Miley Cyrus has been thinking about her Bangerz-era bad girl image a lot lately. In a recent statement on Twitter defending herself from tabloid gossip that she had cheated on soon-to-be-former husband Liam Hemsworth, Cyrus referenced her wild youth and how her “biggest song to date is about dancing on molly and snorting lines in the bathroom.” Indeed, her latest single “Slide Away” is all about how she’s done with “whiskey and pills,” with the lyric “Move on, we’re not 17, I’m not who I used to be,” getting outized attention.
So perhaps it’s not a surprise that the just released video “Slide Away” is a direct sequel, if not a dark reimagining of her video for “We Can’t Stop,” that aforementioned song about “dancing on molly and snorting lines in the bathroom.”
Miley once again finds herself at a raucous party at a home with a pool somewhere in the hills of Los Angeles, except this time around there’s not only a lot less product placement for lip balms and wireless speakers, but also a whole lot less youthful glee in Cyrus’s face. She’s completely over it and moves through the party not like the center of attention as she did in “We Can’t Stop,” but rather like some sort of ghost trapped in hell of her own making.
Here, all the references “Slide Away” makes to “We Can’t Stop.”
The Woman in the Red Heels and Falling Asleep With Strangers
The video opens with a woman in red tights and heels asleep after a hard night of partying on top of some man. If you watch closely, the red heeled figure makes numerous appearances throughout the party in the background, though we never get a clear look at her face. Perhaps she represents some form of past Miley? The outfit does resemble one Miley wore during the Bangerz era in an advertisement for Golden Lady Tights, and towards the end of “We Can’t Stop” Miley herself does curl up next to an already asleep stranger on a couch. Pay attention, and you’ll also notice ol’ Red Tights passed out on a couch too. At one point, it seems like it’s that figure who also appears to do a line off of a friend’s leg.
Last Night’s Party Destruction and Teddy Bears
Next we move on to shots of bottles and all sorts of ruined and damaged novelty items floating in a pool. While none of these items were directly repeated from “We Can’t Stop,” that video did find Miley and her friends wrecking a lot of childish toys like piñatas. Interestingly, there were no shots of alcohol in the 2013 video, but that was more than heavily implied.
Teddy bear imagery also played heavily into the promotion of “We Can’t Stop” first with giant backpacks Miley wear with dancers in the video and more notably with her infamous VMAs performance of the song. Look closely and you’ll notice all sorts of bear imagery in the background of “Slide Away” as well.
The Swimming Pool (and Perhaps a Nod to …John Cheever?)
In John Cheever’s 1964 surrealist short story “The Swimmer,” he imagines an aging, oft-drunken party boy at an alcohol-fueled pool party with close friends who on a whim decides to swim back home using the backyard swimming pools of his neighbors as an interconnected river (that’s the surrealist bit). The character, Neddy, first imagines his epic swim as a way to extend the good times, picturing himself being greeted by cheering friends along the way, and named his path after his wife Lucinda, assuming she’ll be there for him at the end. Of course, things take a dark turn, and Neddy soon find himself turned away by former friends, his memory wrecked by alcohol, and his marriage in crumbles by the end. It’s an allegory for alcoholism and the consequences the type of a non-stop party lifestyle fueled by relative privilege. Considering it’s also one of the most famous American short stories of the 20th century, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Cyrus took some inspiration from it.
The first images of Miley in a pool in “We Can’t Stop” and “Slide Away” are quite similar. She’s floating in a pool, eye’s closed, and arms spread. Though, in “Stop” she’s captured by the camera upside down, while in “Slide Away” she’s right side up (it’s also the first shot of Miley we see at all in “Slide Away”). And while we soon find that in “We Can’t Stop” Miley isn’t alone in the pool, indeed she’s the center of a wild pool party, in “Slide Away” she’s only swimming with the wreckage of a party.
In “We Can’t Stop” she vamps playfully by the ledge of the pool, but in “We Can’t Stop” she recreates the scene, except this time looking utterly defeated.
The video flashes back to the night before, as Cyrus relives the party, but instead of leading the antics like she did in “We Can’t Stop,” she looks completely disconnected from everyone else in “Slide Away.”
The Liam of It All
Of course, the video comes in the midst of Cyrus’s divorce proceedings from Liam Hemsworth, and it’s notable that “We Can’t Stop” was filmed during Cyrus’s and Hemsworth’s first engagement (they’d eventually breakup in 2014, only to reunited in 2016). Recent tabloid coverage of the separation has amounted to a war in which “anonymous sources” place blame on the party lifestyle of each spouse. Cyrus, of course, has maintained that she’s grown up in defense of herself, but neither side has publicly accused the other of anything.
It’s hard to take the video out of the context of the divorce, especially considering these a shot of a ten of hearts card underwater with a whole punched through the middle of it. Cyrus and Hemsworth first began dating in 2009, ten years ago.