With 'Hannah Montana' looming in the rearview mirror, is it time for Miley to move on?

by Jon Bream

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

30 October 2009


Look at the tags on those Miley Cyrus dolls. Read the fine print on her CDs. Check the label on those Miley jeans you bought at Wal-Mart.

There is a limited warranty on teenage stardom. Miley has been in the spotlight for 3 1/2 years. Her reign as the Queen of Tween may soon expire. With the Disney darling set to turn 17 on Nov. 23, it’s time to think about how Miley can reposition herself for the next phase of her career.

She’s well aware of the situation. When she released her new EP “The Times of Our Lives” in August, she told the Associated Press that this is a “transitioning album.” In that same interview, she talked about her image-changing star turn in a 2010 dramatic film titled “The Last Song”: “I love doing ‘Hannah Montana,’ but I want to continue doing things that are a little bit more darker roles.” Even though Disney holds an option for one more season of “Hannah Montana,” Miley knows the time for moving on is fast approaching.

What should she do? Go country? Try Broadway? Or just change her hairdo? And then the big question: Will her fans grow with her?

We came up with a baker’s dozen suggestions, based on what other bubblegum pop stars have done when it was time to move on.

Then we discussed them with Philip Rothschild, director of the entertainment management program at Missouri State University, and some of his current and former students.

1. Switch genres. This spring’s “Hannah Montana: The Movie” seemed to be a step toward country music, the field in which her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, made his name. Marie Osmond made country work for her. Hanson segued into adult pop and kept a sizable portion of their fan base.

Rothschild thinks transitioning to a new genre would be Miley’s wisest strategy. “From pop to country would seem most suitable,” he said. “Her teenybopper fans may come along with her as they migrate toward college or the work force.”

2. Work with a new producer. Want instant cred in the rock world, go to Rick Rubin, who built his resume with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and Dixie Chicks, to name a few. If Miley decides country should be her path, she could enlist Mark Bright (Carrie Underwood), Paul Worley (Lady Antebellum) or Brian Gallimore (Sugarland). Actually, Miley just recorded “We Belong to Music” with Timbaland for his all-star album; he did wonders for Justin Timberlake’s solo career.

3. Change your moniker. Smiley “Miley” is cute but sooo bopperish. Debbie Gibson reverted to Deborah Gibson when she wanted to grow up. Should Cyrus return to her given name, Destiny? Or use her middle name, Hope?

4. Change your hairdo. Remember when Timberlake launched his post-‘N Sync solo career? Gone were those boy-band curls in favor of a close-cropped ‘do. Jesse McCartney went from blond to brunet when he aimed for a more adult pop sound.

5. Form a band. It worked for Michelle Branch, who, after teen pop stardom, joined with Jessica Harp in the Wreckers and moved to country. Now she’s bounced back to pop with a clean slate.

Missouri State music-management grad Stephanie Szurek thinks a band and “all of the above” are necessary for the girl who wants to be formerly known as Hannah Montana.

“Miley needs a new genre, new name and a new look in order to really get respect from an older crowd — if that’s what the next phase is aiming toward,” Szurek said. “I think she’d do really well if she aimed more toward the alt-country crowd, and a band would go well with that, too.”

6. Take a major role on Broadway. That strategy helped keep the names of Donny Osmond, New Kids’ Joey McIntyre and Backstreet Boys’ Kevin Richardson in lights.

7. Play a role in a movie aimed at college-age plus audiences. New Kid Donnie Wahlberg vaulted to the silver screen in films with Mickey Rourke and Mel Gibson. Miley reportedly makes a cameo in the grownup movie “Sex and the City 2.”

8. Change your geographic focus. The Backstreet Boys have refused to abandon their Euro-pop sound, so they are now concentrating on Europe, not the States anymore.

9. Record a duet with Kid Rock. That will transform your image faster than cosmetic surgery.

10. Date an older guy. Hooking up with Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden hardened the good-goody image of Hilary Duff, who was eight years his junior. Miley is supposedly seeing Liam Hemsworth, an Aussie actor who is two years older than she is.

11. Do something racy. Remember how Christina Aguilera got “Dirrty” on her second album, “Stripped”? Or how Britney Spears danced suggestively with a snake on “I’m a Slave 4 U” on the MTV Awards? Oops, Miley already got racy in that Vanity Fair spread last year in which she was clothed in a mere bedsheet, she did a pole dance on the Teen Choice Awards in August, and the wardrobe on her current tour was described as “borderline salacious” in a recent review.

“Nothing with drugs or sex,” warns music-management senior Paul Koch. “Maybe a huge falling-out with her father.”

Or making out with Madonna on live TV.

12. Do charity work and put your career on the back burner. Tween superstardom always leads to too much product and too much exposure in too short a period.

So put the stardom to productive use, suggests Kory Wilcox, a Missouri State grad who is a musician and photographer: “Take a year off to work with a humanitarian cause exclusively. It is perhaps a more radical repositioning, but if her heart were in it, it would also be a chance to form sincere relationships with people who could really benefit from her gifts and her passion, rather than with those who prefer to consume it.”

13. Go to college. That move worked for such teen actresses as Brooke Shields, Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman. Wait, has Miley finished high school yet?

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