Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

August 30, 2013

Talent more important than tweets

— Dear teen BFF: I’ve watched your reactions. I think a lot of you were grossed out by Miley Cyrus during the 2013 Video Music Awards the other night. The song she performed was called “We Can’t Stop,” but, oh, how we wish she could.

It’s bizarre for all of us to watch Hannah Montana act like that. It reminds you of some of the other kids at school who will do anything for attention, right? Well, that’s what’s going on, I think. It’s sad, really. And I don’t want to go all mean-girl on Miley, but I think we need to have a heart to heart about this.

See, here’s the question Miley — and everyone else — should be asking: When did we last talk about Cyrus’ talent?

I don’t know if you remember the 2009 Teen Choice Awards but it was the dance rehearsal and test run for this year’s VMAs. Back four years ago, she was dressed in a black bra, tank top and short shorts (your mom used to call them hot pants but now you call them booty shorts). She was dancing on top of an ice cream cart with a pole with no umbrella. I don’t know what happened to that umbrella. She was only 16 at the time. Don’t know if she even had a license yet, but her parents gave her license to act very unlike her squeaky clean character. It was a bit of a surprise for all the little kids, and their parents, who loved her Disney TV show. The song she performed, “Party in the USA,” was a bouncy pop hit — but she grabbed more headlines for her hip slinging than her singing.

Actually, she had already stirred up a lot of controversy before that performance by doing a photo shoot wearing only a sheet. No, those pictures weren’t for Tiger Beat or J-14 — they were for a grown up magazine called Vanity Fair. Few of her fans probably read that, so she was already trying to break away.

A few months later no one was talking about her talent when her first “grown up” movie role came along. But she met that cute boy who she is/was/might be engaged to and that was the only news that came out of “The Last Song.” No one was talking about the former Hannah Montana winning an Oscar in her first film.

Then there came some bad business about her being caught on video doing drugs. That was pretty awkward. Her dad started talking about how he didn’t do her any favors letting her have so much freedom so young. That had to be really embarrassing for Miley. Her dad was telling the media stuff your parents might say privately at the kitchen table if you got in trouble because you were just doing stuff Miley did.

I mean, it’s not like you think of Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus as a role model or anything! Right? But ... if she can do it, why can’t you?

In the last year, her buzz haircut and on-again/off-again engagement were the only things people tweeted about until this latest song, the one where she can’t stop. It was getting a lot of attention — it had the cool, rebellious vibe you teens like because we old fogeys don’t like it. So what’s the big surprise? Of course, when she performed it she would be doing something wild that people thought she should stop. Duh!

And once again, people are talking about her inappropriate behavior and the way she is signaling how grown up she is — but they aren’t talking about how her talent has grown up. In my house what was noticed was the amazing performance by Justin Timberlake, who was given the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. During his 15-minute-medley-standing-ovation-getting performance he graciously included his old band, ’N Sync. Then Timberlake said he owed half his “moon man” awards to the band. It was decided that it was really uncool that later everyone was talking about Miley and her flesh-colored bikini and gross dancing rather than Timberlake’s skills and graciousness.

So, it seems like you don’t need talent these days for Twitter stardom and headline-tagging celebrity. That’s the message you are probably getting.

But I’m betting you’ll know better. I think you’ll figure out while sitting in math or language arts that trying to grab attention isn’t going to get you an “A.” You’ll be more savvy than today’s society and decide that creativity, intelligence and talent go a lot further than a teeny-weeny skin-colored bikini, gyrating indecently and hanging out your tongue like a drooling dog.

I just wish that Miley, the producers of the VMAs and the TV audience could figure that out, and save us from ourselves. It may take an intervention from folks like Adele, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence. Let’s talk about talent because not everyone is willing to talk about morals and agree on what’s right and wrong. But everyone understands that — for long-term success — artistry and ability are what actually sell movie tickets and clicks on downloaded music.

I bet Miley wants to prove to you, but most of all her, that she’s got true talent. So I hope she steps back from the spotlight and takes some time to develop her more mature artist. Meanwhile, we need to give our society a chance to mature, as well. We’ll all figure it out eventually.

Well, this is the longest text I’ve ever sent, so I’m gonna stop. TTYL!

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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