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Clad in a denim bikini under an oversized, spangled and shredded Canadian tuxedo, the 21-year-old pop star thrashed and line-danced — and, yes, twerked — all over the hay bale- and wagon wheel-strewn stage, keeping the Sunset Gower Studios audience (among them: Guillermo Diaz and Darby Stanchfield of ABC’s Scandal, which also tapes at the lot) entertained during breaks for technical adjustments.
“It’s so weird not having this be a real show,” she said. “I wanted it to be in a club, but they probably knew I wouldn’t be onstage — singing my songs, anyway.”
The singer stuck to tracks from Bangerz for her own songs, but she also paid homage to “Aunt Dolly [Parton]” with an authentically twanged rendition of “Jolene,” as well as a rocking, powerful cover of Arctic Monkeys’ “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” and a mashup of her summer hit “We Can’t Stop” with Madonna‘s “Don’t Tell Me” — featuring the Queen of Pop herself.
Like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera before her, Cyrus’ collaboration with Madonna brought out her sapphic instincts, grinding against the 55-year-old pop icon and, at one point, spanking her. “That was pretty f—ing cool, you guys,” Cyrus said afterward, referencing her oft-parodied catchphrase from her earlier days. “It sounds super lame, but as a pop star it’s pretty cool to sing with Madonna.”
The duo actually ran through their duet twice because Cyrus had forgotten to wear the matching cowboy hat she was given by Madonna. Madge took the redo in stride: “Now we’re gonna have to be even nastier.” (They were.)
Throughout her Unplugged session, Cyrus (who called Madonna’s 2009 hit “the O.G. hoedown throwdown”) repeatedly referenced her roots. “I’m trying to bring Nashville here and get everyone in the country spirit tonight,” she said, opening with a three-song set in full country drag: a blonde bob wig and a skintight gingham jumpsuit. She leapt onstage accompanied by two backup dancers — including a little person in a red gingham gimp suit — and two men in a horse costume. It was perhaps a perfect encapsulation of present-day Miley: a country foundation distorted through the funhouse mirror of pop outrageousness, with a good amount of tongue in cheek.
When one fan playfully called out to the singer to “Take it off!” between songs, Cyrus replied, “I already tried that once on MTV. It didn’t go too well.”
Then she reconsidered: “Or actually, it went really well. It all depends on how you look at life: half-clothed, or half-naked.”
Miley Cyrus: Unplugged airs on MTV tonight at 9 p.m. Watch her preshow interview with MTV News below:
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