Miley Cyrus' recent episode of SNL began with the obligatory acknowledgement of what makes her relevant enough to host the show: her teddy-bear-, tongue-, and twerk-tastic performance on the MTV Video Music Awards and the outrage that followed. In a post-apocalyptic vision, the incident is compared to the government shutdown and the advent of Obamacare, which we wish were much more significant than a pop star's televised gyrations, but that's another discussion altogether.
All is not lost
But something that has caught many people off-guard of late is the revelation that Miley is actually self-aware. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she said:
- "America is just so weird in what they think is right and wrong...Like, I was watching Breaking Bad the other day, and they were cooking meth. I could literally cook meth because of that show. It's a how-to. And then they bleeped out the word '[f***].' And I'm like, really? They killed a guy, and disintegrated his body in acid, but you're not allowed to say "[f***]'? It's like when they bleeped out 'molly' at the [MTV Video Music Awards]. Look what I'm doing up here right now, and you're going to bleep out 'molly'?"
This quote is what gave me hope that Miley Cyrus may not go the way of Amanda Bynes or Britney Spears at her worst. However you judge her artistic statements and the quality of her music, she at least has part of her head in the right place. She is aware of context in which she exists and performs. And her appearance on SNL gave people a chance to see her in a new setting apart from one isolated performance at one show.
A surprisingly solid performance
From her monologue to her sketches to her performances, SNL has done a lot worse with guest hosts and musical guests. To be honest, I never really thought Miley Cyrus' acting or singing were so special, but she does have some comedic and musical chops, and she is still young--she may surprise people if she stays on course.
Much of the show cast Miley in roles that fit her new "We Can't Stop" persona: "Li'l Teeny," a hip-hop club member; gangsta Hillary Clinton; and a very dirty Michele Bachmann opposite Taran Killam's crazed scantily-clad John Boehner in one of the funniest video parodies ever. I don't know if anybody else is actually buying this hip-hopped Miley makeover, but she performed fairly well with the seasoned SNL cast members.
As the deadpan morning news host, the slave-driving head cheerleader, and a poetry class member, she showed more diversity and flexed some different comedy muscles. And her performances reminded us that through it all, she can actually sing. I think the heartfelt rendition of "Wrecking Ball" hit the mark, and her stripped-down version of "We Can't Stop," while an absurd juxtaposition of form and content, was a smart move on her part. Good Miley, calm Miley, nice Miley.
She's still got Miles to go
So what does the future hold for Miss Miley? There are certainly many people who have written her off as a loony, attention-starved pop star, but most of those people are not in her fan base anyway. I think it's too early to tell. She has already conquered the entertainment business: TV, movies, music. And she has tapped a fanatic, young audience that will follow her wherever she goes. Maybe having a music star as a father has actually taught her some useful things about fame and "the business." The only thing we can be sure of from Miley: no more Hannah Montana--she's dead.