Miley Cyrus: Queen of the button-pushers

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 8, 2014 - 4:55 PM

Provocative pop star Miley Cyrus, who visits St. Paul on Monday, has taken a page from Madonna’s playbook by blurring the lines between sexuality and showbiz.


Madonna joined Cyrus during the taping of “Miley Cyrus: MTV Unplugged.” Cyrus credits Madonna with being a strong role model and giving her the courage to do what she wants as a pop musician.

Photo: Chris Polk • MTV/ AP,

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What’s your favorite Miley moment?

When she twerked on MTV’s Video Music Awards? When she appeared nude in the strategically staged “Wrecking Ball” video? When she smoked a bong on YouTube?

Or, conversely, which has been your most disgusting Miley moment?

Miley Cyrus is pop’s most polarizing star. She’s gone from Disney darling Hannah Montana to a big-voiced, chart-topping wild child. The 21-year-old is pushing people’s buttons like the second coming of Madonna.

As with Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and other pop tarts before her, Cyrus, who comes to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center on Monday, is the kind of controversial star that many young women embrace and some moms can’t tolerate.

“One of my daughters — she’s 16 now — used to be a ‘Hannah Montana’ fan,” said Laura Hlavac, of St. Paul. “With this more provocative style, it seems like Miley’s trying to follow the Madonna syndrome. She’s lost her appeal around our house. That whole image change is a cheap trick. It’s like a publicity stunt.”

Fan Brandie Nguyen, 18, of Brooklyn Park, doesn’t see it that way.

“She’s going through a big phase and trying to find herself,” said Nguyen, who is going to Monday’s concert. “I know what she’s doing is wrong in a lot of ways. But it’s who she is. I like her for her music and how she looks.”

From 2006 to ’11, Cyrus, the daughter of 1990s “Achy Breaky Heart” country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, starred on the Disney Channel as goody-goody Hannah Montana — a teen who was ordinary schoolgirl Miley by day, and the pop star Hannah at night.

After selling out arenas and scoring two No. 1 albums in real life, Cyrus tried to leave her bubblegum past behind with the more straightforward 2009 hit “Party in the U.S.A.” Then last year, her long brown hair trimmed into a blond Beatles bowl cut, she came out roaring, with the big, bold pop smashes “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” a power ballad that went to No. 1. MTV named Cyrus its artist of the year for 2013 even though her “Bangerz” album didn’t come out until October.

“She’s becoming a musician and a true artist,” said Tamar Anitai, managing editor of MTV’s Buzzworthy blog. “She’s really masterful at being provocative digitally and on social media. She’s really calling the shots. She is in control of her image. A lot of it is tongue-in-cheek.

“Miley is brilliant because she blurs the line between the private and public, and she’s done a really, really good job of convincing us that’s who she is — a girl who’s out there celebrating herself, her fans, her sexuality and her music. She isn’t apologetic — nor should she be — about doing the things that kids her age do.”

Getting stoned, getting drunk, getting wild.

‘A safe naughty’

Twin Cities radio personality Lori Barghini is proudly taking three 16-year-olds — daughters of her friends — to Cyrus as their first concert. She thinks the controversy is much ado about nothing.

“It’s when you’re young and your hormones are running rampart,” said the co-host of “The Lori & Julia Show” on MyTalk (107.1 FM). “People are always so delicate about sex. Look at Elvis — they were delicate about his pelvis. Sex is part of the music business. It’s a way for us to let out young sexual energy without having sex. Going to Miley is a safe naughty.”

Barghini is preparing her teen companions for their virginal concert experience. “I told them it would be like kissing a boy, dancing at the prom and going to a nightclub all in one night,” she said.

Judging from concerts so far on the Bangerz Tour, they might see Cyrus humping a human-sized hot dog or simulating sex in front of a guy who looks like former President Bill Clinton.

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    Opening: Icona Pop.

    When: 7 p.m. Mon.

    Where: Xcel Energy Center, W. 7th St. and Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul.

    Tickets: $41.50-$91.50.

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