Miley Cyrus stopped playing a fictional character years ago, right?
Way back in 2011, when she retired her Hannah Montana wig, that golden, $10,000 talisman of teen dreams and real-life parental nightmares.
Cyrus joked at the time that she was going to burn the thing after the fourth and final season of the hit Disney show that launched her to stardom.
“I’m not going to do that to people’s dreams,” she later clarified — deep exhale — during a news conference, noting that she was only kidding, people, kidding!
But if Cyrus didn’t literally take matches and lighter fluid to said tresses, she’s spent the last year doing so figuratively.
Close your eyes for a second, think of the blindingly blond pop star in question, and what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
It’s probably a vision of Cyrus’ tongue, surging past her lips like an inmate on a prison break, the facial pose that’s been captured in just about every picture of the 21-year-old singer published in the past 12 months.
It’s a minor bit of insouciance, kid’s stuff, really.
And yet that tongue, in all its intense outrageousness, has become a symbol of Cyrus’ alleged rebellious streak of late. She has posed nude astride demolition equipment, grinded so hard into Robin Thicke during a performance at the MTV Music Awards that Thicke’s wife responded with oh-no-she-didn’t indignance, made thinly veiled drug references in song — which she later denied — and, perhaps most memorably, sang into a banana microphone while surrounded by dancing little people costumed as plants during a did-that-just-happen moment at the iHeartRadio Music Festival last September.
It’s all elevated — or downgraded, depending on your level of prudishness — Cyrus to pop’s reigning bad girl of the moment, all for hijinks no more shocking than the activities of your average college freshman on any given weekend.
Of course, context matters here — were Cyrus not a vet of laugh-track abetted ’tween TV fodder, she’d be hard pressed to make headlines in a landscape where some of her peers sing of brushing their teeth with whiskey (Ke$ha) and the thrills of sadomasochism (Rihanna).
Even so, hasn’t all the tongue-clucking over Cyrus’ generally benign antics become a little boorish by this point? Especially since Cyrus tries so hard, in such obvious fashion, to elicit this kind of response. In trying so hard to raise eyebrows and shock grandmas, Cyrus is playing a role just like she did on TV at the start of her career, only this time it’s of the girl next door gone wild.
Cyrus even cops to as much for the most part.
“I don’t have a hard time making fun of myself,” she says. “The whole thing is making the way that people perceive me, doing that even more and making a character of myself. It’s been really fun to do that.”
The format in which Cyrus made this comment underscores just how carefully cultivated all the controversy that surrounds her really is. The quote came during a conference call with journalists, one in which all “interviewers” had to submit their questions in advance. Reporters weren’t even allowed to pose the questions themselves — instead, one of Cyrus’ handlers picked which of them Miley would answer and then read them herself, ensuring that the narrative would be controlled and that Cyrus would never be in danger of going too far off script.
And so Cyrus was grilled on such hot-button topics as her tour’s stage design (“It’s dope”), what she likes to do during her downtime on the road (ride motorbikes) and what her preshow rituals consist of (“A lot of the s!@# is, like, mental, to get yourself through it.”)
A lady named Natasha desired to know if Cyrus would be sporting any fashions from designer Marc Jacobs on her current trek.
Why yes, of course.
“I feel like clothes, for me, or lack thereof, say a lot,” Cyrus said.
A fellow named Travis wondered what the inside of Cyrus’ tour bus looked like and if she favored any snacks in particular while on the road.
“Me and my best friend, we call each other ‘doll,’ so we want to make our bus look like a dollhouse of some sort, like a Barbie dollhouse,” Cyrus said. “I have a feeling it’s going to make every dude want to puke,” she added before elaborating on her fondness for cookie consumption, per Travis’ query.
We also learned that Cyrus’ dog, Floyd, will be a part of the show, and that Cyrus considers herself to be something of a hoarder.
It was an entertaining 30 minutes from a natural entertainer, albeit one who seemingly works diligently and somewhat mystifyingly to distract us from her true talents.
Onstage, these talents become more readily discernible.
Unlike many contemporary pop stars, Cyrus performs live vocals through much of her set as opposed to solely lip-synching to recorded tracks. She possesses a strong, stirring singing voice that she only hints at through most of her latest record, “Bangerz,” a fun, bawdy blast of hip-pop bluster, but which she unveils more fully during an acoustic portion of her shows.
Moreover, said shows aren’t choreographed to death like so many others are and she certainly allows her personality to come through at her concerts, giving them a more personal, idiosyncratic feel.
“I’m really focused on people being as excited about me as a singer as me and what I did to shock people,” she says. “I want people to walk away being like, ‘OK, she did some things that were crazy, but at the end of the day, it was really about her voice.’ I really want to stay focused on that.”
And with that, her focus shifted.
Soon, Cyrus was talking about her love of “The Ren &Stimpy Show,” the raunchy cartoon whose creator, John Kricfalusi, is providing some of the visuals on the “Bangerz” tour.
Finally, at Kricfalusi’s hand, Cyrus is going to officially become what she’s been striving for of late: a real-life cartoon.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.