A long time ago—22 years ago, to be precise—Poison frontman Bret Michaels taught mullet-wearing, cigarette lighter-bearing fans that "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." Now he's teaching a whole new generation that they have "Nothing to Lose"—except their clothes.
If you had to brainstorm a recipe for instant controversy—er, publicity—you'd be hard pressed to do a better job than Michaels has done with his latest single. It goes something like this: Take one standard-issue, country-rock ballad about an ill-advised sexual rendezvous and add … Miley Cyrus.
Then just stand back and watch the buzz build.
"I've known [Miley's] family for a while, and her first concert was to see Poison," Michaels told popstar.com. "She said that 'Every Rose' was one of her all-time favorite songs. When she wanted to re-cut it I said, 'Great,' so when she was in the studio doing that, I played her 'Nothing to Lose.' She said, 'I'd love to sing some stuff on it,' so we have a version with her singing some of the harmonies. … And honestly, she nailed it."
In terms of what, exactly, she nailed, it involves repeating the ends of several lyrics, adding some "oh, oh, ohs" and harmonizing on the song's chorus: "Won't you fall down on me/So close I can feel you breathe/Tonight in the darkness with nothing to lose/If the truth is all you could see/If I fall for you, could you fall for me?"
Those lines are suggestive enough, but the lyrics that have really raised eyebrows are about a couple disrobing: "Yeah, we both know better than this/Still, we can't resist," Michaels sings. "Slowly get undressed."
Michaels told Us Weekly that the resulting negative reaction to Miley's contribution blindsided him: "It's [been] blown out of proportion. I was like, 'What the f‑‑‑ is going on? Everyone's going nuts!" About the song's sensual lyrics, he commented, "The part where it says she slowly gets undressed, Miley says, 'Yeah she does.' It has no reference to her and I. It's not even a duet." He concludes, "As God is my witness, there is nothing I have to be defensive about."
But to me it's not really about Michaels needing to defend himself. It's about the staggering lapse in judgment demonstrated (again) by Team Cyrus. This is an unapologetically adult-themed song that's going to make its way onto scores of iPods held in the not-so-adult hands of young Miley fans.
A postscript: Lost amid the hubbub but worth commenting on is the fact that this collaboration has its roots in a very young Miley going to a Poison concert and thus learning to love "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"—a song that begins in bed. She's now recorded a cover of that song slated to appear on her next album.
And a footnote: Versions of "Nothing to Lose" with and without Miley can be found online. The one featuring Miley's backing vocals will be included on Michaels' forthcoming album Custom Built.