Thursday, October 30, 2014 Headlines & Global News

Miley Cyrus VMAs 2013 Performance Racist? Paramore's Hayley Williams Weighs In: 'She's Sort of Taking a Culture That Isn't Really Hers'

By Julia Lynn Rubin j.rubin@hngn.com | Aug 29, 2013 11:34 AM EDT

Hayley Williams
Paramore star Hayley Williams weighs in on whether or not Miley Cyrus's 2013 VMAs performance was problematic. (Photo : Reuters)

Miley Cyrus has been receiving a lot of slack for her 2013 VMAs performance on Sunday, a crazy mash-up of "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke and her hit summer smash "We Can't Stop," including accusations of racism. Paramore star Hayley Williams recently spoke to ContactMusic about what she thought of the bizarre performance and whether or not it was problematic.

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Hadley Freeman of The Guardian accuses Cyrus's raunchy performance of being offensive not for its sexual content, but for its appropriation of black culture. According to Freeman, "We Can't Stop" is a "perfect illustration of just how the celebrity world appropriates black culture and female liberation. The song Cyrus sang was written by Timothy and Theron Thomas and given to Cyrus when she told them, presumably without a wince: 'I want something that feels black.'"

As for Williams, she may be inclined to agree. The rocker wasn't offended by Cyrus gyrating on and licking Robin Thicke, but rather, the "racial aspect" of Sunday night's fiasco.

"I feel like she's sort of taking a culture that isn't really hers and sort of using it as an accessory, and that actually bothers me more," Williams told ContactMusic. "I feel like maybe someone needs to go to her and sort of explain the race issue. I'm not going to be the artist that goes around throwing accusations that other artists are racist. I'm not gonna go there. I do think it's a little insensitive, and it definitely seems as though there were black women onstage with her that...kinda felt like accessories more than anything else. I felt uncomfortable about that."

One of the black women that Cyrus brought onstage was, in the eyes of many critics, used as an over-sexualized prop for Cyrus's performance. In her video for "We Can't Stop," Cyrus was also featured with several black women who were hyper-sexualized in the video, presumably purely for shock value.

In her article, Freeman also took a hit at Robin Thicke, who Cyrus performed alongside at the VMAs. "Cyrus's approach to cultural appropriation is as sophisticated as Robin Thicke's view of female sexuality, making it delightfully apt that they, inevitably, ended up duetting together," she wrote. Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" has often been criticized for its alleged trivialization of sexual assault on a woman, setting off a debate over the lyrics of the track in which Thicke tells an imagined woman several times, "I know you want it."

While Thicke has defended his song as being all in good fun, some critics have pointed out that the song "draws from the rhetoric of rape apologists who believe that date rape isn't real rape and that sexual assault is often a 'gray area,'" as Elly Brinkley wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

As for Cyrus, her latest experimentation with hip-hop culture (her new love of Tupac t-shirts and her rap feature in the latest Wiz Khalifa song "23") is a far cry from her days as a Disney and even ex-Disney princess who loved Nirvana and claimed she'd "never heard a Jay Z" song. Fans and critics alike are questioning whether or not the star knows who she really is as an artist, and whether or not her current image is contrived and even offensive.

"I think Miley's a 20-year-old girl who's going to experience, or try to experience, new things for the first time, and that does include partying and wearing certain things that people aren't going to feel comfortable with, and that, to me, is the lesser of any of the evils. That part doesn't make me as uncomfortable," Williams said.

Most recently, Cyrus has been rumored to have collaborated with Kanye West on a remix of his hit song, "Black Skinhead," a bit ironic given the song's subject matter, but we are nonetheless excited to see what these two have in store.



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