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Party in the USA: Empty calories

Nick Anderson | Tuesday, September 29, 2009

 Author’s Note: I’m writing this in the interest of full disclosure: I fear Miley Cyrus. While I detest what she and the Disney brat pack have done to popular culture, that’s not the source of my fear. I am afraid that Miley Cyrus will eat me. I’m not sure if that’s a metaphor for her devouring my soul or if I’m actually going to be cannibalized. 

While not an academic resource, Wikipedia has proven extremely informative. Because it is knowledge by democracy, it can help determine what is important to our culture. Miley Cyrus’s wiki contains 6,132 words. That is six times the length of this article. It is also roughly 500 more words than both Mozart’s and President James K. Polk’s entries. The Beatles’ entry comes in at 16,155 words, implying that Miley is equivalent to .380 Beatles. That’s Ringo and a little bit of George. There’s no way that is right. In Google results, Miley Cyrus also beats Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. Combined. 
The entry for Miley Cyrus’ latest single, “Party in the U.S.A.,” runs for 3,796 words, about 25 fewer than “Stairway to Heaven.” It’s hard to be sure, but the title almost implies an allusion to Neil Young’s classic, “Rockin’ in the Free World.” If it is, it fails as such. Young was harnessing his talent to criticize both our government and society. Cyrus is narrating her stressful move from Nashville to Hollywood, three years after she first became famous and 16 years after she was born into a rich, semi-famous family. The song also came out at the same time as her clothing line. Other than that, it’s an everyday story. 
Even stranger, the video, while officially an homage to “Grease,” channels Tupac’s “California Love.” A rumbling, gravelly base line filters through both songs. Both take place in a dystopian California desert, often in a twisted metal cage. Again, it’s unclear if this is intentional. One thing is clear: although Tupac’s video is about future warring tribes, Miley’s desert party is orders of magnitudes scarier.
This brings the real question: Haven’t we seen this act before? An innocent Southern teenager who has stumbled into pop success, unaware that she embodies the Madonna/harlot complex, complete with press release-ready feuds and the remarkable ability to claim to be a role model for young girls. Miley even name drops her predecessor in the song: “And a Britney song was on.” We all watched as Britney went down in flames. Let’s just hope Miley follows the comparatively good example of the Olson twins by taking the money and leaving the public spot light. 
The worst part about this is how little quality music exists. At least we had an excuse before now. This song, along with the thousands of others like it released in the past 40 years, is manufactured from start to end. It may as well be a petroleum by-product. Miley’s “aw-shucks, I’m just a country girl” gimmick is the latest in a long line of consumer-ready personalities, from the Sex Pistols’ anarchism to anything disco. History doesn’t look kindly upon any of them. 
What record companies offer today is the musical equivalent of corn syrup. We consume it in massive quantities and it tastes oh-so-good. Twenty years from now we’ll be bloated and indifferent, with nothing to show for our misspent youths. If we don’t clean up our tastes now, we’re in for trouble in the long run. No one will be looking for MP3s to pass on to their children. Instead, we’ll have to hang our heads in shame. On a related note, I would like those kids to kindly get off my lawn.