3 on 3: Does Miley Cyrus finally leave her childhood behind with ‘Bangerz?’

Miley Cyrus” “Bangerz” has a lock to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart next week and it is the defining album of the twerker”s career so far. But what will it mean for Cyrus going forward?

She”s already shown that she can captivate both the partying crowd, with first single “We Can”t Stop,” as well as the broken-hearted bunch, with ballad “Wrecking Ball.”  While all eyes have been on Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, is it time to say that there is a new Pop Princess in town?

3 on 3 features three HitFix editors tackling three questions about a project or artist. Today, Dave Lewis, Katie Hasty and I ponder Cyrus”s future and wave a fond goodbye, once and for all, to Hannah Montana.

Will “Bangerz” leave any memory of Hannah Montana in the dust?

Dave Lewis: Since “Montana” was aimed squarely at wee ones, there may be a generation who will always have a hard time seeing Cyrus as anything but the Disney Channel star. However, for the rest of us, her identity as “Montana” was hardly set in stone. No one remembers Mark Wahlberg as *just* Marky Mark, and Cyrus has already found enough success with her new persona that she won’t face the same obstacles as, say, Vanilla Ice.

Katie Hasty: I think “Hannah Montana” still symbolically holds a place in Miley Cyrus’ status as a pop singer and celebrity. Her previous album “Can’t Be Tamed” had a lot of “grown up,” adult-listening qualities, but her use of more childish imagery like teddy bears in (“We Can’t Stop” and the MTV VMAs) and literally heading back to high school for “23” is purposely staging “Hannah” days up against her nude thongs, foul language and hip-hop production. As she said on “Saturday Night Live,” “I’m not going to do Hannah Montana, but I can give you an update on what she”s been up to: she”s been murdered.” Her Disney alter-ego hasn’t vanished, it’s only been upheld as a childhood drum on which Cyrus can now beat.

Melinda Newman: Yes. Cyrus herself declared Hannah Montana dead on “Saturday Night Live,” and Cyrus has done everything she can to besmirch the memory of her Disney character for the past few years, whether it was posing nearly nude, smoking from a bong, pole dancing, her VMA performance. Plus, most Hannah Montana fans have long outgrown their love for the show and are as eager as Cyrus, though perhaps not as aggressive about it, to put their Hannah years behind them.

Is Miley calling the shots or is she being played by producers and her record label?

Dave Lewis: This is a tougher question than it appears to be. Although she doesn’t appear to be the completely compliant drone that O’Connor accused her of being, Cyrus’ decision to play up her sexuality (if it indeed was her decision, as her defenders say) certainly wouldn’t have met much
resistance from the execs raking in the cash every time she sticks out her tongue. She may be making the decisions, but they just happen to be the same decisions that execs have made with countless pop stars in the past.

Katie Hasty: Sinead O’Connor’s open letters to Cyrus re-focused on the cold underbelly of the entertainment industry, which by and large shows little restraint on exploiting teenagers’ and young women’s sexuality for profit. Some women roll  with it, and some do not (and, hey, they’re all allowed to change their mind, guys). That being said, Cyrus is 20 years old, and after the tightly controlled PR campaign that was her Disney life, she’s ripe for a personal rebellion and obviously interested in expressing her sexuality. I don’t think RCA texted Cyrus, “Nudez 4 T Richardson, y or n,” but I’d be cautious to say Miley Cyrus’ adoption of ratchet culture and riding on a wrecking ball naked were all her idea. There’s a lab somewhere that’s helping for all parties involved to come to the same conclusion.

Melinda Newman: Sinead O”Connor”s open letters to the contrary, for better or worse, Cyrus seems to be in complete control of what she”s doing. What she could use is some good advice and a few more people around her who aren”t yes-men. When someone”s star is so ascendent, it”s hard to find people who will do anything but scrape and bow in the star”s presence and preside in the echo chamber. Having said that, Cyrus has been a star since she was little and she may know her brand better than anyone. However, if she wants to appeal to more than fellow 20-year olds, she may want to listen to someone who”s not 20 and who isn”t dropping Molly and smoking pop at every opportunity.

One critic called Cyrus the “most punk artist” out today. Agree or disagree?

Dave Lewis: Since the term “Punk” hasn’t really meant anything specific in more than 30 years (if it even meant anything specific in 1977), then,sure, making millions of dollars for yourself and for faceless corporate overlords while jumping on every new trend in sight is “punk.” But it’s also clearly not.

Katie Hasty: “Punk” being a highly subjective term these days, calling a major label-signed female pop star doing what major label-signed female pop stars are expected to do is hardly counter-cultural or fiercely independent. Punk makes me think Cyrus would stand for something: a subversion of norm, a way of life, a community standard. I see a hodge-podge of fun cultural references pinned on a performer with some raw talent struggling to know where to stick it.

Melinda Newman: That”s a ludicrous, laughable notion. She”s about as punk as Hannah Montana. A key element of punk is rebellion and there is nothing that Cyrus is rebelling against… other than clothes. She is not thwarting society”s norms in anyway, in fact, in many ways, she”s playing right into them.