The new issue of Entertainment Weekly runs down some of the best performances from all across the music world in 2013. One of the entries on that list was Miley Cyrus’ performance of “Wrecking Ball” at November’s American Music Awards, which found Cyrus singing the power ballad in front of a giant projection of a cat who “sang” along and wept diamonds during the song’s climax.
Like many of the elements of Cyrus’ visual approach, the genesis of that performance began on the Internet. “I found that cat on Tumblr,” Cyrus told EW. “I’m obsessed with cats but I have four dogs so I can’t have a cat. But I am obsessed with cats. So I found this cat and sent it to [‘We Can’t Stop’ video director] Diane Martel, and we turned it into this little GIF. For some reason, when I saw it, I felt like it would be the saddest thing to see this cat sing ‘Wrecking Ball’ with me. I had to track down the dude who made [the original Tumblr post] who lives in Japan. I think a lot of kids knew what that cat was. They had seen that cat online before because it got passed around on Twitter.”
Once they had the basic idea down, it was time to expand. “I tried to explain it to people for like a month. I had it on my phone, and we just kept trying to make it better and sadder,” Cyrus explained. “That’s why we added the tears and had it cried diamonds. The reason why it cried diamonds is because I call Diane Martel ‘Diamond.'”
As for her matching get-up, that was a happy accident. “I found that material—it was a dress, and I cut it up into that bra and a weird underwear thing,” Cyrus explained. “I couldn’t believe how well the cat matched up.”
Cyrus shares EW’s appreciation for that particular performance. “That was my favorite performance of the year,” Cyrus said. “I saved it for the AMAs because they were the same day as my birthday, and I wanted to do my favorite performance on my birthday.”