Night's over. Time to head home.
I'm not qualified to spout forth about twerking, and I'll leave the racial/societal gnashing of teeth Miley Cyrus sparked with her 2013 VMA gyrating to others. Frankly, if you think that the most important thing going on in the world at the moment is a pop star behaving like a pop star, then you are what's wrong with humanity, and part of the fucking problem. Besides, this perfect storm is surely being lapped up by her management and the VMAs themselves, who need some sort of controversy to generate the kind of coverage that seems to be beyond the current mediocre music scene. Honestly, if you want to rail at anyone for this whole storm in a shot glass, by all means lay it at the door of Robin Thicke, who (on the grounds of the knowingly misogynist and banal Blurred Lines video) deserves it more than anyone (video NSFW, obv.).
But interesting in light of the Miley reinvention (epitomised by the Samson-esque headshave a year ago), is the actual song, which has unsurprisingly been lost in the deluge of commentary around the performance. So going straight to the heart of the periphery, I'm going to talk about that instead.
Contrary to the lyrics, and the 'we do what we want' attitude of packaged-sexuality nu-Miley, there's something yearningly desperate about the thumping rhythms of We Can't Stop. This is not Pink's Get the Party Started, no joy-rocket about the wild times that are about to kick off. This a dawn song, a song of being surrounded by bodies of passing-out friends-of-friends, aching for the party to continue over the sound of drunken retching echoing out of the bathroom, because if it doesn't then the sobering up and the coming down will be too painful. The drugs are starting to wear off, the alcohol is turning into a headache, but no we can't stop... we won't stop...
The lie of We Can't Stop is that glorious lie of youth, of late-night house parties in student houses (ie not yours), the fake-out that you're all fucking invincible, that there are no consequences for your actions while you're behaving the way you've always desperately wanted to, and that STDs and overdoses happen to other people. And that's exactly what grungy pop's always been there for. The beats, though, the vocoded man's voice which periodically interrupts Cyrus, even the video's cynical pornified dance moves and the naive sexuality of Cyrus herself, but especially the drop-change into the chorus, cry out that the party's gone past the point when it was still fun. There's a fabulous irony in Cyrus singing can't you see it's we who own the night when less than a minute later the sun comes up behind her, but maybe the video's director was into the meta commentary. Either way, that night is already over.
If anything the oblique reference to twerking, all of two lines of the song (explicit in the video), betrays its origins as a Rihanna off-cut rather than a piece written for Cyrus and should probably have been excised, but there's something kind of apt about it being Miley Cyrus' song. She fits that end-of-the-party vibe well, and not just because she still looks like the kind of kid who could easily have fallen into that scene by hanging with the wrong crowd (or, for that matter, manager), but who - for whatever reason - has now made partying, sex, and drugs the focus of her being. Never quite fitting in, and desperate to be accepted, while all the time mouthing off about how she doesn't give a fuck. This most likely isn't an accurate take on Cyrus herself, but that's not the point. This is about the song. And the voice of the song, be it Rihanna, who the song was written for, or Miley Cyrus, who sang it, is looking around the room as the sunlight peeks over the horizon, hoping beyond hope that the party isn't over yet, and that she won't have to sober up.
It's going to be one hell of a hangover.