Since the backlash for Miley Cyrus’ performance has been so great, we contemplate whether or not it’s the kind of thing that her career can survive, it also brings to mind other moments on stage that shattered careers or at the very least damaged the trajectory that these artists would surely have enjoyed.
20 years ago a young woman from Ireland named Sinead O’Connor took to the stage of Saturday Night Live to perform her ridiculously successful smash hit, Nothing Compares 2U - but after ripping up a picture of the Pope to protest against Catholicism it’s safe to say O’Connor’s career was never the same. She wasn’t sorry for her actions and and once the backlash began her skyrocketing fame burned out almost immediately. Sure O’Connor pops up now and then but the thing is, nobody really cares about her and likely never will like they once did. She is still super talented with a voice that can’t be confused with anyone else’s but those talents forgotten since her 60 second act on SNL.
Come to think of it, Saturday Night Live has been home to a multitude of regrettable performances hasn’t it? Remember back in 2004 when Ashlee Simpson had carved a little niche for herself as an Indie artist and we all kind of loved Pieces of Me but hated to admit it? Well she hit the stage to sing her second song live on SNL but unfortunately her first track played instead, exposing Ashlee to be GASP! lip syncing! She had no clue what to do once busted in front of a live audience so she resorted to a nifty Irish jig before running offstage never to be heard from again. Okay, so that’s not exactly true as Ashlee actually is doing a stint in Broadway’s Chicago as I type, but she never graced the Billboard charts after SNL and to be honest, she totally stopped trying. Poor girl knew right then and there that her glory days as a pop star were all but over.
I don’t know about you but I’m pretty darn sure that Britney Spears has completely blocked out her disastrous appearance at the 2007 VMA’s. I mean if I were to say, “Hey Brit remember when you performed Gimme More on the VMA’s?” she would look at me like a deer in headlights and insist that’s not even the name of one of her songs. Anyway, all of MTV’s audience was stunned to see the formerly super toned and fabulously choreographed Brit Brit stagger through her song like an infant learning to walk without holding on to a hand while trying to lip sync – and failing. That, could have been the end of a career and in that moment I’m pretty sure we all kind of figured that while watching Britney shatter onstage it was going to be damn near impossible to fix her – but guess what? It happened. Kinda sorta happened. Britney is certainly not that bubbly girl that everyone loved but she does still perform and usually gets it close to right. Britney might be proof positive that if Miley is guided by the right team, she can take all of the power from this fifteen minutes of media drama and turn it into something to continue her career on. Maybe?
Honorable mentions of bad behavior that seriously altered career paths must go to Kanye West and Chris Brown. Yeah I know, Kanye has put out some decent music since crashing Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech a few years ago, but he has lost lot’s respect and credibility. When a thirty something year old man feels the need to steal a teenager’s thunder is such a public way he is labeled a douche lord. As for Chris, Rihanna clearly forgave him but the music industry and its fans haven’t been so gracious. He could put out an album of Michael Jackson’s Thriller proportions and there would still be backlash. Chris and Kanye both still have careers, but they are only a glimmer of what would exist for them if they had handled themselves better.
Was Miley’s performance the equivalent of career suicide or just a close call that will need a high powered PR team to fiz? What happens now that she pushed that envelope way too far? I still say performers now will use Miley as a benchmark. When Rihanna goes to choreograph her next stage show she’ll be saying, “I want it hot and sexy but let’s not go all Miley with it.” Miley is like a new slang term for what not to do! Do you agree? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!