In a perfectly orchestrated act of teenage defiance, the former Disney star of the hit show Hannah Montana emerged at the VMA awards from a life size bear. But what emerged was not the sweet and innocent Hannah but rather the raunchy and outlandish new twerk queen: Miley Cyrus. She stripped off her bear-emblazoned leotard to get close and personal with Robin Thicke for a performance of "Blurred Lines." What followed was a display of seemingly uncoordinated dance moves interspersed with suggestive stroking around Thicke's gential area and a lot of Cyrus sticking her tongue out while touching herself at random times.
Although many argue that her performance was crude, crass, even tasteless to some, Cyrus deserves an award for being a masterful and savvy self-marketer. Love her or hate her she managed to do what no other artists achieved from the VMA's. She managed to gain a priceless amount of free publicity including the front of CNN's website and countless other networks and publications, surpassing even real news like stories about Syria and Iran.
In the age of high-speed internet and social media everyone is fighting harder for relevance. Our attention spans are shorter and whoever makes the bigger bang invariably grabs our attention. But today's water cooler is tomorrow's abandoned desert. We can't all matter and it doesn't last long. Relevance is by definition a limited resource. If we can't hear you we can't see you and if we can't see you, then you don't exist.
You lose relevance when people don't take you seriously anymore. It unfortunately happens often to old people. It is a sign of losing power. If a 30-year-old man screams at you, then you will be more likely to take offense and get defensive than if it were a 90 year old. Perhaps seeking relevance is an evolutionary trait. But even if it is the same content, we react to stimuli from the standpoint of relevance first. We have to. There is simply too much data out there.
I'm not a fan of Cyrus by any means but I do love to watch shameless displays of shock and awe publicity. So when the opportunity presents itself, why not exploit it? That is exactly what Cyrus did. If it will pay off on the end remains to be seen for her. However, as long as they are talking about you Miley, you have managed to masterfully grab a piece of that fleeting moment known as relevance. This, in and of itself is a very grown up act and if perfected over time seems to bolster careers and build superstars.