Why Miley Cyrus’s sexy new image might backfire on her
Miley Cyrus has bad timing. She releases her new album, Can’t Be Tamed, today, just in time to go head to head with Eminem. Although she has been promoting the hell out of her third studio album as Miley Cyrus (to add to her four Hannah Montana soundtracks, one EP and assorted live and remix albums) with a sexy new video, a near girl-on-girl kiss onstage on Britain’s Got Talent (yawn), and a feud with Perez Hilton, another No. 1 debut is unlikely. Not with Eminem’s Recovery hitting stores the same day.
But even if Eminem weren’t around to screw up her chart-topping plans, would Can’t Be Tamed succeed in pushing Cyrus into the league of adult superstars? I have my doubts. The first single “Can’t Be Tamed,” made a nice debut on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 8 a month ago, but it has been dropping steadily since. (It currently sits at No. 24 after four weeks.) The reviews for the album have been predictably blah, but by now Cyrus is pretty immune to bad reviews.
The problem with “Can’t Be Tamed” — beyond its generic dance-pop sound and the dreaded Auto-Tune overkill — might be the 17-year-old singer’s rush to be taken seriously as an adult. I’m not personally acquainted with any Miley Cyrus fans, but I can’t imagine that there are many of them over the age of 16. Her appeal up to now has hinged mainly on the relative wholesomeness of singles like “The Climb” and “Party in the USA,” which girls of a certain age can love and sing along to without blushing.
But when she starts taking off her clothes and simulating lesbianism onstage, what’s a teen — or tween — girl to do. She comes across like a little girl acting out, which I suppose many young ladies her age can relate to, but do they really want to go through her growing pains with her. I suspect that in her rush to mature, Cyrus will end up alienating some of her core fans. As for the older guys she now seems intent on pulling in, why would they turn to a 17 year old playing dress up when they could get the real deal from twentysomething stars like Katy Perry and Rihanna, whose sex peddling doesn’t seem so contrived, and not feel like a pedophile while doing it. If she really wants to stand out, wouldn’t she accomplish that more effectively by keeping her clothes on? It works for Taylor Swift, who is nearly three years Cyrus’s senior.
Few music stars have successfully made the transition from bubbly teen to bombshell adult (Janet Jackson did so brilliantly with her “Love Will Never Do Without You” video in 1990, when she was 24, while Britney Spears was selling sex from day one), and others have had a harder time holding the public’s attention. (Debbie Gibson’s “Losin’ Myself,” her 1993 bid for sex-symbol status, permanently halted her hit-making days, at the age of 22, and Hilary Duff stumbled around the time she compromised her, um, dignity, with 2007’s Dignity.) Where will Cyrus, who will not be a legal adult for another five months, fit in?
We’ll know for sure when the first-week sales are in, and in the coming weeks when Can’t Be Tamed shows if it’s got legs. If it doesn’t, it won’t necessarily be disastrous for Cyrus. Her pop fans might forgive her for one creative misstep and image miscalculation, and she now has a budding film career to fall back on. Let’s just hope she’s smart enough to continue acting her age on the big screen.