"We Can't Stop" received mixed reviews from music critics, who appreciated its overall production and originality, but were ambivalent towards its lyrical content. It reached number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and tied her earlier track "Party in the U.S.A." (2009) as her highest-peaking single in the country at the time.
As of January 2014, it had sold over eight million copies in the United States, making it one of the most downloaded singles of all time. The song experienced varying success internationally; it reached the peak position in countries including New Zealand, Scotland, and the United Kingdom, and peaked moderately in several national record charts in Europe. An accompanying music video for "We Can't Stop" was released on June 19, 2013. It received generally mixed review from critics, who were divided in their opinions regarding Cyrus' increasingly provocative image. With 10.7 million views in the first twenty-four hours of its release, the clip held the record for having the most views in that time-frame across Vevo platforms; after reaching 100 million views within thirty-seven days, it also set the record for being the fastest music video to attain a Vevo certification. (Both records were eventually broken by the music video for Cyrus' follow-up single "Wrecking Ball" in September 2013.) "We Can't Stop" was additionally promoted with a highly-controversial performance during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
BackgroundEditIn 2012, Cyrus announced plans to focus on her film career, effectively putting her musical endeavors on hiatus. That year, she appeared in the films LOL and So Undercover. She was also confirmed as a primary voice actress in the feature film Hotel Transylvania, but dropped out of the project to coordinate a musical comeback. In January 2013, Cyrus ended her recording contract with Hollywood Records, under which she released the studio albums Meet Miley Cyrus (2007), Breakout (2008), Can't Be Tamed (2010), and the extended play (EP) The Time of Our Lives (2009). Later that month, she signed a recording contract with RCA Records. In March, she confirmed that her fourth studio album would be released by the end of 2013. Production duo Rock City stated that
"We Can't Stop" was originally written with recording artist Rihanna in mind before offering it to record producer Mike Will Made It, who ultimately offered it to Cyrus. They felt that "this could be somebody’s first single", and decided against Rihanna because of the commercial success of her track "Diamonds" in 2012. Cyrus commented that "it really just turned out to be perfect and exactly what I wanted, and exactly what I wanted my first sound to be, and my first look to be".
During the 2013 Billboard Music Awards on May 19, 2013, Cyrus announced that the track would be released on June 3.The cover artwork for "We Can't Stop" was unveiled in a billboard in Times Square on May 28. It shows the arms of two people holding Solo Cups, with several people in the background; Cyrus is notably absent from the image Cyrus herself appeared on On Air with Ryan Seacrest on June 3 to premiere the track on the radio program, hosted by Ryan Seacrest.
"We Can't Stop" is a mid-tempo pop, R&B, and dance track. It is written in the key of E major and Cyrus' vocals span two octaves, from the low note of B2 to a high F#5, and follows the chord progression E—G#m—C#m—A. The track also includes a sample of the track "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh and MC Ricky D. John Kennedy of Vibe compared the track to the works of Rihanna.
Cyrus has stated that "We Can't Stop" represents "where I'm at in my life now". Lyrically, the track describes a house party, as mentioned in the opening lines "It's our party, we can do what we want / It's our party, we can say what we want / It's our party, we can love who we want / We can kiss who we want / We can live how we want". It also makes several references to recreational drug use, including "dancing with molly", using a slang term for ecstasy, and "trying to get a line [of cocaine] in the bathroom". After initial confusion whether the former lyric was "dancing with molly" or "dancing with Miley", Cyrus clarified that she was referring to ecstasy, commenting that "if you’re aged ten it’s 'Miley', if you know what I'm talking about then you know. I just wanted it to be played on the radio and they’ve already had to edit it so much."
"We Can't Stop" received mixed reviews from music critics, who appreciated its overall production and originality, but were ambivalent towards its lyrical content. Adam Carlson of Entertainment Weekly provided a favorable review, writing that the lyrics were questionable but "infectious", adding that it reminded him of "Kesha on Benadryl." Sam Lansky from Idolator noted that stands apart from other songs recently played on mainstream radio, adding that it "just feels strange, and kind of wonderful", while Los Angeles Times' Mikael Woods labeled it "the calmest, most clear-eyed rebel yell since Janet Jackson's "Control." Sean Daly of Tampa Bay Times and Wall Street Journal staff both appreciated the catchy melody, while Lyndsey Parker from Yahoo! Music felt that "We Can't Stop" acted as a sequel to Cyrus' earlier single "Party in the U.S.A.", with the difference that "she's just partying a little harder now."
However, in a more mixed review, Randall Roberts of Los Angeles Times felt that the song "seems as if it were written by an ninth-grader imagining her rebellious college sister’s lifestyle" and felt that it lacked creativity within Cyrus' catalog. Writing for Rolling Stone, Jon Dolan was skeptical of Cyrus' increasingly provocative image, stating that the lyrics in the chorus would be "an odd fit for any singer" and opining that "there's still a bit too much Disney in her voice to fill the track."
"We Can't Stop" won the award for "Choice Summer Song" and was nominated for "Choice Single: Female Artist" at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards in August. In December, Billboard critics listed it as the best song of 2013 for being "one of the bolder musical choices in recent memory, and that risk paid off tremendously."
In the United States, "We Can't Stop" debuted at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 with first-week sales of 214,000 downloads. In its seventh week on the chart, the track reached number two, tying with "Party in the U.S.A." as Cyrus' highest-peaking single in the country at the time. As of January 2014, the song has sold over three million copies in the United States. "We Can't Stop" peaked at number 3 on the Canadian Hot 100, and has been certified platinum by Music Canada.
"We Can't Stop" experienced varying commercial success throughout Europe. It debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming her first top-ten success and number-one hit in the country. It has since been certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry. The song also peaked atop the Scottish Singles Chart, managed by the Official Charts Company. "We Can't Stop" reached number eight on the Ö3 Austria Top 40; it also peaked at numbers 11 and 20 on the Belgian Ultratop in Wallonia and Flanders, respectively. "We Can't Stop" charted at number 11 on the Danish Tracklisten, where it was also recognized with a platinum certification. The song charted at number three on the Norwegian VG-lista, and number five on both the Spanish Singles Chart and the Swedish Sverigetopplistan, number seven on the Irish Singles Chart, and number nine in the Czech Republic. The track also reached number ten on the The Official Lebanese Top 20.
In other parts of the continent, "We Can't Stop" charted in the lower ends of national record charts. The track reached number 15 on The Official Finnish Charts, number 16 on the German Media Control Charts, and number 19 in both Slovakia and on the Swiss Hitparade. It peaked at numbers 26, 33, and 48 on the French SNEP, Italian FIMI, and Dutch Single Top 100, respectively. In Oceania, "We Can't Stop" peaked at numbers one and four on the Australian ARIA Charts and The Official New Zealand Music Chart, respectively. It was certified triple-platinum in the former territory, and platinum in the latter. Elsewhere, the song reached number 7 on the Japan Hot 100 and number 23 on the South Korean Gaon Chart.
An accompanying music video for "We Can't Stop" was directed by Diane Martel, and was premieredthrough Vevo on June 19, 2013. The clip depicts an ongoing house party, where guests are engaging in numerous bizarre actions. Among the activities taking place are the creation of a mountain made of white bread, the kicking of a skull made of french fries, slicing prosthetic fingers which pink goo simulate blood, sexualized acts, eating money and more. Product placement is also commonplace as Cyrus amplifies her Beats Pill speaker and applies her EOS lip balm. A director's cut of the music video was released on July 29, which Carl Williott of Idolator noted featured "more simulated sex, one oral sex gesture near the end and actually less Miley tongue overall."
Reception EditThe clip received generally mixed review from critics, who were divided in their opinions regarding Cyrus' increasingly provocative image. Jeremy Cabalona from Mashable compared its concept to that of "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga, while James Montgomery of MTV News noted similarities to the music videos for "Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera and "Criminal" by Fiona Apple. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard provided a favorable review, calling it "fantastically unhinged and purposefully button-pushing", while Bonnie Fuller from The Huffington Post praised the "high-spirited celebration of the freedom that young women are blessed with today to fully explore and celebrate their sexuality." On their list of the ten best music videos of 2013, Rolling Stone placed "We Can't Stop" at number one, describing it as a "masterpiece for the ages".
Writing for The Washington Post, Cara Kelly provided a mixed review, feeling that the video recalled "episodes of Girls mashed with Rita Ora and Chanel West Coast." Patrick Ryan from USA Today called the clip a "bizarre, entertaining but arguably desperate effort", while Haley Dodd from RyanSeacrest.com thought that the video presented "maybe a little too much" of Cyrus' "edgier side". It was later nominated for Best Pop Video, Best Female Video, Best Editing, and Best Song of the Summer for the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
With 10.7 million views in the first twenty-four hours of its release, the clip held the record for having the most views in that time-frame across Vevo platforms. However, she was later surpassed by "Best Song Ever" by One Direction, with generated 10.9 million views in July. After reaching 100 million views in thirty-seven days, it also set the record for being the fastest music video to attain a Vevo certification. Both records were eventually broken by the music video for Cyrus' follow-up single "Wrecking Ball" in September; it reached 19.3 million first-day views and passed 100 million views in six days.
Cyrus first performed "We Can't Stop" at Jimmy Kimmel Live! on June 26, 2013 and at Good Morning America the following day. In September 2013, Cyrus sang "We Can't Stop" on Schlag den Raab in Germany, Le Grand Journal in France, and Alan Carr: Chatty Man in England. On September 21, she sang twice at iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, in the afternoon at festival village and in the evening at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Despite generating media attention for a provocative wardrobe, the performance was considered to be "fairly tame considering the VMAs."
On October 5, Cyrus served as the host and musical guest during an episode of Saturday Night Live, and performed an acoustic version of "We Can't Stop". The following Monday, Cyrus performed "We Can't Stop" on Today as part of their Toyota Concert Series. She appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen DeGeneres Show later that month, and sang the track during both programs. In November, Cyrus traveled to Europe again to sing "We Can't Stop" at the 2013 MTV Europe Music Awards in Amsterdam on November 10; she garnered media attention for smoking a joint of marijuana on-stage. In December, she performed at Jingle Ball concerts in Los Angeles (KIIS-FM Jingle Ball), Saint Paul, Atlanta, New York City, Washington, D.C., Tampa and Sunrise. An episode of MTV Unplugged starring Cyrus premiered through MTV on January 29, 2014; Madonna appeared as a surprise guest that evening to sing an acoustic medley of "We Can't Stop" and her own "Don't Tell Me". Later that year, Cyrus performed "We Can't Stop" during her headlining Bangerz Tour.
MTV Video Music AwardsEdit
In August 2013, Cyrus became the subject of widespread media attention and public scrutiny following a controversial performance and duet with Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at Barclays Center in New York City. The performance began with Cyrus performing "We Can't Stop" in bear-themed attire. Following this, Thicke entered the stage and Cyrus stripped down to a skin-colored two-piece outfit. Cyrus subsequently touched Thicke's crotch area with a giant foam finger and twerked against his crotch. An article published in The Hollywood Reporter described the performance as "crass" and "reminiscent of a bad acid trip". Media attention of the performance largely overshadowed the attention that was given to other major events of the night, such as the reunion of 'N Sync and performances by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. The performance was described by XXL critic B. J. Steiner as a "trainwreck in the classic sense of the word as the audience reaction seemed to be a mix of confusion, dismay and horror in a cocktail of embarrassment", while the BBC said Cyrus stole the show with a "raunchy performance". The performance generated 306,100 tweets per minute on Twitter, breaking the record for the most tweeted-about event in the history of the social network; the previous record, held by the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show featuring Beyoncé, generated 268,000 tweets per minute. According to Forbes, Cyrus' performance resulted in a gain of over 213,000 Twitter followers, 226,000 likes on Facebook, and 90,000 downloads of her new promotional single, "Wrecking Ball", within days of the controversial performance. This amounted to a total 112% increase in Cyrus' social media activity.
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