Miley Cyrus is turning 21 on Saturday, and to celebrate, MTV is dedicating a day of programming to pop’s most outrageous superstar … beginning with the premiere of a brand-new special, “21 Candles: Miley’s MTV Moments” at 12 p.m. ET/PT.
We’re also bringing back our documentary, “Miley: The Movement Deluxe Edition,” featuring all-new commentary from the birthday girl herself, and she’ll introduce a pair of MTV shows she hand-picked: “Awkward” and “Snooki and JWOWW.” Throughout the day, Smilers who tweet birthday wishes using the hashtag #HappyBirthdayMiley or post Instagram video messages will also have the chance to appear on MTV throughout Miley’s on-air birthday bash.
What can we say? It’s a big day … But why wait until Saturday to get the party started? We’re beginning our celebration of Miley’s 21st a day early, with this list of the 21 things that have made her, well, her. Have a look, then get ready for an epic birthday celebration this weekend.
1. “Achy Breaky Heart” This, of course, is her dad Billy Ray’s signature hit. Miley’s mom, Tish, makes an appearance in the “Achy Breaky” video — and in December 1992, they’d marry, meaning that, without this song, Miley probably wouldn’t even exist.
2. Dolly Parton The country music legend and actress is Miley’s godmother (she’d also make several cameos on “Hannah Montana” as “Aunt Dolly”), and we’d like to think she’s learned a thing or two about being a total badass from her.
3. Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday Miley’s already gone on record with her love of marijuana — calling it “the best drug on earth” in Rolling Stone — and music doesn’t get more, ahem, herbal than Cypress Hill’s 1993 classic LP. From the stony sentiments of opening track “I Wanna Get High” to tracks like “Legalize It,” “Hits From The Bong” and, of course, “Insane in the Brain,” Black Sunday may very well be the marijuana album to end all marijuana albums.
4. New Orleans Bounce Music In 2013, twerking wobbled its way into the mainstream, but its roots actually stretch back to New Orleans’ super-sexualized Bounce scene of the 1990s. Songs like DJ Jubilee’s “Do The Jubilee All” and Cheeky Blakk’s “Twerk Something!” featured twerk-friendly call-and-response chants and, within a few years, the craze had spread to Atlanta, where the Ying Yang Twins took it nationwide with their single “Whistle While You Twurk.”
5. Lil Kim’s 1999 VMA Outfit Miley’s certainly not shy when it comes to showing a little skin, but she’s still got a long way to go if she wants to match the sheer WTF-ery of Lil Kim’s boobtastic 1999 VMA outfit. But don’t think she’s not trying: Miley mimicked Kim’s look for Halloween this year.
6. Britney Spears The first pop album Miley ever bought was Britney’s Baby One More Time, and as an 8-year-old, she watched Spears’ “Slave 4 U” video and decided right then and there that she wanted to push the boundaries. No wonder, when Miley got Britney to record a verse for her Bangerz album, she proclaimed “8-year-old me would be pissing her pants right now.”
7. “Lizzie McGuire” One of the earliest Disney Channel ’tween shows, it basically established the blueprint for Miley’s “Hannah Montana” success a few years later: Namely, take a young actress (in this case, Hilary Duff), and use her sitcom as a way turn her into a brand. “McGuire” would inspire a movie and more merchandise than we could possibly remember, and Duff would establish herself as a certified pop star thanks to four albums, all of which were released through Disney-owned Hollywood Records.
8. “Doc” A family friendly drama that aired on the now-defunct PAX network, it starred Billy Ray Cyrus as a Montana doctor who takes a job in an NYC medical clinic. As if that wasn’t improbable enough, an incredibly young Miley made her “acting” debut on the pilot episode, and would make a handful of other appearances on subsequent seasons.
9. The iPod When it was first introduced in 2001, most scoffed; but in the decade-plus since then, Apple’s revolutionary media player has fundamentally changed the way we listen to music. Arbitrary restrictions like genres have been replaced with all-encompassing playlists, and singles have become the currency of our time. All you need to do is take one listen to Bangerz to realize that Miley’s certainly a product of the iPod generation.
10. Tish Cyrus Miley’s mom/co-manager, she’s helped guide her daughter through the obstacle course of fame, aligning her with like-minded management groups and providing advice. More importantly, though, she’s remained a constant presence at Miley’s side through the highs and lows of her career.
11. “Hannah Montana” Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
12. Disneymania 4 2005 album that features songs performed by Disney’s stable of stars, it also marks Miley’s recording debut, as she contributes a version of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South.” Also, according to Wikipedia, the album “is considered to be the second-best of the series to date.” Good to know!
13. Twitter It launched in 2006, though in recent years, no one’s used the microblogging site more masterfully than Miley, who broadcasts her meltdowns, insecurities, triumphs and tribulations to more than 15.5 million followers. Twitter essentially took the place of YouTube, which Miley used to frequent with friend Mandy Jiroux.
14. The June 2008 issue of “Vanity Fair” Though it seems positively quaint by today’s standards, the controversy that erupted over Miley’s 2008 VF spread was very real indeed. For those in need of a refresher, Cyrus posed for famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, and one picture in particular — of her wearing only a bedsheet — caused such an uproar that Miley was forced to issue an apology. In hindsight, this probably marks the beginning of her bid for true artistic independence.
15. Jay Z Miley mentioned that one of his songs saved her life in her 2009 hit “Party in the U.S.A.” … though soon after, she’d admit “I’ve never heard a Jay Z song.” We’re willing to bet that’s changed in the time since and, as an added bonus, Hov even shouted her out on his eerily prescient 2013 song “Somewhere in America.”
16. “Can’t Be Tamed” The title track off her 2010 album, it’s basically the dividing line between Cyrus’ “Hannah Montana” past and her twerk-tastic present. In the video, she vamps inside a birdcage and showcases both a newfound swagger and her newly sexualized self. “It’s not a new Miley; it’s just a new part of me,” she told Ryan Seacrest about the video. We’d beg to differ.
17. “The Last Song” 2010 film based on the Nicholas Sparks novel, it stars Cyrus as a rebellious teen who falls in love with a jock played by Liam Hemsworth. It’s also where Cyrus and Hemsworth began their on-again, off-again relationship, which included their June 2012 engagement. Sadly, there was no Hollywood ending for the couple, and in September 2013, they officially announced they’d split .
18. Mike WiLL As the executive producer of Miley’s Bangerz album, he helped reinvent her sound and assuaged her fears when she had doubts about first single “We Can’t Stop.” Mike WiLL also has a lengthy list of hits to his credit, including G.O.O.D. Music’s “Mercy,” Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” and Juicy J’s strip-tastic “Bandz a Make Her Dance.”
19. Terry Richardson Slightly creepy fashion photog who’s created controversy throughout his career, he’s responsible for some of the most scandalous Miley images to date (which is saying something) and directed her instantly iconic “Wrecking Ball” video , helping to shape the very aesthetic of her dramatic reinvention.
20. Diane Martel A veteran video director, she helped turn Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” clip into a sensation … and as if that wasn’t enough, she also served as the “creative director” for her infamous VMA performance. Of course, the backlash over Miley’s onstage antics mystified Martel, who told MTV News “I am shocked by their shock. I think there is other news we should be focusing on … Syria? Egypt?” Good point.
21.Her 2013 VMA Performance Backlash aside, Miley’s tongue-and-twerk filled VMA epic has become the defining performance of her career, the moment she brought her new look (and attitude) to the masses. Whether you agree with everything she did on stage or not, you can’t deny the impact her actions had: Three months after the VMAs, we’re still talking about it.