In perhaps the most Black Mirror thing to ever happen, Miley Cyrus’s character from the latest season has jumped from the screen and into reality, giving us something we definitely didn’t expect: a new pop princess with real-life hit songs, a how-to dance video and live performances.
No artist in history can claim to have made their debut at Glastonbury Festival, until now (sort of).
The crowd watching Miley’s performance was treated to a surprise double-header when the fictional character became real and took to the stage, performing her bona fide hit track ‘On a Roll’.
We have a new icon on our hands in the form of Miley Cyrus’s alter ego Ashley O, fresh from the fifth season of Netflix’s dystopian sci-fi series Black Mirror in the episode ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’. Ashley O’s Glastonbury performance is the latest in a series of ways the character has entered the real world since the episode aired. Following the episode’s release online, ‘On a Roll’, credited to Ashley O, was released on Spotify, where it has garnered over 18 million streams, along with 11 million streams on YouTube. The track is also heading upwards in the UK and US singles chart.
Dressed as Ashley O and speaking to the crowd, Cyrus said
“I just want to let you know in many ways this show has changed my f****** life drastically.
“[It’s taken] A lot of hard work, a lot of dedication and a lot of sacrifice.
“Both of my parents, who are side stage right now, have taught me that that’s the only way anything is going to happen for you.”
It’s little wonder that the song is doing so well, when Nine Inch Nail’s frontman Trent Reznor was enlisted by the series’ show-runner Charlie Booker to re-write some of the famously dark lyrics from their track ‘Head Like a Hole’ to fit into an upbeat, chirpy pop context, ready for them to be turned back into their original form at the end of the episode.
It’s ironic that audiences are reacting so positively to Cyrus’s alter ego when, in the universe of the show, she is a pop star being forced to generate mindless, generic bubblegum pop against her will, while yearning to write and perform music that has a more emotional weight and meaning behind it. Another layer is added of course, when we remember that Cyrus rose to fame by starring in the Disney Channel series Hannah Montana, in which she portrayed a character living a double life on and off the stage.
The character has become particularly popular in the queer community, embodying the free, fantastical self-reclamation of LGBTQIA+ Pride month in the US. Ashley O costumes were a popular choice this year, and ‘On a Roll’ scored the ultimate honour of a lip-sync treatment by winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season ten, Aquaria.
In another ironic twist, Cyrus’s alter ego could even be set to eclipse her own recent release, “Mother’s Daughter”. Eerily, as the song gains popularity and momentum, many fans will first experience the track devoid of this context, and will just enjoy it for its mass-market pop appeal.
Created as a critique of the vacuous, superficial nature of modern-day pop music and culture, Ashley O seems destined to stake her claim on it, transforming the Netflix episode into a piece of ongoing consumeristic performance art. We would expect nothing less from a Black Mirror character.
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