What We've Gained from Twitter: Knowing your Favorite Musician Can't Spell


Now she has to be Hannah and Miley at the same time, forever.
  • Now she has to be Hannah and Miley at the same time, forever.

Miley Cyrus is quitting Twitter, reportedly. She's not unfollowing herself over music -- her tweets were reportedly an affront to Liam Hemsworth, which is reportedly the name of a real person -- and the RFT Music demographic, so far as our ad guys can tell, is probably not very broken up about it. But musicians and Twitter have a weird relationship, and not always a good one.

See also: -The Ten Best Tweets From LouFest 2011 -Murphy Lee, STL Twitter Champ: His Twenty Best Tweets - Earl Sweatshirt Comes Home, Releases New Song, Gets 50,000 Twitter Followers

Musicians, at least theoretically, once allowed us access to their inner lives only in a very constrained way. We had rumors, and magazine articles, if they were famous enough, but mostly lyrics--lyrics I, as a good post-Nirvana earnest-rock-fan, would go full New Criticism on, hunting for ironies and theme and tone across albums until I was sure my favorite singers were poets, touched souls with access to a complex, universal empathy.

Rivers Cuomo's Twitter is actually a bad example--it's no sillier than Raditude, and it mostly just reveals that he's an intelligent, fortysomething musician concerned, in a 1:1:1 ratio, with having fun with his daughter, thinking about death, and writing pop songs.

It's just different now. Weezer fans, back in 2001, spent five years waiting for another few hundred words' worth of insight into his mental state, only to get the stupendously impersonal Green Album. Now they can just follow him on Twitter and learn that he's in Chicago and looking for a soccer game to join.

Which isn't to say that's a bad thing. The romantic image we have of artists can obscure that they're fundamentally humans writing about humans; if Bob Marley had Twitter we might not be stuck with two generations of dreadlocked white college students using posters with his face on them as vague monuments to smoking weed and hating your parents for having jobs.

Some musicians, like John Roderick of the Long Winters, seem born to tweet (which is a comfort, however minor, now that it's been six years since Putting the Days to Bed came out.) Lil B probably wouldn't even be famous without Twitter, where his idiosyncratic writing style and weirdly arcane speech tics can be turned instantly into memes.

Indie rockers and rappers all trade in aphorisms, anyway; they're at least better-prepared for social media than, say, actors. But there's something unnerving about seeing your idols do something they're not 99th-percentile geniuses at--divorced from the things he does best you're forced to learn that Kanye West is an indifferent user of punctuation who spends a lot of time--a lot of time--thinking about high-end, branded fashion that might merit a one-line boast in a song about something else.

Give him time and the benefit of his gift for rhythm and tone and mood, and Kanye West can think about our need to show off and debase ourselves for others and produce "All Falls Down." Give him a minute on his phone, between shows, to think about our need to show off and debase ourselves for others, and he can produce this--

And with real pop stars--with Miley Cyrus, or Justin Bieber, or Lady Gaga, or any of the other icons whose fans float hashtags onto the trending topics list by way of a daily burnt offering--there's something weirder still going on. Miley Cyrus has never been just a musician; she's always been, and always will be, more famous for being Miley Cyrus than for anything she actually does.

But on Twitter that's codified--her fame is dependent on her being Miley Cyrus for people, performing explicitly and indefinitely. Apparently the last time she tried to quit Twitter her fanbase took it even worse than noted Real Person Liam Hemsworth did the other day:

An anonymous fan threatened to kill, cook, and eat their pet cat named Fuzzy if Miley Cyrus did not return to Twitter by a given deadline. The campaign, though very strange and unsettling, caught momentum in the media with Miley herself even catching wind of it. While she was very aware of the campaign, she refused to return to the social networking site and since the deadline was not meant, the fan claimed to have gone through with the threat on the cat.

Mick Jagger could womanize and use on his own time, and rest assured that other people--fans and journalists at one remove, myth-makers--would do the grunt work of building him a lasting reputation.

Miley Cyrus has to be Miley Cyrus all the time, now, or else Fuzzy is going to get it.


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