I hadn’t thought of Miley Cyrus in forever until she popped up in an odd reference in Netflix’s new series Dear White People. In Episode 1, a Black character in DWP accuses a White liberal of trying to “Miley Cyrus our pain.” Writer Hannah Giorgis pointed out this week in The Ringer that in 2017, associating Cyrus with cultural appropriation is a more than a little passé.
But Miley Cyrus recently gave an interview with Billboard.com about culture, music, and personal “evolution” that shows Hannah Montana hasn’t learned a thing. The pop star will shortly release her first new album since 2015, and hints that the music will sound different than her fans and foes remember. But what immediately caught my eye about the interview’s feature photo? Cyrus wore a soft, frilly pink top, with her hair falling around her shoulders. No thongs, nipple pasties, or cat costumes. Oh, I thought, she must be over her rebellious phase! I read on. I wasn’t wrong.
The gimmick formerly known as Hannah Montana says that she has evolved past her “Bangerz” era self. What does that evolution mean? Well, for one, she’s no longer down with the hip-hop scene. She says, “I can’t listen to that anymore. That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little. It was too much “Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock” — I am so not that.” Once you get past the obvious (Black people don’t even say “cock”), Miley Cyrus’ meaning is clear. Translation: Miley is done with y’alls little hip-hop scene. You can have it back now.
Um, girl. You were never in it.
Someone should tell Miley that using beats made by a Black producer (like Pharrell Williams or Mike WiLL Made-It) does not make her a part of “the hip-hop scene” in the first place. It doesn’t even make her Black-adjacent.
Hip-hop is a static piece of art she can critique without engaging its past or present. Remember, this is the same singer who said in 2009 that she had never listened to a Jay-Z song, while singing the lyrics, “And a Jay-Z song was on.” Like conservative critiques of the genre, Cyrus boils the entire scene down to cars, cocks, and (crack) rocks. The culture is a merely a convenient costume she peeled off like one of her nipple pasties.
Miley Cyrus still doesn’t think she appropriated anything.
For all of the fatigue surrounding cultural appropriation, notice that when a White artist wants to seem daring and boundary-pushing, she dabbles in elements of Black culture. That’s especially true for young, rebellious White women. Black culture, Black music–and sometimes Black
cock dick–become pit stops to finding themselves. Miley’s twerking was a part of a “political movement” she now can move past to get back to her roots. Her inevitable return to good sense means distancing herself from Blackness–or what she sees as such.
And Cyrus is definitely over that “shit.” “All the nipple pastie shit, that’s what I did because I felt it was part of my political movement,” she says, “and that got me to where I am now.” She hasn’t just changed her image from wild child to demure flower child. She promises a more acoustic sound to her music. That means moving away from distinctive producers and writing most of the music herself. She explains, “I’m evolving, and I surround myself with smart people that are evolved.” But doesn’t that shade the people (Black people) she used on her path to “evolution?”
If you think Miley actually learned anything from her stint with the Blacks, that would be too easy. She still calls it “mind-boggling” that people objected to her cultural appropriation. Because she liked the dancers, she still believes it was okay for her to treat them as objects.
Ironically, despite her protests that she never appropriated Black culture, she gave the very definition for it. She says of hip-hop culture, “I am so not that.” We already know, girl. We’ve been known. That’s cultural appropriation. Sorry, Jay-Z: somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus has finally stopped twerking. Now I wish she’d just stop talking.