In the 90s, Chris Morris had a neat line in skewering pop music – from his murderous rapper Fur-Q to Motherbanger, the scabrous take on Pixies and Black Francis’s oedipal obsessions. He’d come up empty today, because modern pop is beyond parody. At last night’s VMA Awards, Miley Cyrus strutted across the stage with an army of dancers dressed in outfits that resembled 4Chan’s notorious Pedobear and stripped down to her underwear faster than a suburban stripper desperate to go on her fag break.
I don’t want to end up in “think of the children!” territory; the audience of the VMAs is less likely to be kids than it is pop culture junkie gay men and ironic eye-rolling hipsters. But there was something very unsettling about seeing the former child star – she made her name as Disney’s squeaky clean Hannah Montana – indulging in such cartoonish sexuality. She flicked her tongue around like Gene Simmons and writhed against sweaty pop perv Robin Thicke as if he were conducting electricity.
I’m an unashamed pop fan. Katy Perry’s Roar is among my songs of the year. I’ve never been one for clutching my pearls about sexualised performances; Rihanna on the X Factor barely moved the needle on my outrage-o-meter. The trouble with Miley’s metamorphosis into a sex fiend is that it all feels so contrived. As she touched herself with a giant foam hand, it inspired a mix of boredom and irritation. In her desire to ditch the good girl image that Disney sold her with, she’s turned into a porno cartoon.
When Madonna published her Sex book and presented the Like A Virgin video, she was using imagery that still had the capacity to shock. When Gaga – who cops so many moves from Madonna she may as well just sign up with a lookalike agency – tries to be similarly provocative, it feels fake in a way that dear old Madge didn’t. Like Bowie before her, Madonna at her best was a shapeshifter, someone who put on new looks with ease. Today’s pop provocateurs, with their twerking and jerking, just look foolish and derivative. I’d love Miley to make another song as catchy as Party in The U.S.A. Instead all she’s making is an embarrassing spectacle