I didn’t watch the VMAs, and I don’t have much of an opinion on Miley vs. Nicki. I like them both and dislike aspects of this situation on both sides, so I’m sitting this one out.
I feel kind of the same way about Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz — there are things I like and things I don’t like. I can’t tell if it’ll end up being seen as a bold comment on fame and our culture’s obsession with pleasure or a fun side project that could have benefited from editing. (“Pablow the Blowfish” makes me think it’s somehow both.)
There’s one thing I’m not ambivalent about, though: “Lighter” is excellent.
When I was in college (or maybe this happened just after college — I can’t remember), a buddy of mine and I used to use the term “flammable friend.” A flammable friend was someone who would take whatever weird or spontaneous or destructive idea you had and run with it without hesitation. A decade later, it would be easy to look back on that idea negatively — especially because I’m not especially close to many of the people we tagged as flammable friends back then — but I can’t. I’ve always been cautious to a fault, and if the enthusiasm and recklessness of other people hadn’t rubbed off on me during those years, I think I’d have many more regrets than I do.
It was jarring to hear this metaphor articulated so similarly by a stranger — spooky almost — but I love what Cyrus and the Flaming Lips have done here. I like how the song unfolds gradually, with atmospheric elements that disappear and reappear the same way volatile friendships do. And I love the “I see a light coming towards me/Moving slowly but coming quickly at the same time/I think it represents what’s going on in my mind” passage — it bridges the sober/spacey profundity gap with such grace.
More than anything else, I’m grateful for this song for the same reason I was and am grateful for flammable friends: They make me reconsider my anxious nature, and not just in the “Maybe don’t worry so much” way. “Lighter” makes me think about risk tourism, and how many risks I pawned off on braver people over the years. About how being overly cautious opens the door to a type of selfishness that can erode relationships over time.
I’m sure some people will dismiss Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz as indulgent and non-serious, but it’s given me serious things to think about, and I’m glad Cyrus and the Flaming Lips shared it with us.