Miley Cyrus HUNGER TV & YOU MAGAZINE interviews: Throughout her shoot, Miley was warm, friendly, incredibly easy going (‘sure I’ll wear that, whatever you think is best, and can I have your number so we can go shopping while I’m here?’) and a damn sight more open than many of her cagey, over media trained counterparts that express zero opinion of their own and act as though they’ve just undergone a lobotomy in interviews.
And something else that struck me? Miley is incredibly savvy. Many have pondered as to whether the popstar is a well (and barely) dressed puppet of the industry, but Miley knows exactly what she’s doing, and according to her, has to often coax her management into going along with her more outlandish ideas. And it’s her that comes up with her public image and performances as she knows it will shock people, so in turn will keep them talking, which will then equate to album sales. A clever formula, and one that’s obviously working. Here Miley tells us why she’s the one having the last laugh.
Hunger: YOUR NEW ALBUM, BANGERZ WAS RELEASED TODAY – HOW IS THIS ALBUM A PROGRESSION BOTH LYRICALLY AND MUSICALLY? Miley: I feel like a lot of it now is mostly visual. People are so obsessed with what I’m doing visually and I think it will be good for people to hear more than just ‘Can’t Stop’ or ‘Wrecking Ball’ so they can get the whole vision of what I’m doing. Because right now I’m the only one in the world who’s heard all the music and so I keep trying to explain to people what I’m doing that’s different and what kind of sound it is but it’s something you can’t really describe. I think people just have to hear it for the first time, I can’t wait.
Hunger: WHEN YOU RELEASED YOUR TRACK LISTING WE NOTICED THAT THERE’S A SONG ON THERE WITH BRITNEY?
Miley: I think West Hollywood just exploded, every gay area in the world just shot up into pink glitter dust.
Hunger: WHAT’S SHE LIKE TO WORK WITH?
Miley: She’s awesome. In album packaging I know no one gives posters and stickers anymore. That was important for me to give a like poster, for me to give stickers and gifts because when I was younger my first record I went to buy was Britney Spears and right away I wanted her poster up. I think she represented a time when people had a different connection with their fans, not just about Twitter and all this but there was something about going and buying a record and every Britney record I’ve gone out and I’ve bought because there’s something about holding that album and you’re excited to see what’s inside. She’s like an icon in that way and so I wanted to bring her back to that, I just kept telling her, “Britney you don’t really realise actually how dope [you are]. People tell me I represent their childhood, for me you represent my entire childhood, like you were the soundtrack to my life.” I want her to realise how really dope she is and how she’s a living legend. You know when you’re 30 you don’t realise what you are, I want her to take herself out of it and realise “I’m Britney Spears”. So I wanted to celebrate that in the song, I wanted it to be like this is Britney, it’s not even about her singing as much as it is her voice. She’s got one of those speaking voices that as soon as she opens her mouth you know it’s Britney Spears and I wanted it to be about that.
Hunger: EVERYONE IS OBSESSED WITH YOU AT THE MOMENT. IS THAT DIFFICULT WHEN PEOPLE ARE SEARCHING THROUGH YOUR WORK TRYING TO FIND THINGS OUT ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE – LIKE ‘WRECKING BALL’ FOR EXAMPLE?
Miley: Yeah, it does bug me but then again I had two years where I really just hid out in the studio and I didn’t really work, I didn’t really do anything. I pretty much sat around with my friends and didn’t do shit, so now it just feels like that’s what it needs to be. I’m either a zero or a million, there’s really no in between, I’m so hot or cold. So either I have to have everything about my music and have nothing else matter or it has to be everything else matters and career doesn’t matter at all. I kind of have to choose what my time is and that’s why I think it’s good when you can shut off, it’s too much to balance real life and this.
Right now it has to be go time. You don’t pause when a rocket ship is taking off, you don’t say “hold on I gotta go smoke with my friends’ you know you’ve got to just go, it’s your time. And so, I just make sure I keep reminding myself, this is my time. It’s hard right now I’ve got to keep pushing myself. Once the music is out it’s going to feel more inspiring because I’m going to get to perform more, where I get the people singing the songs back. Right now it’s trying to describe it and I don’t really know how.
Hunger: DOES IT EVER MAKE YOU MORE GUARDED OR THINK “MAYBE I’LL KEEP THAT TO MYSELF” OR ARE YOU JUST LIKE “WHATEVER I’M GOING TO PUT EVERYTHING OUT THERE”?
Miley: I’m a little…I’m not guarded because I’m actually jaded, but I feel like a lot of people feel like they owe people their personal life and I don’t. I feel like I give so much as an entertainer, I want people to focus on that. It’s not really talking about my personal life when it’s people talking about VMAs or talking about my videos, that’s what I do as a job and I want people to talk about those things because it is keeping everyone watching.
Hunger: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BASICALLY THE MOST FAMOUS WOMAN IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW?
Miley: It feels pretty sick. Only because like I said I have been gone for a few years, where I wasn’t doing anything and I wasn’t working. So now it feels like all that work in the studio did pay off. And I had so many times where I had to tell people like, “Yo, just trust me, I’m telling you with this ‘Can’t Stop’ video this is going make people watch” or with ‘Wrecking Ball’ saying, “this is going to make people go crazy.” And once I did ‘Can’t Stop’ that’s when people really started trusting me. At first on paper that video sounded insane, no one understood it and I’m just like, “let me film it and then if it doesn’t work out you never have to trust me again but if it works out you have to let me drive this ship, you know I’m on to something.” And then they call me and they’re like “yo, you’re onto something!”
You know me and Rankin were talking about it. With magazines, with movies, it’s always weird when things are targeted for young people yet they’re driven by people that are like 40 years too old. It can’t be like this 70 year old Jewish man that doesn’t leave his desk all day, telling me what the clubs want to hear. I’m going out, I know what they want to hear. I know when you’re in a club, what makes everyone go crazy and when the time is where everyone’s like “alright I’m going go get a drink”. I know when people walk off the dance floor and I know what’s driving it so I’ve got to be the one doing it because they’re just not in on what 20 year olds are doing.
Hunger: SPEAKING OF THE VIDEO FOR WRECKING BALL, YOU AND TERRY RICHARDSON SEEM LIKE A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN.
Miley: It’s ridiculous, that’s how I felt about Rankin now too. I was like “this is a match made, this is the whole thing.”
Hunger: WHOSE IDEA WAS WRECKING BALL? DID YOU HAVE MUCH CREATIVE CONTROL?
Miley: Yeah I came to Terry and I had said I wanted to create something kind of like Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares To You.’ I said a lot of people tried to recreate it, a lot of people have tried to get that emotion in but there’s something about the way he did it. It had to be a different look it, it had to be real. It can’t be someone running in with the gelatin eye drops and trying to look beautiful it just needed to be really beautiful. There’s something obviously sexual about it but that’s not what the video is driven by, it’s actually driven by emotion, it’s an emotional video but people only really look at the sexuality because they don’t really try to see the full thing
Hunger: DID YOU INTEND IT TO BE SHOCKING?
Miley: I’m surprised people are still shocked, I’m glad that tactic is still working because I expected people at some point just to not be shocked.
Hunger: DO YOU LIKE SHOCKING PEOPLE?
Miley: Well, it couldn’t be the same kind of shock as ‘Can’t Stop’ it had to be like, “Woah I didn’t expect Terry Richardson and I didn’t expect all this.” It has to be the full package because you can talk about the sexuality all you want but you also have to reference back that it’s Terry. You have to respect the fact that it’s art, you have to respect the fact that when you watch the video it makes you feel something and gets you choked up at some points.
Hunger: STYLE IS ANOTHER THING THAT OBVIOUSLY HAS EVOLVED FOR YOU. YOUR STYLE HAS EVOLVED FROM THE HANNAH MONTANA PHASE TO NOW, SO WHAT’S YOUR LOOK NOW?
Miley: I work a lot with Marc Jacobs. He kind of brought me into fashion like when I was 16, that was when I started being around him and just learning from him. He kind of let me inspire some of his pieces and now I feel like its just having the right people around you.
Something again like the ‘Wrecking Ball’ video or ‘Can’t Stop’, there are parts of it that of course are for a mature audience but there’s something kind of immature about it because the party’s so ridiculous, it always has to have a balance and a ying yang to it. That’s the same as ‘Wrecking Ball’. It has to be sexy and strong and that’s what I feel like with fashion, I feel like Marc does that so well. There’s definitely something amazing about being so lady like yet being so punk and that’s kind of more of what I am even if I’m wearing things that aren’t. I like having this punk feel about it even if it’s like Louboutin. You’ve got to find the right designers that know how to mix. When I was in Paris working with Kenzo, that’s something that they do really well there too. Like fashion and everything else, it doesn’t need to be so serious. People take it too seriously, it’s supposed to be self expression and how you want people to see you. I read that 80% of what people think about you is made off the first ten seconds they meet you and you look at someone and you say “are they competent, are they this, are they that?” And for me if that’s what people are looking at for the first 30 seconds they see me they’re going to think they know who I am so I want you to take in everything and I want everything to be representing who I am.
Hunger: PEOPLE HAVE CRITICISED YOU AND SAID YOU’RE NOT A GOOD ROLE MODEL BUT YOU’RE STILL GETTING MORE COLUMN INCHES THAN PROBABLY ANY OTHER POPSTAR AT THE MOMENT, ARE YOU HAVING THE LAST LAUGH?
Miley: Yeah. I mean that’s how I always try to think of it. It’s like a sales person really, you know you’re like “this shit does not get rid of your wrinkles but if I sell it well enough you know, they’re gonna buy into it” and it’s like the exact same thing for me. At the end of the day I want people to buy my records, it isn’t about thinking just about this two minute performance on VMAs or this music video. I want people to want to hear my records and the more that they’re wondering what the hell is she doing, the more they’re going to want to listen to my record.
Hunger: THERE IS SO MUCH WRITTEN ON YOU BUT WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY TO THE WORLD – COMING STRAIGHT FROM MILEY?
Miley: Buy my fucking album…now.
Hunger: AND LASTLY, YOU’RE 21 IN NOVEMBER, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO FOR YOUR PARTY?
Miley: Hopefully get away; I’ve got to go somewhere nice. I never get a vacation so I’m going to try and schedule in a vacation of some sort. I might hibernate for my 21st birthday, that’ll give people a shock!
OMG, Miley! The tongue, the twerking, the latex underwear, the naked video! Where on earth to begin? Miley Cyrus, the most Googled star in cyberspace, is sitting opposite me on a pale leather sofa, coltishly long-limbed in thigh-high black Louboutin boots,
a wispy Black Watch tartan dress and a baby-blue fox-fur cape. Wide-eyed and clear-skinned, mouth a vermilion pout, the 20-year-old singer looks ravishing, even with the tattoo on her ear and the tiny gold gangsta pistol nestling among the chains around her neck.
But I have to start somewhere, so I start with her hair. ‘Miley!’ I cry. ‘Why did you cut your lovely Hannah Montana hair? What did your mother say? She must be furious; I mean, I’m not your mother and I’m pretty cross.’
‘Ha, ha. Yeah, when I did it my mom was shocked at first and tripped out – I mean, she’s got the whole long blonde hair thing going on – but now she loves it and wouldn’t have me with it any other way,’ says Miley.
‘I’m trying to break out of that long hair, big boobs stereotype that women feel they have to conform to. I mean, we’re not living in the freakin’ 1950s – short hair is OK. Have people really got so little imagination? Every morning I look in the mirror and I feel like a blank canvas and I choose who I want to be. In a normal job you have to live by someone else’s rules, but I’m in a job where my work is play and I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not.’
Before we continue with the various theories as to why Miley has either gone off the rails or is making a stand for female empowerment, a quick recap. In a previous incarnation, Nashville-born Miley was a squeaky-clean Disney Channel princess starring in her very own squeaky-clean show. From the age of 13, she played a girl living a double life; average down-to-earth Southern teenager by day, famous pop star Hannah Montana by night. Her real-life father, the country singer Billy Ray ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ Cyrus, was cast as her good ol’ daddy in the series, which garnered an estimated 200 million viewers. The merchandising spinoffs were immense: from dolls to duvet covers, jewellery to jotters, Hannah Montana was the ultimate wholesome blueprint for little girls everywhere.
But every little girl grows up. And how. Having recorded albums as her TV alter ego, after the series ended in 2011, Miley set about establishing herself as an adult artist with extraordinary gusto. In 2012 she cut off her trademark long locks, symbolically severing herself from her past. Then earlier this year saw the release of her single ‘We Can’t Stop’, with its sexually provocative video in which she writhed around on a bed, french kissed a doll and, to quote her use of rappers’ vernacular, ‘shaking it like we at a strip club’.
Then, at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards in New York, she performed a controversial duet with singer Robin Thicke in which she stripped down to flesh-coloured latex underwear, ‘twerked’ (a move where a dancer squats while wiggling their buttocks) and did unmentionable things with an oversized foam finger. The audience was stunned. Social media went wild. A proposed cover shoot for Vogue was apparently axed on the grounds of Miley’s vulgarity.
Theories abound as to why she appears to be doing a crash-and-burn Britney. In no particular order: she has turned lesbian, she is mounting a rebellion against the strictures of her Disneyfied childhood, she is on drugs, and she is having a nervous breakdown. To her credit, she laughs toothily when I read her the charge sheet and tell her the shockwaves have reached Britain and beyond. ‘Hey, I thought you British were all beer and free speech!’ says Miley in her faint Tennessee drawl, nonplussed as to why anyone might disapprove. ‘People try to make everything so thought out when sometimes there’s no real reason why. My fans love the fact that everything I’m doing is my choice. It’s my body. I want what I do to be memorable and so do my fans – I’m just living, just being.’
But Miley, if you wanted to establish yourself as an adult artist, why the suggestive foam finger? Why not a power ballad, a stint on Strictly, maybe even a crossover duet with Andrea Bocelli – or better still, those nice boys from Il Divo? Actually, I suspect she might devour Il Divo for breakfast. ‘Everything I’ve ever done was how I felt at that exact moment,’ she says with unshakable conviction. ‘You have to have confidence as an entertainer and I believe – I know – that no one can be a better version of me than me. Sure, I could put on a gown and have some beauty pictures taken of me, but where’s the honesty in that? In my video for “Wrecking Ball” I am naked and vulnerable and crying because it’s a song about how it feels when everything around you has been destroyed.’
Appearing naked was really no big deal, she asserts. ‘I’m very confident being naked,’ she says (although admitting it would be a bit too confident for the YOU photo shoot). ‘I feel that stripping off is a way of expressing purity of emotion.’ Quite so; unusually, Miley is the sort of performer who has to be persuaded to pop that cheeky nipple back in, please. But while nakedness can represent raw truthfulness, it’s also the ultimate act of look-at-me exhibitionism and sexual precocity. Her appearance at the VMAs was, by common consent, cringeworthy; but the thing is, Miley doesn’t care. And when you are young and rich and beautiful with a brand new white Maserati, don’t care can’t be made to care. Not one tiny bit. Her target market isn’t fazed by bumping or grinding, even when she does it with dwarves on German telly. The fans who download her music don’t give a monkey’s what Vogue thinks. Parental opprobrium is just another tantalising ingredient in the heady mix.
‘I want to be memorable,’ she says. ‘That’s what my fans want too. Everyone’s talking about me, waiting to see what I’m doing next. And, yeah, I like things to be bright and colourful and fun, but then I make “Wrecking Ball”, which is darker and grey. And then I’ll maybe go back to running around being crazy. I want to keep people guessing.’
Her weeping anguish in the ‘Wrecking Ball’ video wasn’t any sort of relationship catharsis; by her own admission she’s never had her heart broken. Her parents Billy Ray and Tish, who wed in 1993, have an on-off marriage, which is currently on. But Miley’s turbulent engagement to Australian actor Liam Hemsworth, with whom she lived in Los Angeles, is very much off. She clearly hasn’t let it affect her fierce work ethic, and she doesn’t want to talk about the split. She’d much rather talk about her four dogs: indeed, it was the untimely death of one dog, her yorkshire terrier Lila, that was forefront in Miley’s mind as she clung naked to the wrecking ball, a pose that has since been mercilessly parodied on the internet. ‘I love dogs more than I love people,’ she says, suddenly sounding like a 20-year-old rather than a polished pro. ‘I kept this image of Lila in my head and the tears just fell.’
The single comes from her new album, the infelicitously named Bangerz, about which she speaks with disarming, articulate intensity. ‘I want people to think of the album like a movie. You have to fall in love with the character who’s narrating so, when things go wrong for her and she is singing about pain and sadness, like in “Wrecking Ball”, you are connected to her, rooting for her, willing her to win – of course while keeping it fun and moving, but drawing listeners in so that after the tears comes laughter.’
‘Wrecking Ball’ is a well-crafted song, and a drastic departure from the louche hedonism of the catchy ‘We Can’t Stop’. There’s even a critical consensus that the video is beautifully shot – but a feeling, too, that Miley’s nudity undermines the music. This is a shame because Miley is likable and funny and radiates an attractive confidence.
Then again grown-ups like me, for whom twerkin’ ain’t workin’, might think her posturing is derivative, but – and this will make you feel old – there’s a whole new generation out there who never gasped in outrage at Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ or wore Frankie Say Relax T-shirts or whose retinas weren’t permanently seared with that poignant 1990 close-up of Sinéad O’Connor weeping as she sang ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’.
For them, Miley is out there, edgy and genuinely groundbreaking as she metaphorically and literally pokes out her tongue at the adults. Which brings me, reluctantly, to The Tongue. Back in the day when she still wore cowboy boots, we weren’t even aware she had a tongue. Now it’s all over the shop, lolling over her chin and licking inappropriate things – most notably a sledgehammer in her latest video. I’m guessing Miley’s Tongue probably has an agent of its own, and gets a ten per cent appearance fee. It’s all a bit ‘ewww’, isn’t it? Not exactly role-model material.
‘For me, role models are people who are good people,’ says Miley earnestly. ‘I stick my tongue out because straight photos are sooo boring. But even if I do stick my tongue out, that doesn’t change the quality of the human being inside. I’d rather be honest and upfront; being a good person isn’t about sitting with your legs crossed. I’m just being who I am, which is the best example I can be.’
Miley is very much a creature of the Twitter age, where all tweets are good tweets because if nobody talks about you in 140 characters or less (regardless of the content), you may as well be dead. Or still on Bebo. She revealed her relationship break-up to the world by ‘unfollowing’ Hemsworth on Twitter. Ouch! For Miley and her generation, the spurious goal of Being True to Yourself has been elevated to the highest state of being. She famously doesn’t drink, and has spoken in the past about how she thinks marijuana is less ‘dangerous’ than alcohol; but today she’s rather more evasive. ‘Dope? No. Never. Not me.’ Her grin speaks volumes and would tellingly suggest that she tailors her upfrontness to suit her audience.
And here’s the thing: while there’s no doubt that Miley enjoys being naked and flaunting her youth and her lithe body (fears about her ‘dangerously thin’ weight are unfounded; she’s slim not thin, with an athletic physique), her insistence that she’s just living moment to moment doesn’t quite stack up. This is a shrewd young woman, after all, who has been moulded and shaped by major studio marketeers – however willingly – since her mid-teens.
The notion that she’s a free spirit belies her undoubted business brain. Moreover, she’s from a showbiz family that knows how fame – and fortune – works. Every singer needs not just a catchy melody and an irresistible key change but a unique selling point. If Katy Perry is the bubblegum princess, Lady Gaga the Dalí-esque drama queen and Pink the muscular henchwoman of aggro-pop, it’s unsurprising that any young female artist would feel a need – personally and commercially – to differentiate herself. And like them or loathe them, Miley’s strip-show antics have given her a global reach.
‘I am an entertainer,’ she says. ‘What would be the point if I looked like every other singer out there? Being young, it’s important for me to learn and grow and not fit into a box.’ As if; ‘Wrecking Ball’ broke all previous records when it received 19.3 million views on music video website Vevo in the first 24 hours of release. But she wants more. ‘I’m always thinking about what I’m going to do next. I broke the record and now I want to break it in double time.’
The mind boggles as to what she’ll come up with next. Will it be coruscating or just corrupting? Either way, this is indisputably Miley’s moment. And she’s having the time of her life.