Hannah Montana/Miley CyrusJobing.com Arena, Phoenix, Tuesday, Jan. 22
You could name hundreds of songs in the pop realm--including works from early Motown and by the Beatles--that are singable on second listen. That same sing-ability is at the heart of the hymns and folk songs that generations have kept alive to convey a moral; the same can be said for union songs, helping to muster a movement.
Moral purpose may be heavy freight for a 15-year-old pop star, but riding the leviathan Disney engine, Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana, if you haven't recently been within screeching distance of a "tween") is conscripting an entire nation of girls to unassailable self-confidence, singing catchy Disney songs pitched to the purpose. The fact that her fans already are a force to contend with is evidenced by some parents' willingness to fork over thousands of dollars to see the earlier, first run of this Best of Both Worlds tour. One can only hope their empowerment holds up against the hard knocks of adulthood.
But what are the chances?
The Disney folks stumbled a little, getting outed last week for using a body double to buy time for one of Cyrus/Montana's 6 1/2 costume changes. (It's a 75-minute show.) Sitting 15 feet from the stage in a standing-room-only crowd, my eagle eye decided they'd jettisoned the imposter, but the exposé ran for days on no less of an outlet than CNN.com. How long will her fans' innocence hold out? Not a second longer than her own, I'm guessing.
Meanwhile, there's time for the moral to take root: Girls have fun together, include and support each other, find resources within themselves to solve problems, and accept their imperfections. Becoming a little sexy is part of growing up; boys are optional.
Like her songs, Cyrus/Montana's show is a joyful, rousing, spectacular celebration of all that, but with exploding fireworks, flurries of multi-hued streamers and nonstop action every which way. Her songs' exaltation of individuality is carried out in the dancers' costumes and the unique "business" that each brings to the routines.
Montana's songs--Disney-designed for the fickle fancies of young girls--may sound dated in 10 minutes, but Cyrus could be in it for the long haul. Her encore featured a tender song she wrote with her dad, Billy Ray.
And rumor has it that former child star Dolly Parton has befriended her. Cyrus could hardly find a better guide to life beyond innocence.