The “Free Britney!” cause can now claim a celebrity adherent. Miley Cyrus yelled out the slogan in Memphis while performing her decade-old hit “Party in the U.S.A.,” during the section that originally had Cyrus repeating the refrain, “And a Britney song was on…”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cyrus was taking up the hashtag in earnest or with tongue in cheek, but it was certainly taken as a show of support by those perpetuating the conspiracy-theory-minded meme, which is based in the idea that Spears is being manipulated in her recent mental health treatment and longtime conservatorship.
Cyrus was doing a 20-minute set Saturday night as a surprise during the Beale Street Festival, which she was brought into by Facebook. The social media giant is co-sponsoring the festival to promote their “More Together” campaign, and live-streamed Cyrus’ appearance, which included a duet with Mark Cohn on his “Walking in Memphis.”
The two stars haven’t previously been known to spend a lot of time together, but Spears did make a featured guest appearance on Cyrus’ song “SMS (Bangerz)” in 2013. Last December, Cyrus told New York radio station KTU in an interview that she hoped they’d collaborate again. “If you’ve noticed, I’m the first person that comments on every photo she posts,” Cyrus said. “I’m her biggest fan.”
It’s also worth noting that the two at one point shared management. Adam Leber, who represents Miley and Noah Cyrus, in addition to other clients, was a longtime member of the management team for Spears, but split from Larry Rudolph in late 2017.
The “Free Britney” brigade picked up steam while Spears spent 30 days in April in a mental health facility, during which some fans claimed she was being held against her will — and it’s continued even after she posted a video and written message assuring fans she was fine, checked out of the treatment center in late April and went on to shoot another video of herself doing yoga in a bikini. The small but vocal movement claims that, officially “freed” or not, Spears continues to be suppressed by her mental health care and conservatorship.
“My family has been going through a lot of stress and anxiety lately so I just needed time to deal. But don’t worry I’ll be back very soon,” Spears said in response to the “Free Britney” publicity. “I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control … I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear.”
In January, Spears canceled a planned engagement in Las Vegas this spring, citing her father’s health concerns. At the time, Rudolph told Variety, “Everything is on hold right now until Jamie is better. But once he is, she will resume working on the album with Justin (Tranter).” Subsequently, Spears has been more open about needing time to be treated herself as well as support her family.
”Although the song predates the modern Miley era in which she herself was “freed” from being Hannah Montana, “Party in the U.S.A.” has a big fan in husband Liam Hemsworth. He posted to his Instagram story feed a video of himself on the tarmac singing a very unmelodious version of the Dr. Luke-produced oldie.