Tracing Miley Cyrus's Meteoric Rise From Innocent Disney Star to Superstar Pop Wrecking Ball


Love her or hate her, Miley Cyrus is the "it" girl no one can stop talking about right now. Miley Cyrus has transformed herself from innocent Disney star to a pop force to be reckoned with in a brilliant way.

First, let's go back to 2010. In those days, Miley was releasing a movie called "The Last Song" and promoting her third studio album Can't Be Tamed, in an attempt to cross the chasm from powerful pop star to pop royalty superstar. While her preceding extended play, The Time of Our Lives (2009), featured smash hit "Party in the U.S.A." and was commercially successful, it failed to establish Miley as a serious, adult recording artist. Can't Be Tamed set out to do just that by turning the soon-to-be former Hannah Montana star into a provocative pop star.

Miley's television performance of the album's title track and debut single garnered media attention for being sexually suggestive. This one, from Britain's Got Talent, included the maturing pop star faking a lesbian kiss.

Obviously, the media had a little bit of a frenzy. But, unfortunately, it happened at the wrong time for Cyrus. All eyes were on a fresher face instead. Lady Gaga became an instant dominant force in pop music and, because she had no prior stardom, became an instant pop queen. Other artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry also blocked the way for Miley to join the ranks of pop hierarchy.

At the end of that year, Miley was caught on camera smoking something from a bong at a party. News organizations pounced on the story, trying to chronicle the beginning of another troubled child star's fall from grace.

Here's a report from the Today Show in which the reporter tries to paint Miley as someone falling into depression near the end of her Disney show's long run, even mentioning the divorce of the star's parents.

Miley learned she had to be more careful because everything can be caught on camera. But, most importantly, she learned a truly valuable lesson that would help her become one of the biggest stars on the planet. She learned what the media and the public gravitates to. They want to see someone either going off the deep end and/or going crazy. And with the reaction of the media in this instance, she knew how to orchestrate a comeback years later.

Fast forward to 2012, when Miley made her first move in what was to become a historical comeback in the context of pop culture. She cut her hair, a turning point in her career. As could have been predicted, the media gathered around.

This past summer, there was a void of older pop queens on the music charts. Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, and Beyonce had no new music out. Female names on the charts were hard to come by, with fellow former Disney stars Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande being the only female pop stars in sight. With perfect timing, Miley's first single from her upcoming album was released. "We Can't Stop" took off.

The single sold over 200,000 copies in its first week and peaked at number two on the charts. The music video for the song gained attention for its bizarre themes and adult content, breaking the record for most views in 24 hours on VEVO.

After the summer was over and "We Can't Stop" was making a slow decline off the charts, Miley released her next single, "Wrecking Ball."

Then, the MTV Video Music Awards happened.

Miley's sexual performance with "Blurred Lines" singer Robin Thicke shocked the world and made Miley the only artist anyone was talking about. Below is a graph of Miley's search volume from Google. Can you tell when the VMAs happened?

The peak of the point in the graph above was astronomical. At the time of Miley's VMAs performance, there were more than 300,000 tweets per minute about her. Since then, Miley hasn't been riding the fame coaster, she has been controlling it and pushing it even farther to the top. There's no end in sight for this ride.

On September 9th, Miley released the music video for "Wrecking Ball." The video, featuring the singer swinging around naked on a wrecking ball, received an unheard of 19.3 million views in its first 24 hours and 100 million views in less than a week. Both of those figures are records. Miley scored her first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Wrecking Ball," with the track selling 477,000 downloads in the United States last week alone. That's the second biggest sales week for a song this year and Miley's biggest sales week ever. Today, Miley is still the most searched music artist on Google, receiving a search score of 100. For comparison, the next most searched artist, Justin Bieber, has a score of 20. When you think short haired female celebrity, you don't think of Ellen DeGeneres first anymore.

Miley Cyrus has become an icon. She has successfully crossed the chasm from pop star to pop queen, achieving superstar status. This wasn't achieved by luck, but by a perfectly planned out and well-timed comeback that manipulated the media and the current pop landscape. Brilliant.