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Miley Cyrus
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Miley Cyrus

Don't be so predictable

Music | Another open letter to Miley Cyrus

Issue: "Probing international adoption," Nov. 16, 2013

MISS CYRUS:

As the recipient of more open letters than anyone else in recent memory, the last thing you need is another one. Then again, the last thing the world needs is another album of rapper-studded, blatantly manipulative strumpet pop.  

So maybe if you keep getting these uninvited missives, you’ll understand something of the glut those of us feel who’ve had to immerse ourselves in your new album Bangerz (RCA) out of professional obligation. It’s too much. And it makes us want to take a bath or at least wash our ears out with soap. (Congratulations on debuting at No. 1 on Billboard by the way.)

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Entertainment, you see, requires the element of surprise, and there’s nothing surprising anymore about watching a young pop starlet addicted to attention abuse it like a drug and melt down. Britney Spears, the guest vocalist on your new album’s semi-title cut “SMS (Bangerz),” maxed out that template way back when you were Hannah Montana. By the time Lindsay Lohan depressingly followed suit, it already felt like overkill.

And don’t forget Jean Harlow, Frances Farmer, Marilyn Monroe, Anissa Jones, Tatum O’Neal, Tanya Tucker, Maureen McCormick, Dana Plato, Jennifer Capriati, Princess Diana, Amy Winehouse, and Whitney Houston to name just 12. (We’re still holding our breath on Ke$ha, Jennifer Lawrence, and Taylor Swift—and scratching our heads about Chastity Bono.)

The world, in other words, expects those whom Peter (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit no less) once likened to “weaker vessel[s]” to crack under the pressures of disproportionate fame or the agonies of attention-addiction withdrawal. As Aristotle could confirm, seeing such archetypal tragedies repeatedly played out fulfills our subconscious need to believe that somewhere beneath the chaotic winds of current events there are permanent structures undergirding and tethering us to reality.

There are, however, archetypal—even divine—comedies too. And, to your credit, you demonstrate an awareness of and desire to experience, them. “Love is patient, / love is selfless, / love is hopeful, / love is kind,” you sing at the end of “Someone Else” (not a bad song actually) quoting Paul’s famous “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians.

True, you then add “Love is jealous, / love is selfish, / love is helpless, / love is blind,” but half a loaf is better than no bread, and, frankly, these days even crumbs are welcome, if only to mark the way through the forest back to one’s home and away from the candy house. The positive reference to “holy matrimony” in “Adore You” is welcome too.

And speaking of 1 Corinthians, you might do well to consider chapter 11, verse 15. “If a woman has long hair, it is her glory. ... For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

You used to have long hair. It looked good on you. You were pretty. Now you look like Justin Bieber (of whom, trust me, one is enough). And given the recent emergence on the internet of your latest soft-porn photo shoot, you need all the covering you can get. Contrary to popular opinion, modesty does not indicate shame about one’s body but a healthy ability to feel good without the dubious affirmation of a million voyeuristic eyes.

The only eyes that matter are God’s, the truth of which you seem to glimpse through a glass darkly. “Remember, only God can judge us,” you correctly proclaim in your Bangerz song “We Can’t Stop”—correctly, that is, if by judgment you really mean Judgment Day.

What you’re wrong about is your ability to stop.

Use it or lose it, girl.

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