Tonawanda News

October 13, 2013

MUSIC NOTES: Miley Cyrus is marketing genius, not role model

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Miley Cyrus is not a role model, nor is any contemporary musician. You can hate her twerking, smoking and jerk-like behavior, but the very fact I am writing this says one thing, she and her handlers know what sells.

Shock is nothing new in music, Elvis Presley “shocked” the world with his provocative hip movements, The Beatles “shocked” people with their long hair and then artists like Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson invented “shock rock.”

Even Justin Bieber’s public urination moment has been done before; heck Ozzy Osbourne urinated in a wine carafe in the 1980s and then upped the ante by urinating on the the Alamo.

As for Miley, a part of me thinks she is all too aware of the fact that her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, was culturally relevant for about 15 minutes in 1992 when he released “Achy Breaky Heart.” If he hadn’t been on “Dancing the Stars,” and “Hannah Montana,” Billy Ray Cyrus would have been a tough final Jeopardy question and nothing more.

Miley has already avoided the fate of her father, she has laid the groundwork for her “rehabilitation,” in a few years when she becomes a mature artist and reflects on her twerking phase.

If you are wondering if I think this is all very calculated, well the answer to that is yes, I don’t doubt for a minute Miley knows exactly what she is doing, and it is working. Love her or hate her, she is a marketing genius.

That brings me back to my initial point: Miley Cyrus is not a role model. Sure, she was on the Disney Channel, and many parents probably had no issues with their kid watching her as Hannah Montana, and they made her a mega millionaire in the process.

As it turns out, Cyrus is an admitted recreational drug user and has no problem flaunting her sexuality. I guess if you measure success by the amount of money someone makes and his or her level of fame, Miley is wildly successful.

That being said, if she were my daughter, I would be embarrassed. It would be one thing if she built her career as a “bad girl” like Madonna or Lady Gaga, but she didn’t, she convinced many parents to plunk down their money for her concerts and merchandise, and I think it is shameful not to understand that on some level.

One can only hope it creates an opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about role models. If their kids want to buy Miley’s music, that’s fine, but their role models should be teachers, police officers, clergy, or anyone who respects other people.

And hopefully, when Miley gets her reality show, or Oprah special where she can reinvent her image, your kid won’t be fooled.

Thom Jennings writes a weekly column on the music scene for Sunday Lifestyle. Email him at