Tuesday, September 3, 2013

For what it’s worth.

It’s been over a week since the VMAs, so I know the entire internet has moved on so far they’re already halfway to Saturn by now, but I just had to write this. And it is, of course, about MILEY. Depending on what you think of her [and none of us – no matter what we thought of her – think the same of her after that performance] you either heard angels sing or hellish screams when you read her name.

Just about every thing has been said about her performance: people called it crappy, racist, sloppy and embarrassing. For the record I thought it was entertaining and problematic. It did seem to use the big boned black women as accessories to her “deviance,” which is something to think about. But it could also be argued that Miley was celebrating big boned black ladies in an arena where they have never been celebrated, at least not sexually. I don’t know which was the intention, so I kinda feel this is one of those times where we just have to be aware of both possibilities and the social ramifications of both.

And twerking… There was a lot of talk about how the idea of Miley twerking was racist. Ummmm, what? How is Miley twerking more racist than saying that twerking is only for black people? Or how is Miley twerking more racist than the idea that twerking is an expression of black culture? I even got into some conversations with people who demand that we think twerking comes from traditional African dance. Again: ummmmmm, what? Twerking comes from strip clubs. I mean, does the story go “one night, between lines of blow, a stripper got the idea to bring traditional African dance into her routine on the pole.” No. It does not. Some stripper somewhere decided she needed something to help get more dollar bills thrown at her so she decided to shake it a little bit extra as she slid down the pole, or as she slid into a split and humped the floor, or as she did a handstand and shook it while she was upside down. It’s a pretty easy to understand that it’s the natural-if-exceptionally-creative choice one would make when you are limited to an idea of shaking it to begin with. And yes, the result looks similar to some traditional African dances, but that does not make it the same, nor does it mean that’s where it came from. Kinda like how white gold, silver and platinum all look the same, but they’re not.

None of all that was surprising to me at all. I could not believe three things – the first was the idea that her performance was sloppy. That’s what Miley wanted the performance to look like, and they all performed it perfectly. It is extremely difficult to make things look bad, everyone – no matter of their ability – has a natural tendency to try to make things look good. But with her performance, and that tongue, every single move, expression and reaction was performed perfectly and with absolute perfect timing. I’ve been calling it “Miley’s DGAF Ratchet Realness,” and on that scale, that shit was hilarious and awesome and most importantly, fun. But I have to admit, I don’t have a problem with sex, nor do I have a problem with an adult woman expressing her sexuality – it’s hers to express, after all – so these things don’t tend to bother me. And that tongue, my god that tongue, really sells the whole idea well.

The second aspect of the audience’s reaction that surprised me was that people seemed to forget what it’s like to be 20 years old! He performance might as well have been called “MTV’s Spring Break!” Because that’s exactly what their Spring Break show used to look like. Actually, you’d have to tame their Spring Break show to get it to look as relatable as Miley’s performance. People were shocked, shocked that Hannah Montana was acting this way. They could not believe it. And they also couldn’t remember when Miley first performed her hit “Party in the USA,” at an awards show back in 2009 on a stripper pole. She was sixteen. And there was an uproar then! People were shocked, shocked that Hannah Montana was acting this way! As a sidenote, at that performance she didn’t use the stripper pole the way strippers pole dance. The way she was dancing on it had an innocence that brought to mind the playground, not the strip club. She looked like a kid swinging on the poles that support the monkey bars, which we all did. But get this… since she was sixteen, she also looked too old to be playing around on the playground, which immediately brought sexuality into the mix, however innocent the choreography looked. Talk about blurred lines.

The other thing no one talked about that surprised me was the lyrical content of her song. “We Can’t Stop,” is a song about expression, about being who you are no matter what people say about you. One lyric says “Remember only God can judge ya, forget the haters, ‘cause somebody loves ya…” Why, when the entire country was judging a musical performance, did no one examine the lyrics? When I think of the lyrical content and ask myself “what would be the strongest choice to express the lyrics,” I think the strongest choice would be to perform something that the audience would have the easiest time making a strong negative judgment about. We all know she definitely did that, that’s for sure. And when I think of it that way, for me, it becomes art.

As for commerce… You have to give it to the girl. While everyone was talking trash about her, the week after the VMAs gave Miley Cyrus more twitter followers, more facebook likes, the single she performed had major sales gains, her album pre-sales had major sales gains, her music video for that song was the most watched video on Vevo that week and is the most watched video on Vevo today. Interesting, huh? It seems that it’s best to not worry what the people are saying, just put a value on engagement. Or as the old adage goes, “No publicity is bad publicity.”

I'm pretty sure that's the definition of "Ratchet Realness."

[© MMXIII MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

No comments: