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Miley Cyrus has spent a large part of 2023 looking back on her young adulthood, which played out in the public eye with more criticism than anyone would have expected. Earlier today, she released her reflective single “Used to be Young,” a record that reexamines those critiques through a more mature lens. During the ABC Special Endless Summer Vacation: Continued (Backyard Sessions), Cyrus looked back at one critical interaction in particular: her brief feud with Sinéad O’Connor in 2013.
“I had no idea about the fragile mental state that she was in, and I was also only 20 years old. So I could really only wrap my head around mental illness so much, and all that I saw was that another woman had told me that this idea was not my idea,” Cyrus explained, referring to O’Connor’s criticism of her infamous “Wrecking Ball” music video.
When the video was first released, two weeks after Cyrus’ now-infamous twerk-filled performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, O’Connor penned an open letter to the singer warning of exploitation in the music industry. Cyrus saw “Wrecking Ball” as a genuine and creative departure from the noise that had surrounded her career that year, even mentioning that O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” was an inspiration for the video.
“It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping,” O’Connor wrote in her letter. “It is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.”
O’Connor, who died earlier this summer at the age of 56, was flattered to have influenced the young artist but didn’t want that mistaken for her co-signing Cyrus’ decision “to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos.” In response, Cyrus hit below the belt, sharing a series of screenshots that captured O’Connor’s tweets posted at a low mental point.
“You have posted today tweets of mine which are two years old, which were posted by me when I was unwell and seeking help so as to make them look like they are recent,” O’Connor replied. “In doing so you mock myself and Amanda Bynes for having suffered with mental health issues and for having sought help. I mean really really… who advises you?”
In Endless Summer Vacation: Continued (Backyard Sessions), Cyrus looked back at her yearning to be the only person advising herself after spending so long being told what to do and how to behave. “I had been judged for so long for my own choices that I was just exhausted, and I was in this place where I finally was making my own choices and my own decisions, and to have that taken away from me deeply upset me,” she explained. “God bless Sinéad O’Connor for real, in all seriousness.”