Clips of Miley Cyrus at Lollapalooza are still popping up all over my FYP, even almost two weeks after the fact. “7 Things” followed by “See You Again” followed by “The Climb” from every angle; throwback after throwback *almost* making me wish I’d been a part of that largely maskless crowd screaming along. Comments on some of the videos led me to believe that these unusual choices (as someone pointed out to me, these rarely played tracks come from an era that Cyrus spent a lot of time trying to separate herself from; was this a thinly veiled attempt to fall back on a persona she swore to forget in order to remain in the public eye?) were performed because Cyrus let fans choose her setlist via Instagram, and this Tweet from June confirms it.
With almost 20 thousand replies and over five thousand quotes on Twitter alone, there were undoubtedly too many requests to comb through. All the same, Cyrus’ 26 track setlist was full of old fan favorites, along with new covers – which were also requested – and some wicked collabs. Even as a more casual fan of Cyrus, I would’ve killed to be a part of this. Imagine knowing that your favorite songwriter may’ve actually seen your commentary on the song that got you through. Imagine knowing that you had a hand in putting together the best concert you’ve ever seen.
Taylor Swift was the first – and one of the only – musicians that I remember seeing ever do anything like this, and it’s on a much smaller scale. During the Red tour, Swift started a tradition of playing a surprise song at every stop, and she’s kept it up for each tour since. The surprise – or secret, as Swifties tend to call it – song is different every night, and is always from an older album – or, rarely, an off-album single – that isn’t a part of the tour’s setlist. Swift has explained at shows that sometimes she makes the decision moments before going on, and sometimes she picks something based on a Twitter request she happened to see. At one of the Gillette Stadium nights of Rep Tour, she played “Change” for someone who requested it at the pre-show meet and greet.
There are a few artists out there that try to shake things up on tour, but it’s not common. Brandi Carlile switches up the order of her setlist across nights, and substitutes songs here and there, but doesn’t deviate very largely night by night. Years ago (so do they even count anymore?) Metallica asked their ticketholders to vote on a large part of their tour setlist, and Pearl Jam let a superfan put together one night’s setlist. This concept is honestly my dream, and I can’t believe it’s not more popular. I’ve had dream sets for my favorite artists for years, from Billy Joel to Mat Kearney and beyond (seriously, if Taylor Swift ever needs ideas, they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice).
I don’t think Cyrus is trying to play into anything to remain relevant – she’s never not been relevant. We have to acknowledge that she’s giving the people exactly what they want, and setting an example for her peers as to how we should all approach live music as it returns. Imagine going out to the tour supporting your fave’s brand new album, and instead of hearing the same old hits sprinkled throughout (which, yes, I’ll give to you are probably bangers) you get to hear your favorite song from their third album that they haven’t played live in seven years – because they asked, you answered, and they listened. I would simply cease to exist if I got to hear P!nk do “Please Don’t Leave Me” or Taylor Swift sing “Sweeter Than Fiction.”
True, it’s probably a hassle to scroll endlessly through Twitter replies, but we can get creative. How about a Google form? A SurveyMonkey? There are options out there to pool the most popular choices together and essentially create the ideal setlist automatically, no additional work necessary. This is the future.