"I am going to make mistakes and I am not perfect. I never intended for any of this to happen and I am truly sorry if I have disappointed anyone" -Miley Cyrus, April 2008In case you haven't heard....okay let's be honest, you've heard. You've probably seen. We bet you've been trying to UN-see. Miley Cyrus finally allowed the wheels that turn the Pop Music machine to crush her, her once fun teen-idol image finally thrashed beyond repair at this year's Video Music Awards. Hers is a tragic tale, her downward spiral towards obscurity a product of the multi-million dollar music money-making machine, and like so many before her and so many yet to come, she is completely in over her head.
Remember Her First Single?
In short, Miley's Disney show got huge at an extremely accelerated rate, and Disney looked to capitalize: Miley Cyrus released her first single "Party In The USA" to make money off all the parents who knew buying Hannah Montana crap would silence their yapping preteen daughters for a day or two. And you know what? Call us crazy, but it's actually not a terrible song.
Still with us? Wow...thanks everyone, you're more loyal than we anticipated.
True, "Party In The USA" is a bubblegum-pop-candy-fluff song when you listen to it on the radio, but have you ever taken a look through the lyrics with a raspy angst-filled Adele voice in mind? After all, the apparent meaning of a song can be changed radically depending on what style you play it in. Imagine if a soulful up-and-coming country artist from Nashville penned the following lyrics about her very sudden rise to fame and her difficulty coping with the new expectations of her career in the form of a ballad:
The band is "Life On Repeat", show them some love on Facebook
So we've established the tone and meaning of a song can be altered with some clever musicianship, why are we talking about this? Because Miley's first single foreshadowed everything in her direct future- the pressure to fit in to mainstream pop music is what turned the Nashville teen icon into a total lunatic in a matter of a few years.
Because Like Any Business, Record Companies Want To Maximize Profit
Of course if Miley Cyrus burst onto the scene with her weird plastic VMA two-piece directly after establishing a young teen fanbase with the success of Hannah Montana, her career would've flopped right out of the gate. Her first album went triple-platinum and was essentially just the soundtrack to her show. Since then, each album has pushed her persona more in direction of the other top-grossing pop artists in the industry. She tries her hand at songwriting from time to time, but all the edgy party-girl crap is written for her by the powers that be. Unfortunately for her, instead of painting Miley as a fun teen princess with the same straight-laced image of other Nashville country stars,
Miley Cyrus was being molded with each progressing album to resemble a much different type of "musician"...
If you're a big record label person, you know Lady Gaga up there is selling out arenas and making you ridiculous amounts of money. You want more money. You created Nicki Minaj, the black Lady Gaga. Your Miley Cyrus fans were growing older and edgier, and Miley needed to keep up. As those fans grew up, you caused Miley Cyrus to evolve from her teen icon image to someone the VMAs could rely on to carry on their proud tradition of shocking (and therefore highly publicized) performances.
A record label uses you until your popularity has peaked, and then finds someone else better, younger, and more trendy to pick up where you left off. Some musicians survive it and spend a few more years enjoying mildly successful careers, most don't. Labels aren't in the business of taking care of their artists; they make it their business to make sure their musicians are as profitable as possible until their fifteen minutes are up. And in about the fourteenth minute, they get the most use out of you by drumming up controversy around you and ultimately extinguishing your career with one more flurry of attention.
The bottom one is Ashlee Simpson; how quickly we all forget.
This Isn't Some Conspiracy Theory About Record Labels- It's A Fact
In fact, there's an entire song about it. Billy Squier's "The Stroke" isn't about sex; it's about the point in every musician's career when after years of hard work and dedication and profitability, the producers and label executives and all the other rich people who've invested in you and claimed to be your friend have finally used you to the furthest extent they could, and now they're dropping you face first into the ocean to fend for yourself.
Put your right hand out, give a firm handshake
talk to me about that one big break
Spread your ear pollution, both far and wide
keep your contributions by your side...
Put your left foot out, keep it all in place
work your way right into my face
First you tried to bet me, you make my backbone slide
When you find you've bled me, slip on by...
Miley Cyrus' popularity peaked too fast too early, record labels are trying to milk her popularity for all it's worth before she's finally washed up. At this point we'd like to remind everyone that Cyrus was just 14 when fame was dropped into her lap, and she dealt with it about as well as any teenager could. She lasted a whole seven years before she was sadly transformed into the puppet we all saw on the VMA video on Youtube.
The girl is 20 years old and has already gone through a rise to fame and fall from grace, and is about to release her "edgiest" album yet- thus the attention-grabbing VMA show. Her own star power isn't enough to promote an album anymore, she needs publicity stunts, no matter how horrific. "So what?" you say, "She seemed pretty okay with acting like an idiot in front of everyone, why should we feel bad for her? That was her choice."
It Was Almost Definitely Not Her Choice
Does this look like a natural change to you?
Hey, I think that girl went to my high school.
Holy crap, Pink has a sister?
Hollywood dressing up its stars in ridiculous apparel and makeup and ignoring the actual personality of an individual in favor of a fake one in order to get maximum attention, that sounds kind of like
**Editor's Note: This article was almost called "4 ways the music industry is basically The Hunger Games".
There are entire decades' worth of music dedicated to the fact that record labels and music industry titans are in it for the money, not the music. Several genres are even based on this basic truth and the overall theme of rebellion, but it sneaks into every musician's songwriting. Here's Sara Bareilles being less-than-subtle:
I learned the hard way that they all say
Things you wanna hear
My heavy heart sinks deep down under
You and your twisted words
Your help just hurts
You are not what I thought you were
Hello to high and dry
That's from her hit "Love Song", which isn't directed at some guy, but in fact actually written about the studio guys who told her she needed to pen a hit love song for their record that they could play on the radio. She wrote "Love Song" out of spite and the label guys were basically like "Yeah this will work great, thanks". Sara Bareilles' most popular song contains in its lyrics a description similar to Billy Squier's regarding the lip-service you get when you first arrive on the music scene, and the feeling of desertion when the scene moves on without you. Here's Pink being blatant:
L.A. told me, "You'll be a pop star
all you have to change is everything you are"
Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears
She's so pretty, that just ain't me
By the way, L.A. refers to the person, not the place.In conclusion, Miley Cyrus is just another puppet being used to fuel the ever-burning fire of crappy pop-music money-making. She made a fool of herself, they all eventually do. Her fame is diminishing and sooner rather than later her circle of industry people keeping her afloat will abandon her to deal with her shattered image by herself, even though it was that same circle who did the shattering. Miley doesn't write most of her songs, she doesn't choreograph the VMAs, and she has little control over the direction of her career.
The music business is one of contracts and obligations and extortion, and despite her rapid deterioration into another teen idol-gone-bad, she has our sympathy for being put in an impossible position at an age when most girls are finally getting their braces off. Miley may appear crazy on the surface, but deep down there is a sad girl scarred by the music business who doesn't know of any way out other than to do what she's told, even when she's told to do Robin Thicke.
Who by the way has a wife and kids.