Fresh from her controversial performance at the VMAs, Miley Cyrus just released the video for the second single off her upcoming album Bangerz. Musically, “Wrecking Ball” is an improvement over “We Can’t Stop”; this time Cyrus laments a disastrous love affair instead of extolling the virtues of sex and drugs. Her vocals sound less processed in this track as well, singing “All you ever did was wreck me” with emotion. However, Cyrus’ provocative image tends to overshadow her music, and the “Wrecking Ball” video is no exception.
The clip starts promisingly, showing an extreme closeup of Cyrus singing the lyrics with tears running down her face. So far, so good. But much of the over-the-top sexuality present in the “We Can’t Stop” video returns with a vengeance, with the pop star taking it further by appearing nude. She straddles a wrecking ball, her private parts mostly covered; alternatively Cyrus wields a large hammer, licking the head up and down. Can we say phallic symbol? Occasionally the facial closeup returns, with Cyrus apparently sobbing as she mouths the lyrics. Alternatively she wears very little clothing while wandering near a brick wall, seemingly disconnected from the destruction around her.
What results is another demonstration of how Cyrus defines “adulthood” as transforming into a sex object. Her nudity and determination to shock and awe completely overshadow the otherwise decent ballad. Despite the video’s explicit imagery, the track’s lyrics paint her as aggressive and the instigator of the relationship: “I never meant to start a war / I just wanted you to let me in / I guess I should’ve let you win,” she sings. Cyrus likens herself to a wrecking ball, even though the song ends with her repeating the words “you wrecked me.”
Here was an opportunity for Cyrus to prove that her artistry is more than twerking, wearing fake grills, and grinding on foam fingers. Why didn’t the director focus on just Cyrus crooning the words, similar to Sinead O’Connor’s stark video for “Nothing Compares to U”? Instead, Cyrus seems determined to enforce her independence through extreme displays of sexuality. Young women respond to Beyoncé and Taylor Swift because while those artists do not ignore their femininity and sensuality, they balance those qualities with empowering themes. In other words, pop divas endure if they successfully walk that fine line between control over one’s image and being exploited. If Cyrus continues down her current path, the former teen star may be taking a wrecking ball to her own career.