Why I found myself rooting for Miley Cyrus

Literally, that was quite an experience.

Ok, maybe my daughters would not put it quite like that, but then, I never was good at learning a foreign language. Literally.

Still, even my slow brain could tell the adverb was in overdrive on Tuesday night at the Miley Cyrus concert in Raleigh, and that it tended to be accompanied by a tremulous exclamation while the user fanned herself or hopped up and down, to wit: "Oh my god, literally, that was the most amazing show evaaaah!!!"

No, I am not mocking sweet young things. After all, it was my idea to go watch Miley.

It was one that was met with unbridled approval at first, and then guarded consent when my teenaged daughters realised that yes, mum wanted to go too. In the end, we negotiated an arrangement whereby I would sit near but not with them.

It's not such an outlandish idea. I would never shell out for Taylor Swift, but Miley, even as Hannah Montana was no boring Disney clone, and she had certainly spiced up the news sites with enough gossip about her private life in the last year to pique my interest.

Would she implode like Justin Bieber? Or was she truly, as one interview I heard suggested, a savvy and seasoned performer who was getting as far away from Hannah Montana as she could because she knew it would sell records?

Did she, all of 21, realise that if parents hated her, it would buy her street cred with their daughters? When my 16-year-old asked around which of her friends wanted to come along, one mother said to her child, "No way am I paying for you to go watch that woman of low morals", except she didn't exactly say woman of low morals.

Not that Miley, so it seemed, would have cared. For as she says, in We Can't Stop, "Remember only God can judge ya/Forget the haters 'cause somebody loves ya".

After all those years of being groomed and prepped, and pushed and pulled in all directions, and loved and hated as the tide rose and fell, who could blame Miley if she finally said, in exasperation, I-mma do my thang.

And boy, is it a message that young women are embracing in numbers. As we pulled into the PNC Arena, the wave that flowed with us was female, the majority aged between 15 and 25.

The smattering of men were boyfriends but mostly eye-catchingly attired gay men who obligingly posed for pictures with anyone who wanted a selfie with them.

Someone could have told us the dress code was slut, I muttered to my friend, Andrea, fellow mother and Miley fan who had drawn the short straw to sit with me. We two were not in the uniform of either high-waisted shorts and cropped tops, or leggings and cropped tops, or Michael Jordan's number 23 jersey. It's a good thing too since no one wants to look like mutton dressed as lamb, even if Miley says you won't be judged.

For sure, no one there was judging her for cancelling her concert in Charlotte (just three hours away) the previous night at the last minute (phew). It wasn't the loudest concert I've been to (that would be the Buzzcocks), but the love from 10,000 teenage girls screaming raucously can be pretty overwhelming.

And did they love Miley, as well as all her overtly sexual and eye-popping antics parents had been vociferously complaining about.

Not a few times I asked myself, why was I so sanguine about letting my kids be there? Was I morally bankrupt after all?

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt this child-woman was not objectionable because she did not preach hate of any kind. She was not misogynistic, and, believe it or not, she was not telling girls to devalue themselves by being someone other than who they were.

Miley, salty in language and demeanour, but never taking herself too seriously, was in control, even in her private pain, which she has exposed on stage all through her tour. Deliberate or not, it works, since Bangerz is, after all, an album about heartbreak.

If Miley is messed up, she is in a place we know about. Or so it would seem as the arena erupted in a gigantic climax of catharsis over and over. It was a girls' night and oh, what a girls' night.


This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 13, 2014