Miley Cyrus is MTV’s ‘Best Artist of 2013’ — But What Does That Mean?

The meaning of "best" is a maybe more complicated than we thought

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Frazer Harrison / AMA2013 / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Miley Cyrus during the 2013 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Nov. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles

Starting off with a definition might be considered trite, but sometimes the dictionary must be called upon. Case in point: the word best. Take at look a Merriam-Webster’s write-up of the word:

: better than all others in quality or value

: most skillful, talented, or successful

: most appropriate, useful, or helpful

This morning, MTV anointed Miley Cyrus with the title “best artist of 2013″ and, whether or not one agrees with the network’s assessment, it’s worth a look at the reasoning behind the honor. In a press release, MTV noted that Cyrus “dominated both the charts and headlines this year with the release of the critically acclaimed #1 album, Bangerz, two #1 worldwide smash singles, “We Can’t Stop,” and “Wrecking Ball,” two jaw dropping performances during the 2013 “MTV Video Music Awards” and “MTV EMA”, an original MTV documentary “Miley: The Movement,” as well as a memorable turn as a host and performer on Saturday Night Live” and that the “criteria for the editorial lists included album and single sales, touring, airplay, social media, Internet and overall impact.”

The one thing that’s missing from that list of criteria is any discussion of the quality of the art that comes from the artist in question. This is not to say that Miley Cyrus’ work this year was or wasn’t the best music of the year, or that she was or wasn’t the musical artist to produce the best material — merely that MTV’s definition of the word “best” is, in a substantial way, different from most people’s.

Not that MTV’s definition — “best” meaning “most profitable/most listened to/most talked about” — is wrong.

After all, the network’s ranking is of the best artists, not the best songs or albums. And, as Miley Cyrus herself has demonstrated, there’s a lot more to being a musical artist than making music. The deeper meaning of MTV’s decision-making, if there is one, is about the evolving definition of “artist,” not of “best.” (“Of” and “2013″ are O.K. too.) For better or worse, in the age of the personal brand, great songs, albums, performances and stage presence — or any of the other markers of traditional music greatness — aren’t enough. And if being an artist is a matter of controlling one’s image, driving conversation and garnering fan interest, it’s hard to argue that anyone in 2013 was more “skillful, talented, or successful” than Cyrus.

(MORETop 10 Miley Cyrus Moments of 2013)

7 comments
Markteres
Markteres

I don't really mind her act, even though smart (but fashionable) kids I know hate it. The music is really bad though. I've always liked pop music, but the good, quality pop music, not this over-engineered, sugar-coated trash. Europeans traditionally were good at producing really good pop, but regretfully, even in Europe all you hear on the radio are the same primitive modern American-style tunes and arrangements. Not only that, Miley Cyrus is still a child. She has a body of a child and a face of a child. I am in general a horny old man, but I can't watch her naked or half-naked, because every time I do, I feel like a pervert :) And I don't see her turning into another Madonna as she gets older. Madonna's act back in the days was also controversial of course, but she always had a really good taste. Miley Cyrus doesn't strike me so far as someone similar. So, I agree, "the best" doesn't mean "any good" when you hear it from MTV.

mapzbermudez
mapzbermudez

Thay only did that, because she increases the reatings of the fail VMAS and then the EMAS. Nothing less. MTV gives a crap about Music or "art", they just want the MONEY and Miley is really good on making it

fatalreview
fatalreview

it means that MTV stands for Moron TV and they are total sell outs-like Willie said in '81 MTV will be the death of real music-and 32 years later he is proven right-the Smelly Circus is a twitter twattt porn skankk in trainingnot a musician or "artist" like every other supposedly "cool and edgey" institution that has promoted her she will be the nail in their coffins-MTV, Rolling Stone, SNL, the fashion mags-they all just look stupid and lame for backing this total POS

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

What does MTV have to do with music, it is the all teen mom network now.