So, what the fuck is going on with Miley Cyrus?! While hosting the 2015 Video Music Awards (where she engaged in an epic beef with Nicki Minaj!), Cyrus debuted a new song, “Dooo It!” via a madcap, Technicolor, RuPaul’s Drag Race-assisted performance. Like everything associated with Cyrus these past few years, the performance was instantly polarizing.
While it adequately reinforced that Cyrus is, indeed, in full control of her career and public image, it was just sort of superfluous and weird. Cyrus is at an important juncture in her career, and while “Dooo It!” could’ve been the next step on her already epic journey, it’s effectively no more than a stop-gap.
As everyone knows, Cyrus got her start on Disney’s Hannah Montana. The show, which centered around her character’s secret life as a teen-pop star, made Cyrus an instant tween icon in the mid-’00s. The subsequent merchandise that spewed from the show made Cyrus a millionaire before she was old enough to drive.
In a meta-twist, the show became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Cyrus used her Hannah Montana fame to launch a successful music career, first as part of the Hannah Montana brand, and then on her own as a solo artist. Her music career was noted for crossing multiple genres (dance on “See You Again,” country for “The Climb,” and pure pop on “Party in the USA”). However, despite a few PG-13 rated performances of “Party in the USA,” Cyrus’ music and image were decidedly boring.
Cyrus’ first attempt at shaking off her kid-friendly image came with 2010′s “Can’t Be Tamed.” Despite peaking at number 8, the song plummeted out of the charts as the public wasn’t buying her new “mature” direction.
Cyrus wisely took some time off from her music career, only to reemerge in 2013 with the career-reigniting “We Can’t Stop.” The song’s offbeat melody and blatant confessions of recreational drug use made it an enormous gamble to release as a lead single, but it paid off in spades: “We Can’t Stop” peaked at number 2 in the U.S. charts, and once again made Cyrus a household name. Follow-up, “Wrecking Ball,” became Cyrus’ first U.S. number 1, and set a Vevo record for most views in a day. Her collaborations with rappers, most notably on Mike Will Made It’s “23,″ further legitimatized her re-flourished music career.
Additionally, Cyrus’ celebrity status escalated in tandem with her music. Whether it was smoking a blunt at the European Music Awards, sending a former homeless youth to accept her Video of the Year award for “Wrecking Ball,” or that infamous VMA performance, she was on the tip of everyone’s tongues.
In short, Cyrus, like a pop Phoenix, had risen from the flames. Naturally, the expectations for new music were, like Cyrus herself, high.
Unfortunately, “Dooo It!” is a buzzkill. Released as the lead-single off her free album, Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz, the song is essentially a stoner anthem, as Cyrus intones that she loves smoking weed and peace, but she’s not a hippie (glad we cleared that up!). The video is even more bizarre: it’s just an extreme close-up of Cyrus as she pours milk, glitter, and candy sprinkles all over her face. The fact that free-spirit, Wayne Coyne (of Flaming Lips fame) assisted on the song just adds to the insanity.
First things, first: Cyrus should be applauded for going against the grain and releasing something left-field. Cyrus is definitely not afraid to take risks; pretty much everything she has done since 2013 has been one, large calculated wager. For instance, while “We Can’t Stop” did its job in reigniting her career, it was one of the most poorly written pop songs of all time (“We run things/things don’t run we,” anyone?). And the video was eerily bizarre: the teddy bears, the skull made of French fries, the moderately Sapphic and coked-out vibe… if the song hadn’t been such a hit, the whole thing would’ve gone down as one of the most awkwardly weird flops in music history.
Even “Wrecking Ball,” with its Cyrus-a-nude-a-top-a-wrecking-ball-and-suggestively-licking-a-sledgehammer music video could’ve been an astronomically embarrassing endeavor, but she somehow turned it into a global hit. In that sense, Cyrus’ penchant for embracing the peculiar should be commended.
But aside from being weird, “Dooo It!” is just not that great of a song or video. That’s damning all by itself, especially since we require our pop stars to constantly churn out hit songs. Despite Cyrus’ celebrity status, “Dooo It!” is too weird to get played on pop radio; it’s almost as if the song was custom-designed to not be a hit.
The video is also unlikely to become an enduring image in her career: once the novelty of seeing Cyrus spread glitter over her face wears off, the video becomes difficult to watch more than once (or even all the way through). “Dooo It!” is trying to be an anti-video, like the kind Depeche Mode made in the ‘80s or Beck made in the ‘90s, but it just comes across as masturbatory performance art from an artist with too much time and freedom on their hands.
But what’s even worse is that this bizarre flop comes at a time when Cyrus had an opportunity to take her career to the next level. Having already adequately shaken off her Hannah Montana days and transitioned into a weed-smoking, uninhibited young woman, Cyrus has earned the desired credibility and artistic freedom needed to launch the next phase of her career. Unfortunately, “Dooo It!”’s “adult” image/stoner mantra is just a retread of what she’s been peddling the past few years (at this point is there anyone who doesn’t know that she smokes pot?!). As the song is doomed to not be a hit AND she’s not exploring a musical/personal reinvention, Cyrus is just treading water instead of moving forward.
Cyrus definitely does not need to prove anything to anybody in regards to her grown-up image. However, she does need to keep cranking out the hits if she wants to stay a legitimate pop-star. Luckily, her Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz album was self-financed and does not count towards her album contract with RCA; this was clearly a vanity project. Now, Cyrus needs to go back to the studio and find a way to completely reinvent herself in order to hold our attention. And as she’s already done it once, all eyes will be on her when she chooses to release a proper follow-up.