Miley Cyrus Strips Down (In More Ways Than One) With ‘Wrecking Ball’ Video

Miley's new "Wrecking Ball" video is scandalous, but also refreshingly straightforward.

In Miley Cyrus‘s new “Wrecking Ball” video, she suggestively licks a sledgehammer and writhes nude atop a wrecking ball … two scenes that, in any other context, certainly would rank right up there on the scandalous scale.

Then again, this is Miley, and fresh off her twerk-tastic VMA performance, she’s seemingly lost the ability to shock us with her antics. So, in a bizarre twist, it’s somewhat fitting the most jaw-dropping moment of her new video is also the most straightforward: the opening scene when a fresh-faced Cyrus stares directly into the camera, a single tear tracing its way down her face, and just sings.

It’s an image that calls to mind Sinead O’Connor’s iconic “Nothing Compares 2 U” video, and it’s starting in its simplicity. For all that’s been made of Miley’s VMA moment — and her unrepentant attitude in the aftermath — people sometimes forget that she is still; a) just 20 years old (though perhaps that’s the point), and b) capable of genuine emotions.

Here, both of those things are readily apparent, and stripped of everything salacious, we are left with the reminder that Miley is actually a very capable performer, the kind of singer skilled enought to tackle emotive songs like Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” or “The Climb.”

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Of course, most folks will miss that point, and instead focus on the scenes where she strides around in her underwear, tongues tools and takes a naked ride on a wrecking ball. That’s to be expected, given the sheer amount of media attention her actions have garnered over the past few weeks, and, in part, it’s Miley’s own fault. But give credit to both her and director Terry Richardson for toning down the salacious scenes (if only for an instant), and allowing the softer, more genuine sides to shine through. In a clip loaded with eye-catching images — and, truthfully, there are plenty — the close-up of Cyrus’s face is the one that sticks with me. It’s a refreshing change of pace, one that might silence her detractors … or at least serve notice that she’s still capable of wowing us with her voice, rather than her twerking abilities.