Two weeks ago, after writing about how a couple of Paste folks liked a Miley Cyrus song that came out last year and why that maybe shouldn't worry anyone too much, I figured that would be the last I wrote about The Spawn Of Billy Ray for quite some time. See, aside from that one song, "Party in the USA," which is catchy and fun and makes my brain turn into Skittles whenever I hear it (this is a good thing), I actually can't stand her. I didn't quite make that clear in the other column, but really, everything about her other than that one song just totally squicks me out. Her clothes, her dancing, her TV show, her personality, her voice, her hair, her teeth (oh God, the teeth), her weird legit teenaged sexiness hastily disguised as play-acting that winds up reeking of something somehow far more creepy—I feel okay docking her points for all of these superficial things that are so obviously extraneous to her music because they are carefully calibrated and all meant to make people like her, because this is the kind of star that she is. But you knew that. Right. So.
I'm as surprised as you are that I'm bringing her up again so soon, but it would be a travesty to not comment on this video (brought to my attention via Twitter thanks to music writer Grayson Currin) in which the young Miss Cyrus discusses with a New Jersey radio DJ some of her recent favorite music. Even though she name drops Britney Spears and Jay-Z in her best (/only good) song, she's quick to be clear that she didn't write "Party in the USA," and she's even quicker to disclaim, "I don't listen to pop music." And then you hear: "I like, like, John Lennon and Bob Iver and Jon Foreman."
Who Iver? Surely she didn't... Maybe there's someone called... How about we just Google it to...
Ah, well. So much for that fair shot. Aherm. Anyway, let's ignore that ridiculous mispronunciation for a second (maybe she has a cold? or she's a bad reader? or it was a friend with real bad handwriting who gave her a CD-R of For Emma, Forever Ago and it looked like it said "Bob" but really it was just a funky n with the second post curled under 'cause the kid was scrawling it out in a hurry while he ran out the door to go meet her for sushi or whatever?) and focus on the fact that, no matter what she calls him, America's #1 teen queen is a fan of Bon Iver, also known as Justin Vernon, a guy who made his
first album in a remote cabin in Wisconsin, picked a purposefully
misspelled French term as his name, and frequently appears onstage
wearing clothes that look like they were just pulled from some
lumberjack's dirty laundry hamper.
It's not that Bon Iver songs are in any way alienating or esoteric or hard to get your head around—they're beautiful and they want you, they pull you right in, and you're not going to find all that much truly weird about how they sound unless you've exclusively been listening to Hannah Montana soundtracks for your whole life. Cyrus clearly hasn't. And so apparently, she's not only not a fan of the same kind of music she's paid millions and millions of dollars a year to propagate, but she's a fan of the indie rock. You know, the same music that mature smart discerning self-respecting
people like you and I know and love and profess to hold as our own
little secret from the world lest it be sullied by such unappreciative,
untrained, uncouth ears. People like Miley Cyrus just aren't into this kind of stuff, right? And if they are it's probably some publicity ploy, right? I mean honestly, what does it mean for you and me if we think we're so special, loving Bon Iver, and then the biggest teenage pop star in America comes out and says she loves him too? It means either she's special too, or we're not special, or Bon Iver was never special to begin with—and God, who even knows what's worse?
(Oh, watch your step. I think I dripped a lil
sarcasm right there.)
The interview was posted in early November of last year, so if you're looking for someone or something to blame, maybe it's the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, which came out the month before and featured a track by "Bob" Iver's Justin Vernon. (Just push from your mind that she could have found out about him like you did, through a friend—or, more disturbingly, through one-a them blogs.) Still, I'm not sure if that explains the second-strangest celebrity fan of Bon Iver to emerge recent months—in September, it became clear that Jillian Michaels, one of the trainers on NBC's weight-loss reality show The Biggest Loser, who is most often shown on TV in some sort of vein-busting state of ostensibly-encouraging fury at her morbidly obese charges, apparently likes to chill out to ole Bob too. She even saw him live!
I wonder if she secretly cried during "Blood Bank" like I did. I really hope so. And I hope Miley sobs like a baby, a big corn-niblet-toothed baby, whenever she hears it. And I bet they do. I bet they do because these two women are human beings and crying is a normal, acceptable human emotional reaction and Justin Vernon sings some sad, sad heartbreaking songs and if they love him, if they really love him, no matter what they think his name is, then they probably love not just how he sounds but how he makes them feel. Because this is what music is, whether you're a tween idol or a reality show host or me or you or anyone. Music is about noises and feelings and ideas are always a bonus but it's probably always both simpler and less precise than anyone wants to believe.
Sure, yeah, maybe they got some nudging from some publicity arm to slap on this small badge of indie-cool, because we all know that helps a little bit these days, helps to sand off the hi-gloss polish of celebrity and make them seem a little bit more "real." But I don't buy it, in this case anyway—watch the second part of the New Jersey interview and Miley actually lists more John Lennon songs other than "Imagine," all of which are on his Greatest Hits album, but hell, that's not such a bad starting place for a seventeen-year-old, is it? (Plus, she sandwiches Bon Iver between Lennon and Jon Foreman, who I'm not exactly sure anyone wins hipster points for invoking.) And I just can't be bothered to work through what it might mean for a celebrity trainer to be trying to pose herself as somehow faux-hip with the blogkids. It's just too much. Jillian Michaels loves Bon Iver, Lance Armstrong loves The Avett Brothers, the sky is blue, the earth is round, good music is good music and trying to keep it to yourself is a borderline-sociopathic farce.
All that said, nothing changes the fact that Miley Cyrus called dude Bob Iver. OMG, y'all. Just OMG.
Rachael Maddux is Paste’s assistant editor. Her column appears at PasteMagazine.com every Monday.