Sinead vs Miley: why moralise pop?
Last week, there was a highly publicised letter war between three generations of pop songstresses: Sinead O’Connor, Miley Cyrus and Amanda Palmer. Well, it was a little one-sided: O’Connor wrote four open letters to Miley, Amanda Palmer fired one back to Sinead, while Miley, other than a few harsh tweets, kept quiet.
The spat was concerning Miley’s new tongue-waggling, hyper-sexual image. O’Connor’s first letter began, she wrote, ‘in the spirit of motherliness and with love’, before suggesting that Miley was, effectively, being ‘pimped’ by the industry and that she is emotionally, perhaps even mentally, unstable. But beneath its motherly sheen, this smacked of mere moralistic grandstanding: Sinead feigning concern so as to fluff-up her own sense of superiority.
It’s not the first time Miley has been subject to such moralistic diatribes. After her infamous performance at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) in August, one blogger took it upon herself to write an open letter to her proverbial daughter, stating: ‘Dear daughter, I am going to fight or die trying to keep you from becoming like the Miley Cyruses of the world.’
All of this is deeply patronising. The blogger seems to suggest that the pop audience can’t deal with Miley’s ‘twerking’ and rubbing herself with a foam finger without turning to sexually deviant behaviour. O’Connor’s missive is yet more personal, suggesting Cyrus – a fiercely driven and successful 20-year-old starlet – is out of control, unaware of what she’s doing. Thankfully, Mummy Sinead knows best.
But, as all and sundry offer faux-concern about Miley’s role in denigrating herself and the young women who look up to her, one begins to wonder why pop seems to have become the premier forum for discussing modern-day morality. Following on from the abuse hurled at Robin Thicke in recent months, it seems the charts have become the battleground for society’s values.
This is patently ridiculous. Pop has always been a space outside of convention, where you can be crass, experimental and even offensive. Sometimes people are just having fun, experimenting, or just doing it for the ‘lolz’.
All this makes this petty online spat look all the more pointless.
Alim Kheraj is currently interning at spiked.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.