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“People think all I do is come out and shock people,” Cyrus said in a teleconference with journalists before the Bangerz Tour started. “I’m about freedom. Everything I do is not to be different to prove a point. It’s just because we are different. And be proud of that. And own that. Be true to who you are.”
Prince knew something about button-pushing at that age. “When you’re 20 years old, you’re looking for the ledge,” he told Arsenio Hall last week, “and you want to see how far you can push everything.”
Madonna: ‘Had a message’
As Cyrus indicated in her recent “MTV Unplugged,” she learned from the master: Madonna, who sang with her on that show.
Remember, Madonna rolled around in a wedding dress singing “Like a Virgin” on MTV’s very first Video Music Awards in 1984. She showed bondage and same-sex kissing in her banned-by-MTV video for “Justify My Love” in 1990. She posed in the nude for the photo book “Sex” in 1992.
Some of her moves were calculated; others weren’t, said Liz Rosenberg, who has been Madonna’s publicist since forever.
“She had a message also,” said Rosenberg. “From Day 1, Madonna was not afraid of people saying bad things about her. She’s fearless.”
Madonna set the precedent of using the Video Music Awards to create an indelible moment. Sort of a Super Bowl of the music business without network-TV limits, the VMAs are where Britney Spears kissed a girl (Madonna) and liked it, Michael Jackson kissed Lisa Marie Presley, Prince wore pants exposing his butt, Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw meat and Kanye West grabbed the mic from Taylor Swift.
It’s where, as Anitai put it, stars “come to become legendary.” So at last September’s VMAs, when Cyrus twerked with a giant foam finger while duetting with Robin “Blurred Lines” Thicke, it became a tipping point in her career — and a never-ending talking point.
Was it gimmicky?
“I don’t think a record label would be smart enough to plan this,” said Barghini. “Women have to jump higher and work harder for everything. Cher knocked the door down. Women have to use our sexuality. It’s one of our few weapons that can be very strengthening. And it’s also one thing where we’re most vulnerable. So that’s the dilemma.”
Or maybe it’s as simple as: Girls just wanna have fun.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719