November 22, 2013
Todd plays "Wrecking Ball" on the piano
MILEY CYRUS - WRECKING BALL
A pop song review
Todd Maybe y'all just don't get Miley Cyrus.
- Video for "23"
- Miley: I be in the club
- Standing on the couch
Todd (VO) Okay, obviously, I'm included in that too. I was right on the "OMG, worst thing ever, she's gone crazy, look at her horrible craziness" bandwagon. We all were.
Todd: We all are, really. But I think we've all underestimated her.
- Clip of performance from MTV VMAs
Todd (VO): For one thing, her stunt obviously worked. Her career was close to dead just a year ago, and now she's the most important person in the world. But also, let's consider how risky being risque was for Miley. Lots of people try to shock, and sometimes it doesn't work. [Clip of "Not Myself Tonight" by...] Christina Aguilera has been trying it desperately for seven years or so, and all she's accomplished is embarrassing herself. Just...oh, honey. [Clip of Britney Spears at 2000 VMAs] And we're all harder to shock now, a lot harder than we were even just ten years ago.
Todd: What can you do to shock us? Be sexual?
- Clip of Rihanna - "Birthday Cake"
Todd (VO): Rihanna has been that for three or four years now, and no one bats an eye. [Clip of "Can't Be Tamed"] Miley herself tried to shock people earlier in her career, and that just turned people away from her. No, this time around, Miley learned her lesson and did find a way to keep people's attention.
Todd: Just being excruciatingly bad at it.
- Clip from 2013 VMAs, with Robin Thicke
Todd (VO): It was a deeply, horribly unpleasant thing to watch. It was the Human Centipede of music.
Todd: But the thing is, it's not like she was going for something and failed.
Todd (VO): This shitshow achieved exactly the effect she was going for. This is less jailbait Britney or Christina, this is more like...I don't know, it's like something kinda [brief picture of Plasmatics performance on Solid Gold, with Wendy O Williams cutting a guitar with a chainsaw] punk rock about it. Like, she wants you to be turned off, she wants you to be uncomfortable by the fact that she's rubbing her tiny, tiny buttocks onto Robin Thicke's 36-year-old groin. It was the media event of the summer. It got people's attention.
So I'm willing to give her more of a benefit of the doubt because...
Todd: ...well, it's at least something to talk about. [beat] I'm not gonna lie. This has been a difficult year to talk about pop music.
- Clip of Passenger - "Let Her Go "
- Passenger: But you only need the light when it's burning low
Todd (VO): In case you haven't noticed, the running theme in my reviews this year is that I have been really bored. Part of that is just my own taste in music. I am an auteurist, you know; I like talking about personalities and musical evolution. And meanwhile, most of what we got this year was [Clip of Krewella - "Alive"] dull, middle-of-the-road easy-listening, and dull, underwritten EDM—two of the least personality-driven genres around. It almost makes me wanna cry. I just kinda wanna welcome back all my old nemeses that disappeared. [Pictures of...] Come back, Lil Wayne; we need you, Ke$ha; [...and Chris Brown] please...oh...
Todd: ...let's not go crazy here. But you get my point.
- Respective clips of "Roar ", "I Need Your Love", and "Stay the Night"
Todd (VO): What is there to say about Katy Perry's latest snooze-fest, or Calvin Harris, or Zedd? There's a reason why one of the Top 10 hits right now [clip of Ylvis - "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)"] is basically the song equivalent of someone blowing fart noises into their hands.
- Ylvis: Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!
Todd (VO): Swear to God, any day now, I'm gonna...
Todd: ...cancel this show and start talking about something that interests me more, like [map of Alabama] state capitals or [picture of toenail clipping] toenail maintenance or something.
What that means is that if there's a thing [Rolling Stone cover with Miley] that everyone's talking about, well, it's not like I have a whole lot of other options here. So, uh...Miley it is. [pause] Just a shame that the song we have to talk about is this one.
- Video for "Wrecking Ball"
Todd (VO): So...just two weeks after Miley ruined foam fingers forever, she released "Wrecking Ball", a song that was apparently there to prove that, you know, it wasn't like a fluke or anything; this is definitely the direction Miley wants her career to go.
- Miley: All I wanted was to break your walls
Todd (VO): [mock-disgusted] Look, she's naked with her naked, nude body nakeding everywhere.
- Miley: ...not coming down
Todd (VO): [on Miley licking sledgehammer] "Mmm, tastes like drywall."
Todd: You realize that thing was probably used to [picture of broken toilet] remove an old toilet from a remodeled bathroom, right?
Todd (VO): And as fun as it is to watch a 20-year-old work out her undoubtedly myriad psychological issues in public—...
Todd: ...and by the way, like I said, it's [clip of Billy Ray Cyrus performance] really obvious where she gets her exhibitionist streak from—well, I guess we should talk about the song too. It sucks. But back to the video.
Todd (VO): Actually, no, that's not really fair to the song, which probably deserves better than this; but you know, the video has kind of made it moot. Like...okay, she's naked on a wrecking ball. What else is there to talk about? See, she's riding a giant ball.
Todd: It's...it's subtle. Here, let me make it even subtler for you.
- Video plays as AC/DC - "Big Balls" plays over
- Bon Scott: We've got big balls
- Dirty big balls
- He's got big balls
- She's got big balls
Todd: It's actually hilarious from the first image.
Todd (VO): First, we rip off the famous crying shot from [clip of Sinead O'Connor's...] "Nothing Compares 2 U".
Todd: Look, Miley's attempts to look sad? [Still from video] Let's just say there's a reason why Miley is no longer pursuing [poster of So Undercover] her acting career.
Todd (VO): Of course, this doesn't work because...she's not singing "Nothing Compares 2 U", she's singing "Wrecking Ball". Also, she's naked for no reason. Like, "Oh, it's sad, so I'm gonna strut in my underwear."
Todd: The sad thing is, this song did actually have potential.
Todd (VO): Someone, I don't know who, put actual thought and emotion and effort behind it. [Brief clip of Rihanna - "Where Have You Been"] There are some songs that are not salvageable, no matter who sings them. But "Wrecking Ball"?
Todd: It didn't have to be like this. Like, look at what it's about.
- Miley: Don't you ever say I just walked away
- I will always want you
Todd (VO): "Wrecking Ball" is a breakup song, a song of regret chronicling Miley's self-destructive mistakes in love through the 20/20 lens of hindsight. Specifically, she regrets making overwhelming emotional demands of someone, which ended up only hurting herself.
Todd: The metaphor she uses is this.
- Miley: I came in like a wrecking ball
- I never hit so hard in love
- All I wanted was to break your walls
- All you ever did was wre-e-eck me
Todd: So, in this analogy, Miley Cyrus is a wrecking ball, and she ends up getting wrecked. So basically, imagine the metaphor working like this.
- Clip of wrecking ball crashing into furnace and disappearing
Not sure that makes much sense. But it is something with at least some kind of emotional truth to it. [Brief clip of...] Much like Gotye's "Somebody I Used to Know"—which it suspiciously resemebles...
Todd (VO): ...it was written by someone with enough self-awareness to underline their own mistakes.
- Miley: I never meant to start a war
- I just wanted you to let me in
Todd: "I didn't mean to start a war. All I was trying to do was violently destroy your emotional barrier and lay open your psyche for all the world to see. I thought you'd really appreciate that."
Todd (VO): See, where it all went wrong is pretty obvious. Not everyone operates on the same comfort level or expectations. You can't just tear down someone's boundaries; you only end up unsatisfied and pushed even further away.
Todd: So if you got that reaction from someone, you obviously were pushing too hard and you need to learn something about caring and understanding and respect.
Todd: STOP SMOTHERING ME!!!
Tosses phone down. Elisa is rather dejected
[Calmed down] My point is,...
Todd (VO): "Wrecking Ball" sounds like a real experience of someone who...wrecked some poor guy's balls and now regrets it. It sounds like something that happened to someone.
Todd: That someone is not Miley, who isn't one of the five credited writers, which itself is pretty amazing.
- Clip of "All Around the World" by...
Todd (VO): Even Justin Bieber gets a credit for ad-libbing a "whoa, whoa" or "yeah, yeah" here and there. But...
Todd: ...Miley? Nothing.
Todd (VO): And that goes a long way to explaining why this song doesn't really work. Miley is the problem—she doesn't have the delicacy or the power to pull this song off, and she's not helped by a thudding, unimaginative production...
Todd: ...and a plodding chorus replete with the famous four chords of pop. [Single bar of Nick Long's "Four Chord Song" over opening of Journey - "Don't Stop Believing"] Pop song chords—No. No. Yes.
Todd (VO): This song is dying for a better singer and production. Just imagine "Wrecking Ball" as an [clip of performance of "Set Fire to the Rain" at Royal Albert Hall by...] Adele album track, and the tragedy of it all just gets even sadder. And whatever gracefulness the song might've had is dragged down by all of Miley's bad-girl baggage, especially the video, [clip of wrecking ball hitting a moving car] which utterly destroys the song.
The song just isn't strong enough to overpower stuff like a naked child star licking a hammer. And I know it's not fair to let the video affect your opinion of the song, but, you know, who can really help it? [Clip of...] "Hello" will always be defined by Lionel Richie's giant, butt-ugly clay head, and "Wrecking Ball" will always be a demolition fetishist's wet dream before it's anything else.
Todd: For Christ's sake, I can't even listen to it without mishearing the lyrics as something sexual. Although that just may be because Miley doesn't enunciate very well.
- Miley: [text reads] All I wanted was to break you off
- All you ever did was ra-a-ape me
Todd: That's literally all I can hear there. I spent the longest time trying to convince myself that Miley [brief clip from Saturday Night Live, with "Rape Me" performed by...] was just singing about her favorite Nirvana songs.
And all that gratuitous nudity, it's so...gratuitous.
Todd (VO): It doesn't match the song's tone or subject matter at all. Like, [clip of Madonna's...] if the "Like a Prayer" video uses all sorts of sexy Jesus imagery, well, you know, duh, "Like a Prayer"'s about sex. But "Wrecking Ball"? That's...that's not what this song is about. At all. There's no reason for this. Just...why? I bet if Miley Cyrus was singing [clip of The Band Perry's...] "If I Die Young", she'd probably be...
Todd: ...straddling and grinding on a coffin. Or, you know, like, [Clip from Urban Cowboy] riding it like a mechanical bull.
It's just, like, none of it fits or works together.
- Clip of "Stay" by..."
Todd (VO): Rihanna also got naked for a video for a ballad once, but she went all out with it and looked as bad as she could possibly look...which, admittedly is still like an 8½, but...you know, it felt revealing. Miley's too made up for that, and she's trying too hard to come off as sexy.
Okay, this is mean, but...she...she does not look attractive. She looks like someone Photoshopped some boobs on Justin Bieber.
Todd: Besides, Miley isn't really a wrecking ball. She's normally more like a power drill.
- Video for "We Can't Stop"
- Miley: Yeah! Yeah!
Todd (VO): Actually, speaking of, if you wanna hear a song that really makes you feel sadness and regret, "We Can't Stop" would be the better option by far.
Todd: Never has there been more of a downer song about taking uppers.
Todd (VO): In fact, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'll say it anyway, I think "We Can't Stop" is a lot better than "Wrecking Ball". And I didn't like "We Can't Stop" by any means, but "Wrecking Ball"—at least, Miley's version of it—is just as boring as anything else on the radio. You could give it to Demi Lovato, and it wouldn't change at all.
"We Can't Stop" makes me feel something, it's evocative. What it evoked was soul-crushing sadness, but, you know, at least that's something. And "We Can't Stop" is definitely a product that could only have been produced by Miley Cyrus. Miley has chosen a persona for herself—she's the spoiled, rich white girl who is into rap music to an uncomfortable level.
And that just doesn't really match "Wrecking Ball" or what it's trying to accomplish. "Wrecking Ball" is plodding, slow, blunt, just like what it's singing about. It just. Doesn't. Work. And what it comes down to is...
Todd: I'd rather be annoyed than bored.
Honestly, would you all be bothered if I just turned this show into a podcast about UFC fighting from now on?
Wrecking ball drops on top of Todd
- Miley: You wre-e-ecked me
Closing tag song: Chef (Isaac Hayes) - "Chocolate Salty Balls"
"Wrecking Ball" is owned by RCA Records
This video is owned by me