Long before Miley was twerking everybody off, Billy Ray Cyrus was achy-breaking our hearts
Long before Miley's now-infamous VMA performance this past weekend, there was another Cyrus offending the delicate sensibilities of unsuspecting Americans everywhere with a seemingly harmless song. And therein lies the root of the problem, my friends. See, it wasn't harmless at all, for it essentially sowed the seeds for this current Cyrus crisis we find ourselves in -- and it could've all prevented.
Rewind to the waning days of the first Bush era, and you can see the roots of this whole thing -- and then you can wring your hands that everybody evidently just sat back and let it happen. The year was 1992, and Billy Ray, the elder Cyrus, was a young man with a mullet and a dream, swooning all the lady-folk with his nonsensical ramblings about his achy-breaky heart. (Seriously, how this song ever got him laid is beyond me, but clearly it did, because, well, here we are in the future, and much to our chagrin, the Princess of Twerk exists.)
The video for "Achy Breaky Heart" is one of those self-aggrandizing vehicles that imagines the artist more legendary than he is. Despite the fact that this song was Billy Ray's first hit, the video opens up inexplicably with him outside a venue with mobs of screaming Southern Belles fighting through police lines just to touch those glorious, shimmering locks. Holy incongruity. I mean, how did this happen? How could he be famous before he was famous? Were all those ladies Aqua Netting their teased 'dos for Billy Ray, like, way before he was cool?
Maybe. But now is not the time for logic. Now is the time for shimmying your sparkly cowgirl boots across the floor, because a budding legend is about to take the stage.
At first glance, you might think this isn't the official music video, but rather a live recording. And you'd be sort-of right, I guess. It's in a big concert hall, lots of screaming fans, and it has that kind of shaky-camera look. But hold on there, pardner, 'cause it doesn't take but about forty seconds for the synchronized line dancing to start. As much as I wish for the crowd to bust out choreographed moves at every concert I go to, I haven't seen it yet. Still, the story goes that it is indeed a live show. Sure. Okay. Maybe they all know the moves because they're just doing the electric slide. ANYWAY.
Besides being a testament to the power of the Cyrus clan to overcome even the worst songwriting with their irresistible charisma, the video is a veritable tribute to gnarly '90s fashion. Have you ever seen mom jeans paired with a be-sequined bra look sexy? You haven't? That's because it's impossible. But guess what? That didn't stop some of Billy Ray's fans from rocking that look, and twenty years later....wait for it...his own daughter.
So everyone's line dancing and having an awesome time despite their tragic fashion missteps. Billy Ray also looks like he's having the time of his life, culminating the video in what can only be described as "country breakdancing." Remember the first five times you watched his precious daughter gyrate with a foam finger and you were like, "Wait, was that dancing, or...?" That's kind of what the end of this video is like, but without the feeling of violation.
So what is actually happening with this song? Why did it take the nation by storm? Why were Southern children like myself required to line dance to "Achy Breaky Heart" in gym class? I've done a little research on the topic, and it's still a mystery, but here's what we know:
The song: Cyrus' signature tune had been floating around the country scene for a few years before he made it famous. Notably, the Oak Ridge Boys passed on the song a couple years before, apparently because the lead singer Duane Allen didn't like the sound of the key phrase, "Achy Breaky." (Who does, really?) Nobody much liked it the first few times around, but somehow when Cyrus got his talons into it, and we saw those tight jeans, the white sneakers, and the mullet, we were like, "YES. MORE OF THIS." It's an intoxicating combination to be sure.
The lyrics: Normally when a nubile young male singer comes on the scene and starts wooing the lady-folk with his smooth stylings, his songs are about doin' it, or being sensitive, or something like that.
Have you actually listened to these lyrics? In the first verse, Billy Ray gives his ex-lady carte blanche to set his clothes on fire and then make sick jokes about him with her friends. "But don't tell my heart," he says, "because it might blow up and kill this man." What kind of a pathetic loser is he? And does he have a bomb strapped to his chest? Because for real, I think Homeland Security takes those threats pretty seriously.
Billy Ray Cyrus' heart, probably.
So he spends the entire song begging this gal to tell different parts of his body different things, somehow avoiding his terrorist heart. It's exhausting. By the end of the song, he has invited his lady to set his clothes on fire and laugh about it, get her dog to bite him and her brother to punch him in the face. "No really!" He practically screams, "I want more degradation, please!!" Then he takes off for his farm in Arkansas like a sucker.
Beyond the nonsensical lyrics, the song also has some of the worst grammar south of the Mason-Dixon. Case in point: "Myself already knows I'm not okay." Ohhh lordy, Billy Ray. Sit up straight! Pay attention! You'll never get anywhere with syntax like that!
So guys, basically what we've learned here is that all of this is our fault. If we had all followed the Oak Ridge Boys' first inclination to pass up this song, we might not be here today, sweating and nervous, with a serious Miley hangover and a sudden disdain for giant teddy bears. We brought it on ourselves.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.