2013-10-06

Pick Your Battles: Miley Cyrus Edition

By now you must have heard about the ongoing Twitter/Facebook feud between Miley Cyrus and Sinead O'Connor. If not, let me break it down for you.

As anyone with eyes can see, Miley Cyrus is descending down a long, cocaine-addled garbage chute. Her recent behavior has all the hallmarks of some rather herculean drug abuse. I take it as given that I do not need to "prove" this fact. We've all seen it before, and we're seeing it again. It is a shameful disgrace, and one can only hope that Cyrus eventually pulls through relatively unscathed.

Perhaps out of concern for Cyrus, or perhaps in an effort to make a statement against the music business, or perhaps as a mere publicity stunt, music legend Sinead O'Connor penned an open letter to Miley Cyrus on her [O'Connor's] website. In it, O'Connor rather eloquently made the point that Cyrus is too talented to have to resort to cheap sexploitation in order to sell records. O'Connor described her own decision as a young star, which included adopting her trademark shaved head look in order to prevent her record company from using sex appeal to sell Sinead O'Connor records. She encouraged Cyrus to clean up her image and resist pressure from record companies to do the many shameful things Cyrus has been doing.

For her part, Cyrus responded by posting a screen capture of tweets published by Sinead O'Connor when O'Connor was desperately pleading for a psychiatrist to see her and put her back on medication that had worked for her in the past. The tweets were two years old. Cyrus added the commentary, "Before Amanda Bynes.... There was.... " Thus, for no reason whatsoever, Cyrus dragged the mentally troubled Amanda Bynes into a feud between Cyrus and O'Connor. Also thus, Cyrus displayed a remarkable insensitivity toward mental illness of all kinds.

O'Connor responded by threatening legal action, a bad response, in my opinion. She then wrote a third open letter to Miley Cyrus, one that is delightfully sanctimonious. In both the second and third letters, O'Connor demands an apology and takes Cyrus to task for being so insensitive to mental illness.

Well, here is the real problem with this situation.

Sinead O'Connor is absolutely brilliant when it comes to courting controversy in order to make a public statement. Her ability to use the media to make an impact is well-documented and, as far as I know, almost unanimously respected by the public. One of the reasons O'Connor is so effective in this sphere is because she is a brilliant artist. While she may have never achieved Miley Cyrus' level of super-stardom, she sold millions of records and achieved the kind of artistic credibility that few ever manage to achieve.

Let's be honest: If there is one thing lacking from modern popular music, it is artistic integrity. There is all manner of electronic music getting released and hitting the charts for a week these days. We hear these songs for a month or so, and then they disappear forever. What they all lack is the kind of staying power that popular music used to have. No one is going to remember any of these songs anymore, and that includes Miley Cyrus' own contributions to the musical dung heap.

So the real problem with this feud is that by merely responding to O'Connor in the first place, Miley Cyrus has created an inevitable comparison between the two, and this is precisely the kind of comparison that Cyrus cannot ever hope to win. Nothing that Miley Cyrus does is even remotely artistic, compared to virtually everything Sinead O'Connor has done throughout her career. By engaging in any kind of dialogue with O'Connor whatsoever, Miley Cyrus demonstrates how little talent she really has.

Furthermore, I don't think Miley Cyrus benefits from a beauty comparison to Sinead O'Connor, either. Yet another thing that made Sinead such a perfect advocate for her message is that even with a shaved head and a frown, her stunning beauty is and always was impossible to ignore. By contrast, it is difficult for most men to even conceive of Miley Cyrus as a sex symbol because, well...

So, my advice to Miley Cyrus is: Put away the drugs, immediately; any comparison between you and Sinead O'Connor will inevitably make you look like the court jester, even if you think you're getting the upper hand; put some clothes on, for heaven's sake; apologize to Amanda Bynes and Sinead O'Connor.

And finally, take some music lessons.