Was Miley Cyrus’ performance really as “controversial” as it was made out to be? In the context of the VMA’s…probably not.
Say what you will about MTV’s network programming (“Where’s the music?” and “’Teen Mom’ reruns again?!” are thoughts that come to mind) but once a year, MTV pays homage to the very thing that put the channel on the map—the music video.
Whether you consider it a dying art or an unwavering innovation synonymous with the very music itself, MTV’s Video Music Awards celebrates and rewards these videos, and includes live performances from the very artists that make them. This year’s MTV VMA’s attracted 10.1 million viewers, up from just over 3 million for last year’s show, so there must still be some public fascination with the music video, to say the least.
I went in to the event with a completely open mind, not even knowing who the performers were until I entered the Barclays Center. I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the whole show from the floor of the arena. I stood just feet away from Lady Gaga’s belting voice and square headpiece, Bruno Mars’ fireballs, and a very artistic Kanye West performance. On top of that, I was the bane of every female 20-something’s existence by being in the very same room as ‘N Sync.
And then there was Miley.
The media whirlwind that took place in the days that followed blindsided me a little, especially after witnessing the performance in person. There were articles hailing the death of “Hannah Montana” and the rebirth of Miley Cyrus; articles from parents that were concerned about the impact the performance had on their impressionable children, and articles about how distasteful the performance was. I even read an article that listed the several reasons why Miley Cyrus’ performance was racist, and another one on Fox News that had a response from the inventor of the iconic foam-finger (seriously!).
While each article had its points, everyone lost focus on one thing—the performance itself. The Miley Cyrus performance is no more an extra, irregular beat on what was a fairly healthy show. Her performance was far from the most entertaining, and honestly lacked the talent we saw from other performances. But, before you present me to the firing squad, consider this: some of the issues at hand were the lewd dancing, her “twerk” for Robin Thicke, her tiny skin-colored outfit and her…um, uniquely shaped posterior, yet if you have been keeping track of VMA controversies, you’ll realize that Britney Spears, Prince, Lil’ Kim and Christina Aguilera were all once considered controversial for at least one of the above reasons.
Watch the performance again. Imagine there were no teddy bear dancers, no Robin Thicke (who, by the way, deserves equal blame on these “controversies”) and if she was dressed conservatively. Boring, right? My thoughts exactly (as well as the thoughts of those I was standing with that very night). On the other hand, Katy Perry used theatrics to her advantage for a performance that showed the strength behind her song, but never let it take away from her message or her singing. Miley’s on-stage theatrics only took away from her performance. Without the shock factors and controversy, we wouldn’t still be talking about the Video Music Awards.
While the VMA performances (and most live performances for that matter) enhanced the music listening experience, Miley’s on-stage theatrics took away from it. Sure, her performance seems controversial right now, but come 2014, the performance will be no more than a distant memory; a two sentence paragraph on a Wikipedia page.
MTV’s VMA’s are no stranger to controversy. We all remember Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift in 2009 (we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that it didn’t happen again this year), but years prior saw Madonna kissing not one, but two former members of the Mickey Mouse Club; Eminem had a confrontation with a dog puppet that likes to “poop on things,” and Lil’ Kim introduced the pastie to millions of households. All things considered, I think it’s safe to say we can put this story behind us and move on.
Article by Nicholas Palumbo