By SRUTI RACHAPUDI, columnist
Miley Cyrus is a genius. I know you probably all think I’ve lost my mind, but when a closer look at this former child star’s recent antics reveals not only a genius at work, but also a mastermind marketer with a brilliant plan.
Just a few months ago, Miley was perceived as a struggling teen princess trying too hard to distance herself from Disney with a new haircut, style, and provocative personality. Although this transformation was foreshadowed by her release of mature music videos, it disturbed a disdainful public, leading many of the 20-year-old‘s fans to drop their dedication. It wasn’t until her music video for “We Can’t Stop” premiered that Cyrus earned full-scale attention and scorn, but even that video didn’t elicit nearly as much shock as some more recent events did.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the pop star’s Video Music Awards performance, which confirmed what MTV had predicted to be the reinvention of Miley Cyrus. What do you get when you mix two overplayed and lyrically insulting songs? A mind-boggling performance consisting of a suggestive foam finger, a heap of teddy bears, and some not-so-family-friendly dancing (don’t act like you’re surprised). We sat in horror and watched “Blurred Lines” performed by a man dressed like a 1920s prison mate and an overgrown baby desperately trying to shed her Disney past.
“You can watch that performance and think that’s a hot mess,” said the singer. “But it’s a strategic hot mess.”
And she’s right. Within weeks, a video of a mom pleading to her daughter not to imitate Miley Cyrus went viral. Just twenty days after the VMAs, Cyrus was announced as an upcoming host for Saturday Night Live. Soon afterward, her “Wrecking Ball” music video was released and rose to the number one spot in the Billboard Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks. With over half a million “Wrecking Ball” downloads and over 200 million views already, it’s no surprise that a scantily-clad Miley cracked viewership records and captivated the Internet.
Since then, from posing topless for the cover of Rolling Stone and calling off her engagement to Liam Hemsworth to releasing her new album “Bangerz” and “confirming” pregnancy rumors, Miley has been feeding controversy, flooding entertainment news, and piquing interest using social media.
You can bet that Cyrus would never have received this much attention with her previous persona, and she’s fully aware of that. Regarding her newsworthy Video Music Awards performance, the controversial artist commented, “I think it’s all marketing. If a website is like, ‘We love Miley’s performance!’ I don’t think people are gonna click on it. ‘Miley’s cute performance with teddy bears!’ – no one is gonna click on that. So I think it’s the media riling up the people, rather than people riling up the media.”
Some may say that every pop star’s short 15 minutes of fame has an expiration date, and Miley’s is soon to come. Although she is definitely not an impending celebrity burnout, when she made the decision to get rid of the old Miley and reinvent herself, she may have extended her stay in the music industry.
In the blink of an eye, she managed to transform a fading image of Hannah Montana, the Disney princess, to Miley Cyrus, the mainstream pop artist. If Miley has any advice to teach us or any wisdom to impart, it would be this: don’t be afraid to try outrageous, outlandish things and be prepared to stand strong against the gossip and negative feedback. The reaction your work receives may not be positive, but it is a reaction nonetheless. More often than not, what matters in gaining an audience in the entertainment industry is the wow factor, not the tastefulness, of a celebrity’s actions. Regardless of whatever else Miley may have “accomplished,” she has undoubtedly earned her position in the public consciousness; she has overshadowed her reputation as Hannah Montana to become a completely different household name, an international phenomenon, and a celebrity force to be reckoned with. Since her stupefying show, she has appeared countless times on talk shows, news articles, and magazine covers.
While we may not consider Miley very tame, it is undeniable that she is a marketing sensation and a publicity agent’s fantasy. Her genius goes beyong her music and onstage personality. I am not a fan of her music, but there is no doubt that behind the edgy new persona lies a shrewd businesswoman and an evolving artist.