MTV’s “Unplugged” series has hosted a wealth of music talent over the years, including Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton and Florence and the Machine. Now add Miley Cyrus to the list.
If there were questions about whether the Disney princess turned pop provocateur would tone down her antics, they didn’t last long.
“A lot could happen. Hope you’re ready,” Cyrus riffed during the taping on Tuesday night (the show airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. Pacific / 8 p.m. Central).
Her warning came after she ran onstage in a blond bob, a red gingham bodysuit and sparkly cowboy boots for some serious twerking on two men in horse costumes to the tune of her country-fried stomper “4x4.” She eventually changed into a ripped-up denim outfit that was covered head to toe in sequins.
During breaks she joked with the audience, "MTV's paying me today in ones so we can all go to the strip club after this" -- one of her many one-liners.
Things only got wackier – and unapologetically more Cyrus – from there. Incessant tongue wagging, crotch grabbing and f-bombs filled the hour as she ran through tunes from her latest album, “Bangerz.” And just when it seemed she had run out of shocking stunts, Madonna showed up.
Ahead of her “Unplugged” premiere, here’s what Pop & Hiss learned from the taping.
Cyrus’ country roots aren’t far behind. The singer transformed a soundstage at Sunset Gower Studios into a country barn, as envisioned by a popstar. A giant wagon wheel adorned with LED lights hung above the stage, hay was scattered about on the floor and the audience sat on rustic wood benches. Cyrus even sat on a prop log for one ballad. Her nine-piece band got in on the Southern action, wearing denim, flannel, cowboy boots and wide-brimmed hats
She put a twangy spin on the bouncy “Do My Thang” and even tossed off a “yeehaw. ” She also covered her godmother Dolly Parton’s hit “Jolene” – but her version will certainly leave Parton blushing. But her country flair was meshed with her current over-the-top randiness: Amazon Ashley and Little Britney (two dancers that she’s frequently tapped as stage props) appeared dressed in similar get-ups and clutching tambourines.
“I’m trying to get you guys in the country spirit,” she laughed.
She’s at her best without all the schtick. Cyrus may have twerked her way into the zeitgeist this past year, but make no mistake: the girl can sing. It’s easy to forget amid all her antics, but when she slowed things down, the results were downright astounding. Album opener “Adore You” was beautifully arranged as a string section underscored the more vulnerable tone of the ballad.
She also pulled off a stunning take of “Drive” in which the breakup jam’s raw, aching lyrics were able to pack more of a gut-punch without the hard knock of Mike Will Made It’s production riding the track. And of course her smash “Wrecking Ball” went over well with the crowd, and Cyrus flashed a confident smile when she effortlessly nailed a soaring vocal.
Miley and Madonna is a match made in heaven. The beans were spilled early about the night’s surprise guest. But how would Cyrus keep up with pop’s most iconic button-pusher? By dialing up the sexuality, of course. During a cover of Madonna’s country-electro-fused hit, “Don’t Tell Me,” the Queen of Pop was ushered through the crowd and sat in the audience before she joined in. The song then masterfully morphed into Cyrus’ summer jam “We Can’t Stop” as the two playfully ground and struck out their tongues. On the song’s second take, Madonna joked that the two should get nastier, and Cyrus followed Madonna’s suggestion by frisking the pop star as if looking for contraband during the performance.
"That was pretty … cool, you guys,” Cyrus beamed after. “It was one of those days that was pretty easy to get out of bed. I get to perform with Madonna in bedazzled cowboy boots. I can't really complain about anything."
"Well, I can't perform when I'm stoned. That's one thing to complain I guess," she added.
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