Miley Cyrus’s recent music video “Wrecking Ball” has been the cause of much controversy. It is no surprise that it broke Vevo’s record for the most views in 24 hours, given that it features America’s former sweetheart in the nude.
“Wrecking Ball,” according to its lyrics, is about a past relationship in which Cyrus attempted to break down the walls between her and her ex-boyfriend.
The video, however, does little to corroborate the pain in the lyrics and draws our attention away from sections that might have had an emotional impact by placing Cyrus nude atop a swinging wrecking ball. The music video is ultimately just another instance of the music industry using a sexualized female body to sell records.
Many people have questioned whether the nudity in the video is necessary, and some have even accused Cyrus of making videos that are borderline pornographic.
I certainly do not think the video is pornographic, though I think that it could have been made without her complete nudity or could have used that nudity to a stronger effect. As is, Cyrus’ naked body is much more of a shock factor than a display of vulnerability or weakness.
The close-up facial shots of Cyrus, like the one that opens the video, aptly capture the vulnerability and post-breakup angst that the lyrics seem to be talking about.
In fact, the first time I saw this video, I thought immediately of Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War” music video, in which the artist performs in the nude in a single take from the neck up. Midway through the video, Monáe completely loses her composure, and the audience experiences the feeling of vulnerability firsthand. Cyrus could take a cue from this authentic music experience created by an artist willing to be truly vulnerable on camera.
Cyrus defended her video on New York’s Z100 radio station earlier this month, saying the video was vulnerable and that her eyes portray this sadness even more strongly than her voice on the record. She asked people to “take their minds out of the obvious and go into their imagination a little bit.” The video’s focus is her eyes, not her nudity, she says.
I am not convinced.
Cyrus’s actions while nude, not the fact that she is nude, make the video emotionally incongruent. The lip-biting, hair-tossing and hammer-licking just do not match the distraught ex-girlfriend persona she portrays in the close-up shots. Her sexy ride on the wrecking ball does nothing for the video beyond being a shocker and a selling point. The actions within the video do not match. Nor does the video match the lyrics.
“Wrecking Ball” is a strange mix of depression and eroticism that leaves audiences shocked. In the end, the video is all about a naked body, and Cyrus’ message is lost completely.
Cyrus sacrificed any ground she might have gained as a serious artist by allowing this potentially powerful video to become yet another product of the music industry’s desire to sell.
Anna Krainc ’16 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Downers Grove, Ill. She majors in English and Spanish with a women and gender studies concentration.