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2013 in Music: The Year Virality Trumped Nuance

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There have been plenty of wonderful things about music this year. These albums. This photo. The emergence of new talents like Majical Cloudz and Savages, and the unexpected return of established ones like David Bowie and My Bloody Valentine. Angel Haze’s 30 Gold series and her subsequent schooling of her record company. The continuing absence of the Black Eyed Peas. But if there’s been one abiding image this year, it’s been that of Miley Cyrus and her remarkably gymnastic tongue.
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Miley Cyrus’ AMA Performance Was a Middle Finger Pointed at the Internet

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Much of the media is perplexed by what Miley Cyrus did at the American Music Awards last night. At the Daily News, Jim Farber puns, “You might call it a cat-astrophic performance” and then — you know, just in case we forgot that Cyrus smokes The Marijuana — pronounces that the act “looked like something the singer might have dreamed up after taking a deep toke on that joint she lit up on MTV’s EMA show.” Poor AP music writer Chris Talbott wants to know, “What was that exactly?” and eventually decides there’s “no way can we explain it. Playfully absurdist, it was a moment Salvador Dalí would be proud of.” (I think the artist he was reaching for there was Marcel Duchamp, but whatever.) Rolling Stone‘s Mike Ayers articulates this morning’s broader consensus, calling it a “rather tame outing.” But was it, really?
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Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga: A Tale of Two Pot Smokers

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Twenty-Year-Old American Woman Smokes Marijuana in Amsterdam. It doesn’t exactly sound like front-page news, but boy is the media going nuts over the fact that Miley Cyrus puffed on a joint during her performance at Sunday’s MTV Europe Music Awards. Here are some of the actual headlines: “What a Dope! Miley Cyrus Puffs Marijuana Onstage at MTV EMAs in Amsterdam”; “Miley Cyrus shocks yet again as she lets it all hang out and smokes ‘joint’ on stage at MTV Europe Music Awards”; “Pothead Miley Cyrus Lights Up Marijuana Joint Onstage.” 
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Simon Doonan’s Retrograde Rant About Female Pop Stars Belongs on Fox News

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Slate is rightly known for its contrarianism; indeed, its writers tend to rejoice in it. This is generally fine — it’s always good to have an outlet for dissenting and unconventional opinions. Of late, though, they’ve outdone themselves as far as publishing clueless tracts about gender politics goes. First there was Emily “Dear Prudence” Yoffe’s depressing and ill-advised decision to wheel out the “women shouldn’t drink because it leads to sexual assault” argument. Even that, however, was trumped by “hilarious” fashion “personality” Simon Doonan’s preposterous piece yesterday about Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and other “porn-inspired pop divas.” Published under the giggle-inducing sub-LiveJournal headline “I Do Not Like Miley’s Outfit,” Doonan’s rant managed to be classist, sexist, borderline racist, and offensive to just about everyone, all within the space of 1000 words.
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The Problem With Making Miley Cyrus the Lightning Rod for All Our Angst About Female Sexuality

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This post is not about Miley Cyrus. Well, at least, it’s no more about Miley Cyrus than anything else that’s been written in relation to her in the last week or so — because really, over the six weeks since her already infamous VMAs performance, the discussion about America’s newest controversial pop star has slowly shifted from discussions of Cyrus herself (or, god forbid, her music) to a sort of generalized discussion about the social trends that she’s perceived as representing or embodying. In this respect, much as I hate to draw a parallel that can’t help sounding like SEO gold, she’s this year’s Lana Del Rey: an artist whose persona has become a battleground over which people fight pitched ideological skirmishes that have very little to do with the artist in question.
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Just the Music: A Tabloid Headline-Free Review of Miley Cyrus’ ‘Bangerz’

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We’ve all heard more than enough about Miley Cyrus of late: the twerking, the documentary, the music video with Lucifer Terry Richardson. What’s been rather overlooked in all the kerfuffle is that she has a new album out. And so, in the return of a semi-regular feature wherein we try to consider an artist’s music on its own merits, rather than getting caught up in its context and publicity — we listened to Bangerz all the way through, repeatedly, because we love our readers and we don’t want you to suffer unnecessarily. The verdict? Read on…
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The Best and Worst of Last Night’s ‘SNL’ with Miley Cyrus

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It was an incredibly tense week for host and musical guest Miley Cyrus, but despite rumors that her feud with Sinéad O’Connor would become fodder for an SNL sketch (with a giant foam middle finger), there was no reference to the whole open letter mess. The series did manage to shove Cyrus’ VMA controversy aside immediately, tackling her new public persona in the opener (“Hannah Montana was murdered,” the pop idol tells us during her monologue). The political gags were saved for a remake of the singer’s video for “We Can’t Stop,” starring Cyrus as a tarted up Michele Bachmann twerking all over Taran Killam’s John Boehner. Things went from wild to mild for the rest of the episode, but there were several subtle references to Cyrus’ transformation that stuck with us. See more of last night’s best and worst, below.
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The “Open Letter to Miley” Mess Is Embarrassing for Everyone

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Open letters, by definition, aren’t really about one-to-one communication. They’re about sending a message to the general public under the thin guise of an email, a blog post, or if you’re Sinead O’Connor, a Facebook status posted to a page with over 300,000 followers. Open letters have their uses; if you’re the Senate majority leader turning up the pressure on the Speaker of the House to end a pointless government shutdown, for example, or the editorial director of this website explaining why Bustle may not be a $6.5 million idea after all. But for a respected female musician delivering a pseudo-maternal, slut-shaming lecture to a younger pop star she barely knows? A personal email might have been a better choice.
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‘The Movement’: Miley Cyrus May Be Disconnected, But She’s Not Disempowered

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Documentaries are almost inevitably characterized by a tension between how the subject wants to be portrayed and how the filmmakers perceives them. Both want to present their own version of reality, and often the most interesting moments in documentaries come when the two versions become weird refractions of one another. So it went with The Movement, an hour-long documentary on the suddenly ubiquitous Miley Cyrus that premiered on MTV last night and has, predictably enough, been generating heaps of comment this morning.
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Let’s Blame Terry Richardson — Not Miley Cyrus — For the Awful “Wrecking Ball” Video

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Who in the world thinks it’s reasonable to intercut close-ups of a destroyed woman crying with shots of that same woman licking construction tools and writhing naked on a wrecking ball? That was my first thought as I watched Miley Cyrus’ new “Wrecking Ball” video yesterday afternoon, as my Twitter feed exploded with wisecracks of the “Ugh, Miley” variety. But it all started to make sense when I realized that the clip was directed by one Terry Richardson.
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