On Saturday night, in a sports stadium so yuppified it sells $9 artisanal frankfurters to satisfy the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood surrounding it, Miley Cyrus, wearing cowboy boots and yellow fur, climbed aboard a massive hot dog suspended from the ceiling and rode it like a bucking bronco into the sky. As she rattled off dick jokes from the massive weiner, I was transported out of urbane New York and back through middle school memories from my upbringing in the midwestern city of Pittsburgh: WWF wrestling theatrics, Britney Spears, Howard Stern, MTV Spring Break, South Park. Miley is a complicated figure, but that’s what makes her so suited to be a pop star, because America is complicated too.
The south has reigned in teen pop for years - it can't be a coincidence that the woman who set the tone of the aughties' landscape was Louisiana-native Britney Spears and the one currently keeping the pace of this decade's is Tennessee's Miley Cyrus. As though the rest of world couldn't possibly understand how people do things down south, Britney used to explain away her much-maligned behavior, like driving a car with her infant son on her lap, with a simple justification: “We're Country!" And Nashville's Miley Cyrus, the goddaughter of Dolly Parton and real daughter of the most famous mullet-wearer in the world, loves reminding people of her roots just the same: no matter how crazy she gets, she's still slow things down and take time out from the insanity to reflectively belt out “Jolene," as she did Saturday night at her sold-out Bangerz show at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. Since Elvis, the heart of tween soul has often been below the Mason-Dixon line, and while Miley might have changed unitards many times throughout the night, she hardly was ever seen without a pair of rhinestoned cowboy boots.