For months, Miley Cyrus was germs, my iTunes antibacterial hand lotion. This worked until it didn't, when I over-inoculated on Fripp & Eno and killed off too many aural taste-buds resilient to bubblegum pop. On another lost plateau for music balkanization, Miley's omnipresence trumped selectivity.
Strangely, this occurred behind Paste's cool-as-cucumber barricades. I imagine few will be surprised to learn that Cyrus' breakthrough, Breakout, made little staff impact upon its arrival from Hollywood Records. One intern stole the CD for car-playing kitsch value, while another (OK, me) posted the press-kit glamor photo above his desk. If not quite earnestly smitten, we were aware—even somewhat responsive.
But we really didn't think of it much. Cyrus' screentime as Disney's Hannah Montana/Miley Stewart had left little doubt about her eventual solo career; the show's school-girl-by-day, diva-by-night premise made the evolution not as much an afterthought as a founding principle of the whole franchise. She was a singer's daughter who became an actress in a role whose character had to act like she didn't sing (which was an act, anyway), so her becoming a singer who plays on her act-singing by real-singing that's sometimes part of the act was only surprising in the way that Daylight Savings is on the calendar all year but you still wake up an hour late one day and you're all, "When did that happen?"
It wasn't until the video release for "7 Things" that I got pulled into the mess of Miley. All of a sudden, there was this four-minute clip for the single vaulting up to a million page views in some infinitesimal time period. It now has over 70 million.
In 10 Things I Hate About You (which is, oddly, about to become a TV show), Kat eschews conformity and kinship for riot grrrl music and shrill disavowals of patriarchy—until she falls for Heath Ledger's Patrick Verona. She says as much, while we watch hate melt into love, in a poem she composed for her English class. Intrigued by the parallel shift, I dug deeper into the lists.
Then I organized my thoughts:
The comparison felt compelling—though I'm not sure it should have. If the two girls met in a high school quad, I'm pretty sure that Kat would slap Miley back to 1992, when her dad's "Achy Breaky Heart" was a hit. Which is maybe why the list likeness is so weird to begin with: If Miley Cyrus' forebears are Mouseketeers, Kat's are Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney.
But then there are the real points of crossover. Both, for instance, seem to feel that the vanity and fashion of the boys are unseemly. Both are annoyed by deviant behavior—although Kat, specifically, appears to be confused with regard to Patrick both 1) always being right and 2) often lying. (A paradox of logic?) And mainly they're concerned with the fact that all of this hatred only leads them to love Maybe-Nick and Patrick all the more. How frustrating!
Perhaps "7 Things" is a rip-off of 10 Things, as the latter does predate the former by nine years. But I choose to believe there's room for both in this list-laden era. Cherish, for instance, the fact that 10 Things I Hate About You got away with having a 12-item catalog.And, if you really can't get behind anything else, at least appreciate Nick Jonas' rebuttal to questions about being the "7 Things" subject. "Honestly," he said, "I’m not insecure. My friends are cool, so it can’t be about me."
Case closed, then.
Somehow a producer convinced a rainbow-raced bevy of pre-teen girls to put down their copies of Twilight for a moment and sob wildly into the camera, bite teddy bears, sing into snow globes, jump invisible ropes. Meanwhile, Cyrus wiggles to and fro, mugging for the camera like her face is fighting gravity and barely winning. She sneers the song's prompt, basic and heartbroken: "It was awesome, but we lost it."
There's one great line. "When you mean it, I'll believe it," Cyrus sings, but "if you text it, I'll delete it." In a NY Times piece, blogger Molly Lambert recognized this as a pristine distillation of adolescence "perfectly capturing our confusing age of technologically mediated courtship." And it's true—the lyric serves up a weirdly authenticity-yearning idea amidst a slumber party bacchanal. It soon became a frequent reference for my friends while making plans. "Don't text me," we would say. "Yeah, you'll delete it," we would answer.
After a number of views I'm still neither willing to calculate nor divulge, I began considering the song's premise, channeled through the refrain in which Cyrus enumerates the list of reasons she hates an ex-boyfriend (who just might be lead Jonas Brother, Nick). The reasons themselves were not surprising. It turns out that it's unpleasant when boys like Maybe-Nick act differently around one group of people than another. Training as a dual-personality on Hannah Montana was not, apparently, preparation enough to deal with such an event.
Then, at its close, "7 Things" spins from a catalog of Cyrus' hates to a listing of likes. And suddenly, it clicked: