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Ashley O is on a roll.
In “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” one of three new stories in Black Mirror‘s fifth season (which released June 5), Cyrus stars as a pop star named Ashley O. The episode tackled exploitation in the entertainment industry when Ashley O, despite her desires to break out and perform less commercialized fare, was marketed as a bubblegum singer and performer by her controlling and greedy aunt (Susan Parfour), who doubled as her manager.
“The story is essentially the spirit of Miley and her commentary about the music industry and laughing at its absurdity,” Black Mirror executive producer Annabel Jones told The Hollywood Reporter about “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too.” Creator Charlie Brooker, who wrote the episode, and Jones spoke to THR about how Cyrus related to the tale and offered input. “There were aspects and things she was saying about live performance and the general sense of the responsibility you have to fans. The general sense of how you move on as a performer if you want to express yourself differently than the box people have put you in. I think all of that stuff resonated with her,” Brooker said in the interview about season five.
Suffice to say — as any Black Mirror viewer could expect — a tragic twist comes halfway through the episode (you can read about it here). But before the dire development, Ashley O launches an AI doll that mimics the singer called the “Ashley Too.” A fan (Angourie Rice) and her sister (Madison Davenport) become owners of the smart device and a pop-romp develops from there.
Ashley O’s biggest hit is “On a Roll,” which is played throughout the episode in both audio and music video form. Brooker said he pop-ified Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” in order to create the Ashley O hit. (Cyrus also does a true cover of the song at the end of the episode.) “He wanted to see the script and I got to rewrite his lyrics in a chirpy way. He was very happy,” Brooker said of getting Trent Reznor’s permission.
Now, Netflix has released the music video for the “award-winning pop sensation” Ashley O’s single, “On a Roll.” Netflix sent out a press release Thursday morning to announce a one-hour countdown before debuting the music video that played in the episode (watch below). The never-before-seen end of the video, however, gets the Black Mirror treatment, as the perfect image of Ashley O begins to shatter.
Reflecting on the song, Ashley O said in a statement sent out in Thursday’s cheeky release: “It’s really important for people to feel like they’re in control of their own destiny, and that means having the confidence to be who you want to be.”
In the song and through her public persona, Ashley O empowers her fans to believe in themselves and to work hard to achieve their goals — and the lyrics to “On a Roll” match up. Ashley O’s manager and aunt Catherine Ortiz, according to the release, said the song is inspired by Ashley’s own experiences and perseverance through her career. “The lyrics to ‘On a Roll’ are so true. Ashley has worked very hard, and now she’s going to get what she deserves,” said Ortiz, evoking the lyrics (in a fitting nod to viewers who have seen the episode).
The release went on to say that Ashley O’s writing process sets her apart from other artists and performers in the industry. Ashley O, who says a lot of her music comes to her in her dreams, added, “They’re kind of there in my mind while I’m sleeping, so when I wake up I have to really quickly write it down because I don’t want it to just disappear.”
And the next part of the release certainly reads like it was written by Ashley O’s aunt herself:
“Ashley O began her career at a young age singing and performing. Upon the untimely death of her parents, her aunt became her primary caretaker. As Ashley O continued her career, Ortiz would later become a source of confidence for her star niece, and eventually signed on as her manager. The video debut comes hot off the heels of another buzzworthy Ashley O project: Ashley Too, the all-new, intelligent companion doll based on Ashley O’s actual personality.”
The fifth season of Black Mirror is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch an ad for the Ashley Too doll to get a sense of the “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” episode below.
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