updated 01/29/2014 AT 12:30 PM ET
•originally published 01/29/2014 AT 12:45 PM ET
During a pause in taping, while props got rearranged and lighting and sound were checked, a bikini-topped Miley Cyrus amused the soundstage audience by sharing an epiphany.
“You can look at life one way or the other,” the 21-year-old music star said, “half-naked or half-clothed.”
Her young fans appreciably and knowingly laughed. The quiet, mostly off-camera moments Tuesday night at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood seemed more unplugged than the show by the same name.
That country-flavored performance (Miley Cyrus: MTV Unplugged, 9 p.m. Wednesday on MTV), featuring songs from her new album Bangerz, had the surreal, sort-of-scandalous, sharable-on-social moments we’ve come to expect, like the the twerk seen around the world.
With Scandal” stars Guillermo Diaz and Darby Stanchfield in the audience – dropping by from a nearby stage where their show films – the former Disney TV actress wore a skin-tight body suit and twerked two guys in a horse costume. She slapped a little person on the rear. She changed into a sort of ripped-up denim outfit that with a top that kept falling off and dropped F-bombs, grabbed her crotch and stroked her chest.
And, of course, she bumped and grinded with Madonna, the 55-year-old pop icon donning a matching cowgirl getup for a tongue-wagging mash-up of the Material Girl’s “Don’t Tell Me” and Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop.” It was the show’s big moment, which they actually had to do twice, apparently because Cyrus forgot to wear her white hat in the first run-through.
“Now we’re going to have to be even nastier,” Madonna told the audience before they did the number again, the suggestive moves perfectly replicated
Afterward, Cyrus told an MTV news crew the two songs carry a similar message of empowerment.
“I grew up listening to Madonna, and a lot of what she represented for me is what I try to represent to girls now, not being afraid of sexuality and really being who you want to be and doing what you want to do,” she said. “I feel like ‘We Can’t Stop’ is kind of the 2013 version of ‘Don’t Tell Me.’”
On stage, during another break between songs, she summed it up more succinctly: “That was pretty f—ing cool, you guys!”
Her potty mouth and onstage antics have created a stir since he unveiled her more adult image. She was condemned by the Parents Television Council, shut out from Grammy nominations, parodied on YouTube and skewered by idol Sinéad O’Connor.
During the taping, she seemed more bemused by it all, casually keeping the crowd engaged during breaks by reeling off silly jokes that played off her image
“MTV is paying me in ones,” she said at one point, “so we can all go to the strip club after this.”
Miley Cyrus: MTV Unplugged airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on MTV.