Black Mirror released its fifth season last week, and reactions have been decidedly mixed. One flashpoint for controversy was the season finale, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” which focused on the suspiciously Disney-like pop singer Ashley O, played by Miley Cyrus, as she attempts to rebel against her cruel managers. Culture critics hashed it out over the episode’s pop star on the lam plotline, particularly it’s rockist narrative that portrayed punk as the antidote to the artificiality of pop.
Netflix added fuel to the fire today by debuting a new music video by the fictional pop singer Ashley O on its YouTube channel. The video stars Miley Cyrus in a short purple wig, looking a little like a Vocaloid hologram that’s been turned into a RealDoll. As Cyrus runs through all the hottest music video cliches of the early 2010’s—Drake-esque colored rooms, high-pony whips and bathing in milk—the screen begins to crack, eventually revealing Ashley O’s aunt-manager glaring menacingly off-camera.
The song, called “On A Roll” is a bizarre rewrite of the Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole,” the latest in a surprisingly long tradition of bubblegum NIN mashups. Instead of the original’s industrial rock, Ashley O’s cover is chintzy trap-pop. Instead of angst and rebelliousness (“I’d rather die than give you control”) there’s docile banality (“Ridin’ so high, achieving my goals.”) The message is as subtle as a stop sign held by the elephant in the room.
Watch Ashley O fake it ‘till she makes it below.