Publicity machine Miley Cyrus was at it again this week, this time dragging Elvis Presley into the fray by scolding the public for allowing The King of Rock ‘n Roll to get away with his suggestive dancing style back in the day, while labeling her onstage antics obscene.
Cyrus is forgetting a few inconvenient truths with her most recent act of attention-seeking.
In the first place, the King was very much labeled obscene back in his day — right after his ground-breaking appearance on the Milton Berle Show in 1956. He was called “Elvis the Pelvis” and this wasn’t exactly a compliment.
The press went on an Elvis-bashing tear and on subsequent television appearances, cameras were only permitted to show Elvis from the waist up. Cyrus might be right in calling Presley the originator of the so-called “twerk,” at least for modern times.
But what is truly obscene is her hyped up, self-proclaimed association with Presley at all.
This would be like your humble author here (myself) cooking up some similarity to Shakespeare and hoping the association will stick.
In the digital age, all things are remembered eternally and anything viral crawls closer to becoming a media-invented truth. At least, that is what Cyrus, the poster child for desperation, is hoping.
Here’s one fundamental difference between Presley and Cyrus: Back in the day, censors were afraid that Presley had so much talent that demand for his performances would overwhelm their prudent sensibilities. In the Cyrus case, talent is also the key point, but it is, in fact, her fear that she has none that has turned her career from prissy, put-on child star to a hyped up strip-tease show.
And, take my word on it, neither Cyrus nor Presley invented stripping.
Am I wrong to label Cyrus a non-entity in the world of music?
Consider this: In October, 2013, Cyrus was put on the cover of The Rolling Stone, where, par for the course, her topless cover photo gained far more publicity than the 5,710-word article about her. That’s because anything noteworthy from a musical point of view ended with the peek at her bare shoulders.
The article inside began with an introduction about her latest tattoo. It went on to discuss a similarly titillating cover photo for Vanity Fair, her home in Hollywood Hills, clothes, her neighborhood, the pornographic aspects of her Video Music Awards performance, her relationship with Kayne West (and his doting admiration of her act), food, Justin Beiber, a glancing mention of her latest music video, her childhood, her country brat lifestyle, her manager, her parents, and a skydiving outing rigged up for the sole purpose of putting some substance into the interview.
Guess what the 5,710-word cover article for arguably the country’s most distinguished music magazine never discussed: Her musical talents or tastes or influences, music lyrics, music styles, a musical talent she admired, any musical instrument, members of her band — nothing. Not even a whisper.
In fact, in the most succinct and exacting definition of Cyrus in the article, the reporter said she had “transformed from America’s childhood sweetheart [as Hanna Montana] to whatever the hell she is now.”
In the entire article, “whatever the hell she is now,” was the closest the writer could get to pegging Cyrus in relationship to any perceivable talent she might have to offer.
It all brings to mind U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bensten in his 1988 vice-presidential debate with Sen. Dan Quayle after Quayle, a small-minded Republican, had the audacity to associate his candidacy with former president Jack Kennedy.
Bensten, who was an elder statesman at the time, famously gunned down Quayle’s pretensions with the remark that, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
I know it dates me to say this, but Miley Cyrus, I grew up almost in synch with the Elvis Presley era. I heard his records. I saw his movies. I watched him on TV. In short, I took inventory, if you will, of his fierce talents and his deep knowledge of rhythm and blues, country and gospel. Presley, with his famous twerk and all, was the King, because he was the most talented vocalist, the most arresting performer and the most progressive musician in the country in his time.
Miley Cyrus, I will add, you are no Elvis Presley.