If you haven’t checked in with Miley Cyrus lately or at all, the 21-year-old singer/actor is on a crazy victory lap, riding high on the strength of her platinum-selling, rap-inflected album “Bangerz.” In 2013, her catalytic year: She owned an MTV awards show with sexy antics, loved legal weed in interviews, and started an ongoing streak of posing naked on magazine covers.
Miley Cyrus brings the “Bangerz” world tour to the Tacoma Dome on Sunday, Feb. 16, with Icona Pop and Sky Ferreira.
Cyrus’ success has seemed inevitable since birth — she’s the daughter of country-music star Billy Ray Cyrus — but her career has taken some iconoclastic zags. She rose to household-name fame as squeaky clean Disney idol “Hannah Montana,” then proceeded to disrupt her Disney image with “accidental photos” on social media of her smoking drugs and pole dancing.
Eventually, the wild child within became her chosen public persona. She began ripping bongs on purpose and imitating strippers strategically. She became a megastar in a rebel mode. This was her transition out of teenland to whatever we’re calling adulthood in 2014.
How was Cyrus able to pull this off and remain mainstream palatable? First, she is white. That might seem like stating the obvious, but in 2013 whiteness surged in the historically black area of rap/R&B music.
Cyrus, Robin Thicke and Macklemore all had No. 1 songs, while no black artists did last year. This white/black cycle of cultural appropriation is well-established (Elvis, Rolling Stones, etc.), but last year was in full effect.
Also, she’s just like everyone else her age. Millennials are surrounded by pornography on the Internet and desensitized to showing skin, don’t think drugs are scary and unblinkingly absorb hard-core hip-hop. Most important, they’re old enough to purchase music and concert tickets.
That familiarity helped soften Cyrus’ dilettantish foray into “trap” rap music on “Bangerz” (trap being slang for a drug house, and drug-trade-specific rap music). Lack of street cred be damned, figures from that distant world flocked to her (producer Mike Will Made It, rapper Future). Critics rightly said they symbolized her cultural handbag. For Cyrus’ part of the deal, she symbolized their crossover into the white world of No. 1 singles.
Her saving grace is that she seems authentic in her blundering bad-girl attitude. The lyrics to her best song “Adore You” spell it out: She’s OK being an unthanked ally, and even used. She’s an object: a fan. She is rich and enjoys turning up the volume. She enjoys having a party in the USA. She’s still young and (for whatever reason) forgivable enough that the party, the slumming, the love, and the lust can drown out everything else.
7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma; $41.50-$91.50 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).
Andrew Matson: firstname.lastname@example.org or @andrewmatson