It’s OK to be a little confused about Miley Cyrus these days.
After all, the 15-year-old daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus has been playing pop singer Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel show of the same name since March 2006. But she’s been making more recent moves to establish an identity separate from her character.
In June, she topped the Billboard charts with “Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus,” a successor to the 2006 “Hannah Montana” album — another chart-topper — that featured a disc of Cyrus (born Destiny Hope Cyrus in Franklin, Tenn.) singing en Montana and a second disc as herself (although the Hannah Montana songs did much better as singles). She’s currently on the road with a production carefully titled the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, in which she appears as both the blonde-tressed Montana and as herself.
The enormous ticket and CD sales indicate that Cyrus is likely to separate herself from her character successfully — though Hannah Montana will remain her alter ego with upcoming episodes of the series and a planned movie. She’s hardly the only artist to use a fictional TV character to launch a music career, however, though her predecessors have done so with mixed results. As the Best of Both Worlds Tour rolls into town, we take a quick look at how others have fared over the years.
The Monkees — NBC’s answer to the Beatles wisely brought out the tunes in sync with the TV show’s three-season run, resulting in eight Top 10 hits. The tailspin began after the show was canceled, however, though the biggest hits — “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer” — had staying power and allowed for a series of reunions that started in the mid-’90s.
David Cassidy — The son of actors Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward leapt from his “The Partridge Family” role as Keith Partridge onto the pop charts with early ’70s hits with the group (“I Think I Love You”) and on his own (“Cherish”); he also had a European hit with “I Write the Songs” before Barry Manilow released his version. Cassidy eventually moved to Broadway, though he had a short-lived ’90s musical resurgence.
The Brady Bunch — The six kid actors also turned out four albums during the sitcom’s early ’70s heyday, though all but the geekiest devotees won’t remember much beyond “It’s a Sunshine Day.” And Barry Williams (Greg Brady) didn’t get far when he tried to turn the fictional Johnny Bravo into a real-life rock star.
The Archies, Josie & the Pussycats — These two cartoon bands (offshoots of the same comic book series) showed that you didn’t need to be real to have hits. With writers and session musicians working behind the scenes, The Archies scored in the late ’60s with “Sugar, Sugar” and “Bang-Shang-A-Lang.” The Pussycats were less successful in the early ’70s but did get a pair of TV series and a 2001 movie adaptation.
John Travolta — Who knew sweathog Vinnie Barbarino had a heart until Travolta stepped outside “Welcome Back Kotter” and hit the Top 10 with “Let Her In” in 1976. That was his sole shining moment as a solo artist and was quickly eclipsed by his “Grease” duets with Olivia Newton-John. He’s wisely stuck to acting ever since.
Rick Springfield — The Australian-born singer and songwriter was rocking before he became a real star as “General Hospital’s” Dr. Noah Drake — a set-up for a string of 16 Top 40 hits between 1981-88.
Bruce Willis — After winning fans as “Moonlighting’s” David Addison, Willis started moonlighting as harmonicaplaying blues belter Bruno with a Top 5 remake of the Staple Singer’s “Respect Yourself.” It was a short-lived endeavor; he apparently found it easier — and more lucrative — to die hard.
Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas — Crockett and Tubbs rode the “Miami Vice” wave into mid-’80s record deals. Johnson wound up with a Top 5 hit (“Heartbeat”) and a duet with Barbra Streisand (“Till I Loved You”). Thomas was, well, busted.
Jack Wagner — “General Hospital” spawned another hit singer as Wagner parlayed his Frisco Jones character into the No. 1 Adult Contemporary hit “All I Need.” However, his career has reverted back to soaps, Broadway and the occasional game show appearance.
Hilary Duff — “Lizzie McGuire” made her a star and set her up for three platinum albums, a couple of hit singles and an unexpected (now over) relationship with Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden.
Jennifer Love Hewitt — Music beckoned during her turn as Sarah Reeves on “Party of Five,” but her impact was more as a John Mayer muse than for her own work. She’s now back on TV’s “Ghost Whisperer.”
The “High School Musical” Kids — Vanessa Hudgens’ “V” went gold, but Ashley Tisdale and Corbin Bleu didn’t make the grade. The franchise can launch theater productions and ice shows, but apparently not solo careers.
The Cheetah Girls
— Another Disney franchise, this trio is the spin-off of a TV movie — a vehicle for actress Raven Symone, who’s not part of the singing group — that was in turn a spin-off of a book series. The group’s new album, “TCG,” came out in September and debuted at No. 44 on the Billboard charts.
The Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour with the Jonas Brothers plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 5) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are sold out. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com. The Palace will host a merchandise pre-sale for Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers from 2-8 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 4) in the venue’s West Atrium Entrance lobby.
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