Clad in a bedazzling red-and-white checkered catsuit, Miley Cyrus stood beneath an enormous, glittering wagon wheel in front of a crowd of 200-plus devoted fans for her very first MTV Unplugged special Tuesday evening.
While most of the 21-year-old singer-actress-tabloid mainstay's press lately tends to revolve around what she's wearing (or not wearing, in most cases), the night served as a true reminder of what an absolutely incredible singer she is.
Stripped of overpowering production values, Miley effortlessly embraced the bare minimum format of the long-standing MTV series and let her powerful vocals take center stage on pared-down versions of "Drive" and "Adore You." All eight songs she performed off her fourth studio album, Bangerz, wildly benefitted from subtracting every extraneous instrument.
Which isn't to say Miley abandoned all of her signature stage spectacles, a fact easily gleaned by looking at the oversized horse she grinded against during "4x4" and gyrated on top of during "Get It Right."
She put the horse (and the catsuit) out to pasture after the first three songs and changed into an ensemble that can only be likened to the silk pajamas TLC sported in their "Creep" music video, but Miley's were covered in sequins and torn like they'd been dragged behind a pickup truck.
She went on to deliver stunning renditions of "Jolene" and "Wrecking Ball" before the night's most attention-grabbing (for all the right reasons) number: a duet with Madonna. Even before the performance ended, Twitter was abuzz with the news that the two most ambitious blondes in pop music sung a mash-up of "Don't Tell Me" and "We Can't Stop" (despite MTV's efforts to keep that under wraps).
And, as if the moment could get any better, fans were treated to the Madge and Miley number twice (due to technical reasons).
For Miley, the evening was all about celebrating her most personal album to date. But for the rapt audience, it was a glorious tribute to the talent behind the twerking and the heart behind the headlines.