You might consider this an odd choice for the second article, but it was when I recently caught a review of Miley Cyrus‘ “Party in the USA” that made me come to the song’s defense. Cyrus is both an actress and a singer, and while you have to judge for yourself whether or not she is good at either, this is about how well this song tells its story.
The official posting of the video isn’t embeddable, and frankly it’s distracting for the needs of this article. This isn’t a video review and the fact that the video only matches the story when footwear is discussed (insert stereotype here) bugs me. I actually have a more fitting video in my head and no way to make it, so let’s move on. I found a posting of just the lyrics with a pretty background (although the poster needs to work on her punctuation and capitalization) that should suffice.
[EDIT September 17, 2013: That version was taken down. I kind of like how this one came out, though.]
[3/31/2022: So of course it disappeared. That’s the problem with using others’ videos. I’ll try to keep this maintained.]
Now let’s look at Todd in the Shadows and his review.
So Todd handled musical review, from overused free verses to her wardrobe but I’m here to discuss the story side of this song. We do share some issues. For example, did the songwriter look to see what musicians he was referencing?
A quick browse found me the name of the writer, Claude Kelly. Just looking at his picture, which I don’t have now since WordPress changed services, tells me he may not exactly know what a southern teenage girl would listen to. I’ll give him Britney Spears, or at least her earlier songs. I doubt songs about threesomes and naughty circuses are something we want a young girl to listen to, but Todd just pointed out why Jay-Z would be a worse choice. “Circus” (which I found out was also a Kelly song) could at least be mentally censored.
My point is that this isn’t Miley’s story. It’s a black man in his late 20’s-early 30’s writing a story about a teenage girl from Nashville who for an unexplained reason travels to Los Angeles and goes to a club. (What people won’t do to hit the best hot spots, I guess. Actually, that raises another point I’ll get to.) Miley is playing this part the same way she plays Hannah Montana. Heck, this could be the story of Hannah’s first visit to LA without her friends.
So does Mr. Kelly do a good job writing this story, and does Ms. Cyrus do a good job acting it out in song, regardless of musical tastes. Yes and no. The pacing seems to say that Cyrus’s character traveled from LAX airport right to the club. Why? It doesn’t say and I would think she’d check in to the hotel or something first. It’s not necessary to the narrative as a whole, but it makes me wonder.
Apparently, her character is nervous about being away from her friends for the first time, but her favorite songs (ignoring the writer’s chosen songs, which does seem odd for a country girl–perhaps Taylor Swift or Toby Keith–I’m blanking on a male country singer that would fit lyrically) calm her down and help her relax. This part comes across well.
Also, the locals make fun of her footwear, and I guess she’s wearing sneakers in the song, because again the video seems to ignore the narrative in favor of a bunch of kids hanging out at an unused drive-in or something.
So I think a few corrections were in order to get the characterization right, but if you don’t think of this as Miley Cyrus discussing a day from her life (because it isn’t), it’s hardly the worst example of storytelling. The flaws are acknowledged, but I think Ward was a little hard on the Beaver this round.