Miley Cyrus is back again with new music and a new look, which she’s showcasing in a cover story with Billboard. Considering how much she’s morphed over the past - from cookie-cutter Disney tween to a walking pastiche of sex and Lisa Frank: glitter-soaked, pastie-clad, wearing a unicorn costume with a strap-on or twerking on stage - it comes as no surprise that Miley would once again reboot her image à la David Bowie for a new album.
This time, as Miley explains, she’s returning to her roots. Of course, she is well-connected to country music royalty. Her godmother is none of than the Queen of Everything, Dolly Fucking Parton. Likewise, in the article, Miley’s father (Billy Ray) Cyrus casually mentions that Waylon Jennings taught Miley guitar chords at their kitchen table. Miley herself casually mentions a tattoo she has of Johnny Cash’s autograph, lifted from the real-life autograph given to her as a child. Miley is from Tennessee and a part of this album, according to her, is an outreach on her part to engage with Trump supporters, to find middle ground and to forge unity in the country once again. She doesn’t speak to how unity might co-exist with homophobia or racism and she isn’t pressed on this at all, but she wants to glue America back together so there’s that.
In the series of exclusive photos for the article, we see this new Miley, her hair grown out into a wavy bob of blonde and dark roots, wearing cowboy boots and cutoff denim shorts in a vintage Mustang Mach; or Miley, bathed in a sunset glow, clad in a frilly pink bohemian dress, surrounded by greenery. This is a more mature Miley, a hint of Joni Mitchell’s “California” with a Tennessee twang. Which is fine - she does look stunning and happy - but what’s more troubling is how she relates some of this change with her own relationship with hip-hop.
In the article, Miley praises the new Kendrick Lamar song “Humble” because it praises natural beauty, specifically an “ass with some stretch marks.” According to Miley, she can no longer listen to hip-hop because of how misogynistic it is and how this pushed her out of the hip-hop scene. (Pause for laughter) Where do I even begin? Let’s start with something simple: The entirety of hip-hop isn’t misogynistic. That’s a simple one. Brushing an entire genre with one stroke of the stereotypical brush is lazy at best. Can Miley speak out against misogynistic lyrics in hip-hop? Absolutely. But be sure to also tackle some of the troubling lyrics in country music as well, Miley. No, all country music isn’t misogynistic, but why paint one genre in a troubling light and not tackle the other?
Perhaps some of that is due to Miley’s new look, one intended it seems to win over Red State America - one which Miley admits wouldn’t listen to her in pasties and a strap-on. And so it seems, Miley has dumped her love of hip-hop - twerking, smoking weed, sex and every other tired and unfair stereotype - in favor of courting White America. In many ways, hip-hop was an eye-opening “documentary” for White Americans, who had no idea what life was like for Black Americans. Hip-hop told the story of disenfranchisement, of racism, of a life relegated to poverty so White America could thrive. But this isn’t the side of hip-hop Miley was interested in. Instead, it was about taking on Blackness as a fashion statement for coins: twerking in Obama’s America and wearing cowboy boots and denim in Trump’s.
There’s no question Miley is immensely talented and, according to her, this album reflects where she currently is in life. But while we need open-minded discussion in politics, it cannot come at the cost of shelving the support of Black lives as too controversial and unacceptable. Embracing the Black community cannot be a fashion statement, it must be offered with open ears and an actual desire for change - and not just the kind that lines pockets.