundbreaking video of a teenage girl smoking a bong and saying dumb shit to their friends.”
2. The wild twerk on Robin Thicke at the VMAs
This is probably one of the most high- profile scandals in Miley Cyrus’ career. At the end of August 2013, the star set the stage – and critics – on fire during her performance featuring singer Robin Thicke at the Video Music Awards. Dressed in skin-tight beige latex underwear, she sported a new peroxide short blonde hairstyle and performed a series of suggestive positions holding a foam glove with a forefinger raised up. Yet the finale is what has remained engraved in people’s minds to this day. The singer started twerking and rubbing herself against Robin Thicke while sticking out her tongue. The video went viral and broke the record of 306,000 tweets about her being posted every minute. That was a performance that Miley Cyrus was quick to repeat on her tours with giant belt dildos and sultry outfits – until one of her concerts ended up being banned for “acts that go against morals and customs” in Dominican Republic in 2014. If her image had been shattered, her career seemed to be tainted by the complaints of a puritanical America offended by the downfall of one of its favorite Disney princesses.
The music video of "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus (2013).
3. The music video of “Wrecking Ball”
Later the same year, Miley Cyrus released her single Wrecking Ball (2013) which, despite many criticisms, was a huge success – perhaps in part due to the music video, which gathers now over a billion views. The star either wears a pair of panties and a white T-shirt, or appears totally naked in it, with a red lipstick, and a tear in the corner of her eye. She swings on a wrecking ball throughout the video, determined to debunk the prejudices that have long imprisoned her. Although her narrative was moving, she unleashed a stream of criticisms because of her nudity. Since then, she has been searching for her own identity and has kept making the tabloids’ headlines – from her marriage and then her divorce from Australian actor Liam Hemsworth to her antics at parties, or her lesbian relationships. Yet, she has also built a career as a singer by trying out pop, country, and rock music, such as with her eighties-inspired album Plastic Hearts. Her records that will earn her two Grammy Award nominations, including one for Bangerz (2015). However, Miley Cyrus can still surprise us. While making the announcement of her upcoming album, along with the release of her new single Flowers on January 13th, she has given us some advance warning: “New Year, New Miley”.
The single Flowers by Miley Cyrus, out on January 13th, 2023. The album Endless Summer Vacation, out March 10th, 2023.