Thoughts on Miley Cyrus Being a Coach on The Voice

Thoughts on Miley Cyrus Being a Coach on The Voice

Miley Cyrus Thoughts on Miley Cyrus being a coach on The Voice

It appears to be that some people are not happy with Miley Cyrus being a coach on The Voice. I’ve been looking at some of various fan boards of NBC’s The Voice and reading through some of the YouTube video comments of the blind auditions. The venom being directed at her and the show is surprising. Why would you skip a show because of one person?

For The Voice season 11 there are two new coaches: Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus. The show is pushing the girl power aspect of having this dynamic duo on the show.  In watching the promo clips it does seem that they get along!

I’ve read nothing but good things about Alicia Keys being on. However, the fans seem to be split on Miley Cyrus being a coach on The Voice.  They either love her, or absolutely hate that she’s a coach – to the point that they say they don’t want to watch.  I couldn’t understand what could be so awful about Miley Cyrus that you would forfeit the opportunity to discover and support new artists.

The Problems With Miley Cyrus Being a Coach on The Voice

Just to be clear. I’m not a Miley Cyrus “fan.” I was in college before she was even born! Prior to last fall my knowledge was basically that of the general public over 30. You know, the stuff that makes the headlines – which you can’t avoid seeing.  For the longest time she was just that Disney kid with the blonde wig on every little girl’s backpack. Then she became a “good girl gone bad.”

For a full review of Miley’s career, keep an eye out for my Miley Cyrus Timeline. Otherwise, here are some of the famous – and infamous highlights of Miley’s career – and infamy:

  1. Her father is country-music star Billy Ray Cyrus and her Godmother is Dolly Parton.
  2. She acts in small TV and film roles before landing the Hannah Montana character on Disney from 2006-2011. It’s the biggest success for the Disney channel ever.
  3. In 2008 she starts sticking out her tongue in photos. It becomes a signature pose.
  4. Her parents had a very public split 2012 and nearly got divorced.  (It happened again in 2013.) 2012 is also the year she chopped off her long hair.
  5. 2013 is the release of Bangerz ,her fourth album. Its first single is a party song called “We Can’t Stop The song’s theme wasn’t a new one to the airwaves – just new from Miley. It was your basic anti-establishment teenage rebellion piece. You know, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.  Only the rock-n-roll has been replaced by some other you-heard-it-first-from-black-people music forms: rap and hip-hop.
  6. Along with the song came a music video that stomped all over that Hannah Montana character.Parents and some critics were not happy with the lyrics or the video. Overall though the song came to be seen by the industry as both a commercial and creative success.
  7. While promoting “Can’t Stop” she goes on Jimmy Kimmel and talks about her recreational use of marijuana. Since then she’s had a knack of reminding the public that yes, she does smoke pot.
  8. Miley also did an out-there – and what most would call offensive and in poor taste – performance 2013 VMA’s for “We Can’t Stop.”  For a total breakdown of what happened you can check out this piece from The Huffington Post. Judging from a lot of the commentary around her “We Can’t Stop” Miley apparently added twerking to the very long list of “things white America appropriates from black America.”  After that performance, parents that used to take their kid to her concerts had to find another artist for their tweens.
  9. From that same 2013 album she belted out another song called “Wrecking Ball” that was on the radio a lot.  The pop ballad topped the records of the song and video for “We Can’t Stop” and became her first number one billboard hit (as Miley Cyrus).  Some didn’t like that for part of the video she was naked on a wrecking ball. Nevertheless, the video won the 2014 VMA for Video of the Year.
  10. Her live performances of “Wrecking Ball” in 2013-14 reminded many people of the fact that underneath the antics Miley Cyrus can actually sing. 



  11. In February 2015 she performs several songs for the SNL 40th anniversary special and is her singing is reviewed as one of the best parts of the show.
  12. August 2015 she hosts the VMA’s and it’s roundly seen as a “disaster” for both the tiny outfits and some racially charged moments.
  13. March 2016 – Miley, who’s been an advisor for season 10, is announced as a season 11 coach.

Although no one faults her for the things concerning her parents, pretty much everything else listed seems to cause major hate reactions from her detractors.  Some people resent her Disney past and dismiss her as an artist.  Others hate her behavior after she left Disney.  The racial stuff surrounding the “We Can’t Stop” performance also is seen by some as enough to have them tune out.

Things To Consider About Miley Cyrus Before Writing Her Off

After looking into all of this, I have to say, I don’t think these issues are being looked at fairly.   In fact, I think some of these things will add to her abilities as a coach.  No, I’m not kidding.  First though, you need to consider how she got to this point.

The Disney Factor: It’s Not Easy Being A Child Star….

Honestly, the list of things “wrong” with Miley Cyrus isn’t anything worse than what happens to many child mega-stars.  Over the last 30 years or so, Disney, being the largest corporate supply of children’s entertainment, has the largest history of stars suffering from transition train wrecks.  It seems like once they grow out of their super-controlled work lives child stars go a little crazy – especially the girls.

Hollywood in general encourages a wild party life and for the kids working there the adults aren’t always great about treating them as kids.  A 2013 USA Today article cynically states the attitude often taken:

…it’s easier to give pampered starlets whatever they want. Keep ’em happy and keep ’em working.

That take puts the onus on the kids, but obviously there are some other factors to consider. The article covers those issues as well.  A big one is that Hollywood kids are exposed to a lot of grownup things much younger than the average child. Often teens – who always want to act older anyway – are treated like adults when they very definitely are not.  Case in point:  A summer 2009 TMZ video shows 16-year-old Miley at a party giving a lap dance to Adam Shankman – a producer for her movie The Last Song.
Many have used this as a sign of the in-your-face sexuality Miley would be publicly exhibiting in a few years.  Fair enough, but Shankman was 45 years old at the time.  Who’s supposed to be the person holding the line, Miley, or the grownup?

Now, Shankman is openly gay with a background in dance. This isn’t about suggesting an instance of pedophilia. Everyone at this event is dancing wild and raunchy. It’s a party. It happens.

What that clip does show is how easy it is for the adults to forget that an underage star is, in fact, underage. When you’re a star at sixteen pulling major adult bank, people tend to treat you like an adult. …Welcome to Hollywood.

This issue especially ties in with the young actors put into the Disney and Nickelodeon star-making machines. That USA article also has a short interview with former child star Tia Mowry. She discusses the unique pressure of being a kid that carries a show.  Mainly it’s the pressure of being a child and knowing he or she is responsible for everyone’s jobs. They know they’ve got to hold that child-star image to maintain the brand.  Meanwhile, there’s all this other stuff flying around.  There are adults who have a difficult time living with that kind of reality and look to substances to take the edge off.  Basically they are kids living like, and often treated like, grownups.  As it’s pointed out in the piece:

…they have money, they can buy what they want, they get favors, they’re exposed to stuff younger, and exposed to things that they think are acceptable, and it gets out of control.

The Toil of Childhood Fame: Disney Girls vs. Boys

To varying extents the Disney kids do recover, but somehow – at least for Disney – the recovery rate seems higher for boys.  Disney boys whose transition to becoming adults have had some issues includeShia Labeouf and Zac Efron.  However, until Miley Cyrus, the most famous Disney child stars gone bad were Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.

Looking at these cases it seems that both the entertainment industry and the public seem to have a bit more willingness to forgive a guy’s excesses than a girl’s.  The “bad boy” is a role society is comfortable with. The “bad girl” one…that’s tricker. There’s a real love/hate relationship with women’s sexuality and autonomy.  Women as rulebreakers, or just breaking from the norm, is often frowned upon.  Just look at the difference between how the OlympiansHope Solo and Ryan Lochte – both with longstanding “bad girl” and “bad boy” reputations – have been treated after their most recent times of acting out.

It could also be that it’s just not easy living up to the “Disney Princess” ideal.  As such, trying to move on from their Disney phase is just harder for the girls. The Disney brand sells a fresh-faced, cute, smart (and occasionally smart*ss), all-American kid – regardless of their sex or ethnicity.  The split happens with becoming an adult. To break out of the Disney mole for boys the adult opposite is the tough and sexy “bad boy.”  For girls, it’s a highly desired, sexed-up babe! (Drugs and alcohol are not required, but are often involved.) Somehow the road to being “mature” is defined to these girls as going from sweethearts to pop tarts.

The Wild Child Syndrome: It’s Not Just for Child Stars

Truthfully, the discussion about child stars and how much harder the transition to adulthood can be for girls is probably someone’s psychology master’s thesis.  It’s not going to be figured out in an entertainment article.  However, it’s worth pointing out that not just famous people go through a wild child phase.

What occurs with young stars seems like what happens to most young people when they go to college and get away from overly strict parents. The difference there is the resources to do this self-exploration aren’t anywhere as vast and there isn’t an entire nation watching.  We live in a society where sex is celebrated, and taboo at the same time.  Sadly, the whole issue of a girl becoming a woman gets filtered through the whole “she’s legal” aka, sexually available. It makes this time much harder for young women.

Here’s the real question to ask yourself: how many not famous young women get through this phase and come out the other side.  If you think about your high school and college peers and some of the parties you went to…..  Exactly, most turn out just fine. That’s because there isn’t anyone following their every move and there’s no “role model” tag on them.

For female child stars, it seems harder to get past this time and move forward – nevermind unscathed.  However, the ones that do move forward career wise often come to eclipse their childhood fame. Drew Barrymore – the sweet-faced little girl in ET who was third generation Hollywood went through a teen and young adult stage where she was hell on wheels.  Now she’s a famous and respected actress, producer and business owner featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine! Disney child stars Vanessa HudgensDemi Lovato and The Voice‘s own original coach. Christina Aguilera, are also great examples of young women who have gotten through the storms of those post child star periods and come out triumphantly with careers greater than their childhood days.

Remember, Miley Cyrus Does Work in The Music Industry

In the scheme of things stars have done in the name of music, what’s Miley done that’s so horrible?  One thing in particular actually started out fairly innocently. During her 2013 interview with Barbara Walters, Miley explains that initially sticking out her tongue in photos was a reaction to being uncomfortable with all the photo-taking.  That reaction then became an asked for pose by photographers!

Nor is Miley Cyrus the first singer to push a sexual element in performance beyond what was considered acceptable for the time. The practice is as least as old as Elvis. Look at some of the biggest female pop music stars in the industry – Madonna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Beyoncé. They all know that being sexy, provocative, and controversial can be tools to getting their music heard. It’s not the only route, and there needs to be a certain level of talent to back it up for it to work long-term. Nevertheless, it clearly is a path to success.

Miley clearly has a savvy understanding about the way the music industry works.  In the interview with Walters she notes that her behavior ends up publicizing her music. More to the point, she jokes and says she “doesn’t want to be naked all the time” – but when she’s dressed more covered up she’s been called, “boring.” Fortune magazine did a piece regarding her “disastrous” hosting of VMA’s and saw it as part of a well-strategized career-enhancing outing.   To paraphrase that old Natalie Merchant/10,000 Maniacssong….if outrageous outfits is media candy, who do you wanna blame if stars give’em what they want?

Looking Beyond The Shock Value

There are of course the commercial benefits that come with being controversial.  However, it’s also apparent that the choices of songs and themes by the above-mentioned music stars – including Miley Cyrus – also come from their own personal issues.  Their music focuses on being shamed for being different, treated as an outsider for various reasons, feeling of repression/oppression, and other painful circumstances. Being able to see, hear, and feel the message in the music is one of the hallmarks of musical artistry. If all they did was walk around half-naked and sing they wouldn’t have huge careers that they do. It’s that there is some real artistic merit mixed in with the shock values that vaults them to the top.

Stars With Big Hearts

The other thing these artists have in common is that they have big hearts.  All of them have serious commitments to helping people less fortunate and various issues of social justice. When looking up the charity work of pop stars like Madonna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Beyoncé, you’ll find Miley on many of those same lists (So is R&B star Alicia Keys) There is a difference though.  Miley Cyrus is only 23 years old, and she’s already been doing this kind of thing for years.  In fact, she’s listed as having the most involvement with different charities out of all of them.

This is likely because she’s been at it since she was a kid. This is a Time magazine quote from her in 2008:

you pick up a guitar when you’re 8 you’re really good at it by the time you’re 20. It’s the same with giving back. My family has been visiting Kentucky coal-mine towns since I was little.

Cyrus founded her own charity –The Happy Hippie Foundation – in 2015.  She was 20 years old. When it comes to giving back she definitely walks the talk

Why Miley Cyrus Deserves a Chance On The Voice

One aspect coaching on The Voice is that everyone involved is very passionate about helping new artists achieve their dreams. The work that the coaches do with these people often extends beyond the weeks we see them on TV. As such, it’s not enough to want “exposure” to do this show.  A coach has to actually like helping other people. Miley has proven beyond a doubt that helping others is big part of who she is.

Then there’s the music.  You may not like many of her songs, her clothes, or her love of marijuana.  That’s fair.  It’s much harder to argue that she doesn’t have talent.

The woman has a real love of making music, a powerful voice, and her ability to pour emotion into a song is impressive.  When you look at her Backyard Sessions, which she started in 2012 just to be able to do covers of music she likes, you get reminded of this.


Does Miley still have this kind of music in her wheelhouse today? Yes! It’s what surprised many people when  in 2015 she sang several songs at the SNL 40th anniversary show. They were all good.  However, her cover the Paul Simon classic “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”  was straightforward and stunning.  Certainly it was the first time I gave the singer much thought beyond whenever she was on the radio. She was just that Disney kid grown up and gone wild. As you see, there’s a lot more to her than that.

The bottom line is that Miley Cyrus being a coach on The Voice has merit.  Whatever things she’s done that one finds obnoxious or just plain wrong does not change hr credentials.  She’s got the talent, and she has plenty of experience dealing with the music industry and creating music.  Most of all, she has a history of really wanting to help other people.

That last piece really is the most important one. The Voice is a show that’s focused on discovering and nurturing talent – and often beyond their time on the show.  Miley being put in this position seems like a perfect fit. Hopefully some naysayers will at least give her a chance.

Besides, don’t you want to see someone really challenge Coach Blake Shelton on the country music front?

The Voice Premieres Monday September 19th (That’s tonight!) at 8pm ET on NBC.

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