On her Billboard-topping 2013 hit, “Wrecking Ball,” Miley Cyrus betrays a lack of working knowledge regarding the basic principles of controlled demolition. The result is a song that, while popular, expands on a number of already problematic misconceptions regarding the functionality of the wrecking ball.
A heavy steel ball typically suspended from a crane and employed in the deconstruction of large structures, its use was exceedingly common in the middle of the 20th Century.
In a song that is ostensibly conceived around the premise of dismantling a building as a symbol for a crumbling relationship, Cyrus undermines her own credibility by conducting precious little research into the primary vehicle for her metaphor.
To recap the video above, Cyrus declares with bittersweet bravado:
I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was break me
Yeah, you wreck me.
Unfortunately for Ms. Cyrus, and anybody else who hoped to learn more about the process of controlled demolition from her hit song, the chorus is riddled with inaccuracies. Most troubling among them is the presumption that the force with which a wrecking ball hits a wall could be so great as to damage or even “wreck” the wrecking ball itself.
This is a problematic simile, one that overlooks the forged steel casting typically used to produce a wrecking ball. Ranging anywhere between 1,000 and 12,000 pounds, the conventional wrecking ball is molded under extremely high pressure at a point when the steel is red hot. This means it can be shaped, compressed and strengthened without ever entering a molten state. As a result, it is tempered to be virtually indestructible.
Even still, Cyrus continues down a path of misleading figurative language:
I put you high up in the sky
And now, you’re not coming down
It slowly turned, you let me burn
And now, we’re ashes on the ground.
Again, even in the presence of exceedingly high temperatures, the likelihood of reducing a forged-steel wrecking ball to ashes is dubious at best, intentionally obfuscating at worst. It also casts an unneeded shadow of doubt on the demolition industry not seen since Walter Egan’s long-forgotten 1978 hit, “Magnet and Steel.”
Add to this the admission that Cyrus—as the crane operator in this metaphor—placed the target of her demolition “up in the sky.” This is a fairly unconventional approach to demolition, one that reveals a troubling lack of experience in the field. Without questioning the basic feasibility of this demolition technique, we can presume beyond a reasonable doubt that Cyrus failed to consult her operator’s manual before proceeding. This alone may account for the less-than-stellar results of her efforts.
One final note of consideration. We should point out that the use of wrecking balls is becoming ever less common in the field, largely because technology has produced increasingly more efficient methods of razing structures primed for demolition.
In the interests of accuracy and timeliness, Ms. Cyrus might have been better served by claiming to have come in like a high-reach hydraulic excavator.