I have been obsessed with Miley’s “Slide Away” since she first released it a week and a half ago. It’s catchy as hell, I’ve been listening to it on the drive to and from work, which is partly a depressing way to start your day, but it’s also liberating and freeing at the same time. Because that’s what the song is. It’s not just about the pain and hurt of leaving a relationship. It’s also about the acceptance and growth that comes with it. What I’m saying is that I have a lot of feels when it comes to this song. 

Which is why I was so excited when MTV made the last minute announcement that Miley would be performing it live at the VMAs. Miley’s history at the VMAs has been one for the books. There was of course the Robin Thicke twerking (which was later used as a weapon in the aftermath of her and Liam Hemsworth’s 2013 breakup). Then there was “Miley, what’s good?” 

VMA Miley 2019 is very different from either of those. Her styling is almost unremarkable, a short, black dress, simple black heels, hair down too, almost like she just got out of the shower, minimalist staging, just a V formation of instrumentalists sitting on black chairs. And the whole performance is in black and white. This is raw Miley, stripped down. The focus is on her singing and emotion. And it’s f-cking beautiful. I get goosebumps every time I watch it. 

Last week Lainey wrote about Miley’s Twitter explanation, defending herself against rumours that the cause for her and Liam’s split was because she was cheating on him. Liam also filed for divorce last week, citing irreconcilable differences. The gossip surrounding the breakp has been messy, with both sides accusing the other of infidelity, drug abuse, and a resistance to change. And almost always, the narrative seems to point the blame at Miley for her errant ways and her inability to satisfy the expectations of an otherwise angelic Liam. 

Miley carries around a lot of baggage. Her twerking, overtly sexual behaviour, drug use, and general disregard for “normal” social convention tends to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, over and above the legitimate criticisms of her appropriation and arguably opportunistic allyship. Anecdotally, the reaction I hear the most from people when I bring up the subject is, “Oh Miley? Don’t like her.” That means that even when Miley goes off on Twitter, even when she does make good points, it’s coloured by people’s perceptions of her, obscuring the nuance that Lainey so succinctly described:

“When she’s a mess, she leans into her mess, she’s not the one to be a mess one day and get papped at church the next day. And if she’s f-cking up, she’s never cared during the f-ckup about saving face. In fact, she’ll stick her tongue out even farther. What would she have to gain by insisting that she didn’t cheat on Liam? She already knows what people think of her. As she said, she doesn’t have to lie.”

This performance then might have been a way to combat that. It was carefully designed to peel off all the layers and show us a vulnerable Miley, one who is expressing herself through her art. At least to me, that’s what resonated the most among all the articles, tweets, posts, and pictures I’ve scrolled through over the past month. I’ve never been more Team Miley until last night.

The VMAs also gave us a glimpse into her personal life. Kaitlynn Carter was seen comforting Miley backstage. People also noticed that Miley got a new tattoo and have even deciphered what it says and where it comes from. Bless those gossip detectives. Is Kaitlynn backstage for support? That’s a pretty important role. Miley’s parents were also at the VMAs for "Old Town Road" and because the family often attends these events together, suggesting that Kaitlynn is already embraced as part of the team.  

Does that mean that this is a serious thing then, and not just a rebound or a make-Liam-jealous fling? If so, then Miley is moving on quite quickly, while reports are that Liam is spending time with his family. Don’t forget however that the story seems to be that the two had ended things for a while now, stretching this timeline just a bit. What you do right after a breakup is pretty telling of how the breakup went for you. What does Miley moving on so quickly mean?