The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally upon us: After months of controversy and uproar around Miley Cyrus’ apparently “shameful” transformation, Bangerz finally hit U.S. shelves.
Whether it is the team behind her, or the young pop star herself, Cyrus is a great example of an artist that is capitalizing on the opportunities of social media and publicity in preparing for a release. Whoever is pulling the strings has ensured that Cyrus has seen massive growth over the past year, expanding her reach and fan base, and setting the stage for her album to go through the roof.
It all started way back in August 2012. Already working on her new material, and eager to break from her Hannah Montana mold, Cyrus caused waves in the Twitter universe when she chopped off her locks and went blond. That month alone, she added more than 1.5 million new followers, a 153% increase from the month before. On August 13th, a day or so after the jaw-dropping news broke and Cyrus updated her Twitter profile picture, she added more than 152,000 new followers, the highest daily spike she has seen to date. She would never look the same again.
Then this past June came the official video for the first single off of Cyrus’ fourth album, “We Can’t Stop,” complete with drug references, weird bear costumes, twerking and a grill. Once again she made headlines, but now shock and outrage had begun to dominate the conversation despite the fact that she was still relatively clothed. How could the young Disney star have turned into this? Yet, it seemed all the negative press around the video wasn’t putting a damper on her popularity, by the end of the week Cyrus was the top ranking artist on VEVO. In the seven days following, close to half a million people were talking about her on Facebook, and her Wikipedia page views near doubled.
Cyrus was soon close to reaching a milestone - 13 million Twitter followers. She decided to speed up the process by announcing that she would reveal the title of her upcoming album once she had hit that mark. And hit that mark she did. On August 6th Cyrus posted to her newsfeed and let us all know: the album was to be called Bangerz.
The stage was now set for what would become one of the most tweeted about performances in history. As Cyrus gyrated about on the VMA stage, wearing a less-than-flattering flesh-colored latex two-piece, wielding a massive foam finger, and grinding up against Robin Thicke (who oddly enough was dressed as Beetle Juice), the internet literally exploded. Nevermind that this is the same stage that has hosted more than its fair share of controversial incidents, viewers were outraged by what they saw. Petitions were filed. And Cyrus was laughing all the way to the social media bank. In the week following the performance, she saw a jump across pretty much every single network. More than 300,000 new Twitter followers, close to 365,000 Facebook page likes, another 31 million plays on VEVO, and north of 1.3 million views on Wikipedia. Now that’s what they call growth.
It didn’t take long for Cyrus to shock us once more, stripping completely naked and straddling a wrecking ball in the official video for her second single, directed by controversial celebrity photographer Terry Richardson. Could it get any worse than this? Well for Cyrus it only got better. The video went viral and in less than a month, it has attracted more than 200 million views, close to 25 million of which came the day after release.
All in all, Cyrus has essentially had a pretty great year. She has more than doubled the size of her Twitter following since the haircut, and counts more than 1.5 billion plays on VEVO in total. She’s checking off the list of necessary appearances, successfully hosting and performing on SNL over the weekend - not afraid to make fun of herself, or her critics.
For all the controversy and outrage that has brought us to where we are today, not once has she been caught stumbling drunkenly out of a night club or peeing in buckets while slandering a former president. Sure, she has been outspoken about her use of marihuana, but she never got caught throwing her bong out of a window. Think of her what you will, but unlike a handful of her celebrity peers, Cyrus appears to be in complete control of the image and persona she has crafted to support the release of this album, and has most certainly caught the attention of the general public, all the while expanding her social reach.
She’ll definitely sell more than her fair share of albums, whether you like it or not.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, Forbes, Billboard, Hypebot and more.