From swinging on wrecking balls to inspiring think pieces after her "Blurred Lines" dance, Miley Cyrus has always made headlines at the VMAs.
At this evening's show, though, the focus was on Cyrus the person as much as it was on Cyrus the singer. Cyrus' performance of the highly personal "Slide Away" was clearly directed at one person: Her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Liam Hemsworth. "Slide Away" and its lyrics became more than just a song — it was a message. This VMAs performance seems to be the final nail in their marriage.
On August 21, Hemsworth filed for divorce after about half a year of marriage, though the couple had been linked, on and off, for nearly a decade. Days before the divorce announcement, Cyrus had been pictured kissing Kaitlynn Carter, who recently separated from her partner Brody Jenner. In a Twitter tell-all, Cyrus denied cheating on Hemsworth.
The lyrics of "Slide Away" describe a crumbling relationship. For anyone who knows details of Cyrus and Hemsworth's decade-long relationship, "Slide Away" is a treasure trove of references. Cyrus sings, "Move on, we're not 17 / I'm not who I used to be."
When Cyrus met Hemsworth in 2009 while filming The Last Song, she was 17. So began a dramatic relationship. The couple got engaged in 2012, then broke off their relationship in 2013, then reconciled in 2015, then got engaged and married in 2018, and then you know the rest.
The song reflects their on-again, off-again nature of their relationship – ultimately ending in the "off again" phase: "Once upon a time, it was made for us (For us) / Woke up one day, it had turned to dust / Baby, we were found, but now we're lost / So it's time to let it go." She'll go back to her habitat ("city lights") and he'll go to his ("the ocean").
Why did the couple in "Slide Away" break up? Simple: They became different people. "You say that everything changed / You're right, we're grown now," Cyrus sings at the song's conclusion. They're not 17 anymore.
Singing with raw vocals, Cyrus infused the performance with extra emotion. It was broadcast in black-and-white to heighten the dramatics. After all, this is a break-up song, people.