Miley Cyrus Cries, Comforts Confused Fans (and John Mayer) With 'SNL' Return

Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus
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Leave it to Miley Cyrus to host a Saturday Night Live season premiere, cry-sing her way through a song while wearing a pile of fake dreads double her body weight and upstage a presidential candidate in a little over an hour – and potentially win back some very confused fans in the process.

For its 41st season premiere, SNL tapped Cyrus for double-duty, offering her both the mic as host and musical guest during one of the most confusing stretches of her career to date. The episode couldn’t have come at a better time. Cyrus’s tremendously off-putting stint hosting the 2015 VMAs isn’t too far back in the rearview. Her latest album, the Flaming Lips-assisted Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, was released for free shortly following the conclusion of that disastrous foray into live broadcasting. Like she did in 2013 following her controversial, salacious twerkathon of a VMAs performance, Cyrus came to SNL armed with two of her most dependable assets – her cartoonish comedic chops and her voice – and delivered both in spades, slowing the rolling tide of vitriol with her stunning takes on “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” in between genuinely enjoyable sketches. 

The biggest difference between 2013 Miley and 2015 Miley is, frankly, power. In 2013, Cyrus had her biggest album to date to promote, Bangerz, and a post-VMAs reputation to repair while doing so. In 2015, the Bangerz chapter has finally come to a close after a wildly successful (and – surprise! – controversial) world tour, she’s proven that she couldn’t care less about adhering to any sort of framework for how a pop star in her early twenties should and shouldn’t go about her business, and she’s settling into her own tastes and preferences as both a music maker and music fan. Her lovely series of backyard sessions had her collaborating with pop-punk dynamos like Laura Jane Grace and Top 40 trouncers like Ariana Grande alike, and her friendship with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips has boiled over beyond sharing a bong in a studio as the band collaborated with her in a more official capacity as Her Dead Petz on her fifth studio album. Bangerz was enough to solidify Cyrus’s pop star status, and it gave her the room to fully dive into whatever she wanted to do next instead of whatever she should do next to keep the momentum going. Apparently, what she wanted to do was get high as fuck, get weird and brash with Coyne, the self-appointed purveyor of weird and brash, and fixate on the dearly departed animal friends that have passed away over the course of the past two years. If Gaga can deviate from the artRAVE and spend most of the year singing jazz standards with Tony Bennett, Cyrus can shirk her pop coil for some light-headed psychedelic experimentation with the Flaming Lips. She has the power to make whatever kind of record she wants to at this point, and that’s why she can sneak the Flaming Lips into Studio 8H in puppy onesies, sing her heart out, shed some tears and get away with it. She's gone to SNL for redemption and reinvention. She just happened to do it twice.

While 2015 Miley has a lot more explaining to do for her awards show shenanigans (and a lot less explaining to do regarding her penchant for pot — we get it, gal, you like weed!), she doesn’t have to do a damn thing differently as far as her music is concerned, and her SNL performances drove that point home. “Karen Don’t Be Sad” was sweet, syrupy and slow, but Cyrus rarely faltered, lighting up behind the mic, locking eyes with the audience, the camera’s lens and Coyne, and fluctuating seamlessly from the first feathery verses to an unshakeable belt. "The Twinkle Song" saw Cyrus emotionally unravel as she plodded her way through her tribute to her dead pets, complete with banshee screams and a sudden smash on the piano keys at the end of it, but again, she earned her airtime with a relatively enjoyable treatment of that strange, soft lullaby. This new Cyrus with the over-the-top costume closet, the band of weathered weirdos and the intoxicated sensibilities that have snuck her way into her songwriting isn't for everyone, but she's certainly not bad when she sticks to being a performer instead of a personality. 

As for the internet, two famous Johns spoke out in support of Cyrus's new material and the rest of the world took turns trying to pinpoint what her faux-locks remind them of. Behold, the snarky — and sometimes adorable — power of Twitter.

Some found the audio-visual overstimulation to be a bit overwhelming.

Others — namely John Mayer — did not. After SNL, Mayer took to Twitter to voice his approval of Dead Petz and praised Cyrus for her creative progress.

John Stamos was into it as well.

Marc Maron didn't — or at least he seemed a little more WTF about the Cyrus/Coyne collaboration.

WE TOTALLY HEAR IT.

Miley's hair and wardrobe were the real conversation topic on social media following SNL, though, and the peanut gallery wasn't super into the look she reprised from the VMAs:


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