Photo: MediaPunch Inc/REX USA.
I haven't gotten caught up in a serious wave of fandom since the release of Titanic. So, it's no surprise — especially given the age gap between myself and the average #banger — that I missed the boat on Miley, as in Miley The Movement. Still, I jumped at the chance to see her concert in Jersey last night. I wanted to witness the greatness, the weirdness, the wildness that everyone's been buzzing about. I also think she has a great voice (confirmed) and a great body (doubly confirmed — seriously, this girl is rock solid). And, the experience of the show was exactly what I thought it would be — but to the Miley-th power.
The first sensory overload came in the form of concertgoers' collective apparel. I must have missed the memo. It was as if every single person at the Izod Center decided to change into a skimpier version of whatever they were wearing before their moms dropped them off. Don't get me wrong — I'm not trying to be prude, here. In fact, I fondly remember my own middle-school dance days (and the "cleavage" bearing tops I wore to them). It seems to me that, for the the majority of the audience, the word "crop top" was interchangeable with "top" in the same way that "skinny jeans" has largely become synonymous with "jeans." All that said: kudos, ladies, kudos. I'm not trying to player hate on these daring ensembles; I just think it's worth noting there was a definite trend. It was like everyone wearing a Bulls jersey to a Chicago basketball game.
Is this stadium full of tweens emulating their favorite envelope-pushing pop star a problem? So long as there's music there will always be a trendsetter pushing boundaries with swaying hips, racy lyrics, or, in this case, unitards and pantomimed masturbation. The fact that thousands of girls dressed up to be like Miley in this, her latest chapter as an outrageous sensation, will likely prove to be as much a phase for them as it is for her. And, that's truly what I think this pot-smoking, crotch-grabbing, booty-shaking time is: a phase. So, let's move beyond the rebellious exterior and start talking about the actual show.
Photo: MediaPunch Inc/REX USA.
In the beginning of the show, a projection of Miley's face shows up on a gigantic screen and out comes that infamous tongue. Only this time, it's about 15-feet long. It's a slide. The real Miley slides down in white sequined booties, a two-piece red-and-white bikini, and a feathered bolero jacket. Now, it's all about Ms. Cyrus: The crowd hangs on every word or else screams at top the top of their lungs to the songs — sometimes so much so that you can hardly make out what Cyrus is singing in that distinct southern twang of hers.
As I mentioned already, I really do think Miley has an amazing voice. She can go from country western to pop to her own kind of hip-hop and back again. This trying-on of styles is impressive, but overall it makes for somewhat of a disjointed show. Personally, I think she sounds the best when she does accentuate a bit of her folky roots. That's not to say I didn't dance along to her major hits — including "We Can't Stop," "Wrecking Ball," and "Party In The USA," all of which came at the end of the show during the two-part encore. But, I was most taken by her acoustic set, which is generally a list of covers that she changes up for each performance. Last night, this set, which she thoughtfully performed toward the back of the arena for those who didn't spend a fortune on front-row seats, included Lana Del Rey's "Summertime Sadness" and Dolly Parton's "Jolene" (one of my favorites). Cyrus performed both well, even though she was choking back tears.
If you haven't heard, Miley's dog died a couple of days ago. It's really, really sad, and she's understandably really, really sad about it. She's been tweeting about having the hardest days of her life, about healing herself with "Mary Jane," and Cyrus incorporated a gigantic blow-up version of the pup with glowing eyes into her already impressive set.
During "Summertime Sadness" she doubled over and broke down. The tears came regularly and honestly and, yes, they affected her performance. ("I hope you get to see me again when I'm more myself," she announced to the audience in a monologue early on.) But, everyone understood, awwing and throwing stuffed animals on stage. Remember, these are the fans that follow her on Instagram, on Twitter, in the media — who feel like they are personally helping her get through this tough time. They feel they are there for the pop star in her time of need, and truth be told, they are. "I'm lucky because I get to do this tour for a really long time and I don't have to go home and I don't have to be alone. I can be here with all of you guys," Miley said. This is definitely sweet and genuine sentiment, but it could ultimately be problematic.
Eventually, Miley will have to be alone — no arena of screaming fans, no team of stylists or back-up dancers or friendly supporters. No twerking. No glitter explosions. Okay, well, maybe glitter explosions. But, still, I fear for the time of reflection, when Miley is alone. She's certainly a firecracker, if not a Roman candle. But, she's burning the wick at both ends and that could mean serious problems when the beat comes to a stop and the lights flicker off. #justsayin.
Still, I want to give Ms. Cyrus major props for putting on a show, even under the circumstances of her loss. There were rarely cameras shooting her from close up, projecting her image 100-fold for the nose-bleed sections to see what's going on on stage. Instead, the Jumbotrons projected trippy cartoons, oversized puppets, and a gold car that she grinded on, all the while filling the arena with vibrato. We all have days when we feel so awful we don't want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. Now, imagine your job is to perform in front of thousands in a sequined body suit that leaves little to the imagination. Yes, there was a lot of dog talk last night. But, the bangerz certainly got what they came for. It was, undeniably, a good ole' fashioned "Party In The USA."