In 2009, a then 17-year-old Miley Cyrus released the song Party in the USA from her EP, The Time of Our Lives. The fun track was a catchy and instant smash for the then Disney starlet, and it was the first real show that she had what it took to transform herself from the sweet faced Hannah Montana to a true pop powerhouse. However, controversy would eventually come her way due to the sensual nature of the video and one somewhat raunchy live performance of the song. Looking back to what occurred then in relation to the Bangerz star now, people are probably realizing that they made way too many complaints about Cyrus’ grown up image in 2009 versus what it actually is now in 2014.
Party in the USA was definitely a different kind of song for the young singer. Until that point, most of her music was released solely through the Disney music imprint, Hollywood Records. All of those songs were tied to the television show which Disney owned. Her first “solo” album, 2007’s Meet Miley Cyrus, was released in conjunction with the second soundtrack for the television series, Hannah Montana. The Time of Our Lives EP was to be released through Hollywood as well, but it was the first not to be tied directly to the television show. The project belonged to and promoted Cyrus alone.
Although her Disney fan base would be her heaviest supporters, she also had to show who she could be without her infamous blonde wig to protect her. For many, that first show would be at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards, where the song was performed live for the first time. Cyrus, dressed in a mesh tank top, short-shorts and high-heeled boots, entered the stage through a trailer door that was meant to symbolize a satirical connection to her country upbringing.
“[It’s] funny, but I wanted it to represent where I am from,” she said of her performance. “I’m so proud of [where I’m from]”.
Apparently, she forgot to mention that where she was from included ice cream carts. One was eventually rolled onto the stage and Cyrus jumped on top of it, holding onto a pole connected to the top. To Cyrus, she was simply dancing on an ice cream cart. To the audience who viewed it, Hannah Montana was dancing on a stripper pole.
She would try her best to explain it away, but the outcry was so loud that eventually, she changed all future performances of Party in the USA. Instead of dancing on an ice cream cart, she would shake and shimmy on top of a luggage cart. The video for the song got some minor complaints, but nothing as strongly as the TCA live performance.
The next year would be a massive turning point for Cyrus. She would be saying goodbye to all things Disney as Hannah Montana ceased production earlier in 2010. Her first album released after the show ended, Can’t Be Tamed, was a big one for the then 18-year-old. If The Time of Our Lives and Party in the USA were meant as training wheels into the entertainment world, Can’t Be Tamed was her first true and unassisted ride. It was a big move and Cyrus knew it.
The first order of business was the initial single, the album’s title track. The bass filled song definitely pushed forth the message that the girl who once declared she was living “the best of both worlds” was completely based in just the one now. It was all about being free and the lyrics definitely mirrored a passion that Miley Cyrus had never been able to reveal before. Even the word “hell” made an appearance. This was definitely not a Disney diva anymore.
“If there was a question about my intentions/ I’ll tell ya / I’m not here to sell ya / Or tell you to go to hell (I’m not a brat like that)…”
The video for Can’t Be Tamed was just as telling as the song was. In it, Cyrus plays a caged bird (literally) who eventually breaks free and causes chaos, mayhem and confusion in her wake. She wants the space to be herself and will stop at nothing to gain her independence and her own identity. However, critics felt that she was trying too hard to be someone else.
Her performance in the video was called out with many saying that Cyrus was trying too hard to break free of the mold that Disney put her in. Furthermore, the over-the-top view of the Can’t Be Tamed video was unoriginal in its delivery, and simply, “quite dumb”. The song itself did rather well and it did help the album to debut at number three on the Billboard album charts. But with only one other video and single released from the project, Cyrus knew that people were not into what she was putting out there. Perhaps a bit more hurt than anyone realized, she made a huge statement by way of the tour dates to promote the album. The Gypsy Heart Tour, although highly publicized, would not have one date in any of the fifty states, with Cyrus instead choosing to perform in places such as Mexico and Europe.
“America has gotten to a place where I don’t know if they want me to tour or not,” she said to the Huffington Post, back in 2011. “I’m kind of going to the places where I get the most love. I don’t want to go anywhere where I don’t feel completely comfortable with it.”
She would go on a two-year hiatus following Gypsy Heart, music wise. She would eventually return with the first single from Bangerz, the still-interesting We Can’t Stop. Long gone was the first introduction of Miley Cyrus, post-Hannah Montana days. Also gone were most of the clothes, her hair and even her filter. In her place is the girl many see now, one who is always making news for the wrong reasons and making the world uncomfortable with her actions.
The sad part is that most understood that Miley Cyrus had to grow up sometime. She tried her best to prove it and yet, it seemed as if no one was ready to pay much attention to it back then. Now, they almost have no choice in the matter. Today’s version of Miley Cyrus is, by all means, a man made monster. Maybe that live performance of Party in the USA was not so bad after all.
Opinion by Jonathan Brown