SWMRS’ “Miley” and “Hannah”: The Best of Both Worlds

SWMRS © Alice Baxley
SWMRS © Alice Baxley

You get the best of both worlds / chillin’ out take it slow / then you rock out the show

It’s officially been ten years since the premiere of the Disney Channel phenomenon “Hannah Montana” aired on live television. Miley Cyrus smiled, laughed, even gave a coy “shhh” to the camera at the end of the theme song. America’s sweetheart.

Fast forward to NOW. You know the story. The Climb led to a fall, landing a really Short-Haired Miley on top of a swinging Wrecking Ball. Montana? More like Transylvania! Miley was on a tear. Next was the tongue. And the twerking. And MORE tongue. When would it end? How would it end? Would the conservative Mothers of the world take her out in the middle of the night? Would Billy Ray finally whip her into shape? The saga continues to this very day.

But this is a music magazine, not some tacky tabloid! And that’s why we’re focusing on what punk rock has to say about the journey of National Threat Miley Montana, I mean Hannah Cyrus, I mean, ugh.

Enter SWMRS, our representative punk rock band from Oakland, who have taken it upon themselves to write a tribute to Miley, appropriately titled “Miley.” The song was released with an accompanying video, beginning with the nostalgia inducing “let’s watch a Disney Channel movie” song, flipping-gymnast-children-floating-in-space and all. From there, it gets dirty. Blunts, fucks, bananas. Blood red lyrics a la Harry Potter writing into his own skin overlaid with interpretive dance overlaid with random Miley/Hannah clips pulled from the internet spliced together on a shitty green screen. It’s pure punk aesthetic and pure celebration of Miley, who is after all, SWMRS’ punk rock queen.

Watch: “Miley” – SWMRS


“Miley” is a mash-up of nostalgia and adolescent madness. SWMRS embrace the showwomanship that Miley has employed. Being wild in her public persona and founding a non-profit for marginalized youth in her spare time. Similarly, SWMRS can make a wild video like “Miley” while also having an album in their back pocket titled “Don’t Be A Dick” (back when they were “Emily’s Army”). And it’s the multiple personas idea that seems to be the root of what has the masses writing Facebook posts about Miley and many others who get pinned down to being one thing, often in a negative way. Is there room for growth in the life of Miley? Of course. But SWMRS are celebrating Miley’s break from corporate control and encouraging people to take the journey with her as she attempts to figure things out while enduring absurd public scrutiny.

Listen: “Hannah” – SWMRS

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zBut you can’t talk about Miley without talking about Hannah. They will always be inseparable and perhaps the duality can be used to serve as a positive metaphor for the complexity of every single human out there. So let’s talk about “Hannah,” the less spotlighted track that comes two songs after “Miley” on SWMRS’ debut album Drive North (released February 2016 via uncool records). It’s not totally clear whether “Hannah” is an intentional nod towards “Miley,” but in a way it doesn’t matter. In any examination, “Hannah” serves as a B-Side to “Miley” with its nostalgic music box and longing to be understood. It’s a much more subdued side of SWMRS and a much more hidden side of the mythic Miley/Hannah persona. But here we see a reversal. Miley, the honest persona, is wild and free, while Hannah, the put-on, performative persona, is misunderstood, seeking to find solace in marijuana and good music.

I’m Hannah I go here I’m cuckoo bananas
Why can’t you understand me?
Why can’t you understand me?

It’s a brilliant twist of events and also the essence of SWMRS to have these two contrasting tracks coexist. It also reveals how SWMRS is effectively using punk rock. to  Punk rock is a sanctuary for many misunderstood kids, allowing them to dress how they want, yell what they want, and feel accepted while sweating and dancing in a dark room with a bunch of friends and strangers. It’s not that everything is good in punk rock – people get punched and lines get crossed – but for SWMRS it seems that it’s about acknowledging that people suck and are great and have reason to be celebrated. Miley Cyrus happens to be a prime punk example, a young person breaking free from the corporate system that she felt locked in, making some terrible decisions, but doing it all in a manner that shows an honest yearning for something better.

SWMRS (Source: Facebook)
SWMRS (Source: Facebook)

With social media dominating most young people’s lives, there is a strong pressure to upkeep a glowing public persona that is often in tension with the private persona that they also possess. One persona is not necessarily more real than the other, but the incongruity that exists within one person as a result of multiple personas is something that is real. SWMRS seek to find something real out there, too. And the punk rock kids like that. They can’t stop. And they won’t stop.

Drive North - SWMRS
Drive North – SWMRS
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cover photo: SWMRS © Alice Baxley
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