Miley Cyrus Releases ‘Used to Be Young’ 10 Years After Twerking at the VMAs

“I have spent the last 18 months painting a sonic picture of my perspective to share with you," Cyrus wrote on Instagram

Miley Cyrus Releases ‘Used to Be Young’ 10 Years After Twerking at the VMAs
Screenshot:Miley Cyrus “I Used to Be Young” (Fair Use)

It feels like just yesterday that Hannah Montana emerged from her former Disney star cocoon and scandalized VMA audiences as Miley Cyrus—a grown 20-year-old woman clad in a nude two-piece, space buns in her hair, and Robin Thicke’s crotch grinding behind her. Tongue out, wrecking ball a-swingin’, this 2013 version of Miley would go on to define both her musical career and her public image (of course, in hindsight, the fact that Miley used Blackness to signal a new chapter was problematic, to say the least). But ten years after the fact, Miley would like us to know that while we say she “used to be wild,” she would like to clarify that she just “used to be young.”

Such is the title of Cyrus’ new single, “Used to Be Young,” which dropped Friday on the 10th anniversary of that infamous VMA performance that had boomer mothers clutching their pearls and outlets writing headlines like Miley Cyrus twerks, gets freaky with Robin Thicke” and “Miley Cyrus’ VMAs Performance: Offensive or Awesome?” The accompanying music video is a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Cyrus’ child-star era and subsequent tabloid debauchery, featuring melancholic shots of the “Flowers” singer in a vintage Mickey Mouse tee as she traverses the memories of “every one” of her “wasted” nights. And, like any sound 30-year-old cringing at the thought of their liquor-induced mistakes, she arrives at a tidy, if not overdue conclusion: “Open bars lead to broken hearts.”

“I know I used to be crazy/I know I used to be fun,” she sings in the chorus. “You say I used to be wild/I say I used to be young.”

On Tuesday, Cyrus shared an Instagram teasing the single, and noting that she began writing the song two years ago—around the time she also began working on her most recent album Endless Summer Vacation. “I have spent the last 18 months painting a sonic picture of my perspective to share with you. These lyrics were written…at a time I felt misunderstood,” she wrote. “Although my work is done, this song will continue to write itself everyday. The fact it remains unfinished is a part of its beauty.”

I certainly don’t think singing, “Sorry, I was young!” can explain away every incidence of ignorance on the larger Miley Cyrus As Pop Princess evolutionary timeline. But there’s something soothing about the recognition and acceptance of a bygone era. “This song is about honoring who we’ve been, loving who we are & celebrating who we will become,” Cyrus wrote on Friday. “I feel proud when reflecting on my past and joyful when thinking about the future.”

Cyrus doesn’t seem to be asking for public forgiveness or mass approval as much as she’s asking herself for compassion and understanding. And cheesy though it may be, the simplicity of a line like “I say I used to be young” feels like permission for all of us to look back at our missteps and falters, our letdowns and failures, and toss all of it into the wind. As a pre-teen, Hannah Montana might tell her future self, “Nobody’s perfect! I gotta work it! Again and again ‘til I get it right!”

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