Miley Cyrus — “Fly on the Wall”

Released: 2.16.09

Peak: #84

Sure, some parents couldn’t quite tune out the umptillionth High School Musical replay, and the occasional grown weirdo like “Metal” Mike Saunders would immerse himself willingly within the giddy, sexless mania of Radio Disney. But much of the decade’s tween-pop eluded conscious adult hearing, and no strictly prepubescent audience will exert effective quality control over its appointed entertainers. Still, hacks tend toward craft over time, if only out of boredom, and hormones will eventually spice up the sugary hyperactivity of even the latest bloomers. So I was hopeful when a trio of 2009 near-hits — Miranda Cosgrove’s “About You Now,” Demi Lovato’s “La La Land,” and Selena Gomez’s “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” — showed signs of evolutionary progress.

Reservations were had: The Jonas Brothers’ innocuous dance rock, for starters, sounded wan up against the R&B-influenced boy bands of ten years before. But the kid apparently destined for the role of millennial Britney seemed to have learnt a thing or two from her predecessor’s missteps. On “Fly on the Wall,” Miley Cyrus sounds energized by the psychological challenges of stardom without feeding co-dependently off them. Riding a guitar riff as aggressive as a rock lobster preserved in Mudhoney, Miley plays her husky alto for menace, inviting “them” a little closer while hinting at a star quality considered impossible in TMZ America: her ultimate unknowability. At the same time, “Fly on the Wall” is true to Cyrus’s child-star roots: the way she belts out “a little communication” or freaks out about “all these paparazzis” in the video is pure showbiz.

But “Fly on the Wall” also packs a conceptual wallop, combining a teen boy’s curiosity about how girls talk when they’re alone, a jealous dork’s need to know his infatuee’s  every move, and the stalkerish coverage of celebrity girls into a single powerful conceit. And it exploits Miley’s commonalities with her fans more subtly, deeply, and truly than the faux-humble “Party in the U.S.A.,” a trifle whose unfortunate role as Miley’s biggest hit gave snobs the wrong idea about the capabilities of a girl who didn’t help herself by admitting disinterest in the pop world her song celebrates. Not that this would matter much by 2010, when Justin Bieber subsumed all tween adoration unto himself, and Glee gobbled up all music past and present like some insatiable Kidz Blob. As for Miley, already rich and famous, she suggested with “Can’t Be Tamed” mostly that she couldn’t be bothered, and announced that she was taking a break from music. Who wouldn’t?

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  • Robert Myers  On October 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Like almost all the best Disney pop, written and produced by Antonina Armato and Tim James (Rockmafia), the most ignored hit-making production team in America.

  • usefulnoise  On October 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    All the way back to the great “Another Dumb Blonde”!

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