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Miley Cyrus Recorded a Tribute Song for Her Dead Pet Blowfish, and It's a Heartbreaking Meditation on Mortality

RIP Pablow, gone too soon. You don't know what a cloud is.

For as long as humans have existed, we have struggled to rationalize and understand death. The Pyramids at Giza, the Taj Mahal, the Neolithic burial mounds of Ireland—all of these are monuments to this great metaphysical inquest. From Shakespeare to Joan Didion, the modern Western literary tradition is full of artists grappling with what to make of death, with what it means. So, too, has music.

We tend to imagine any art that wrestles with death as necessarily grandiose, as something that literally carries life or death stakes. But one of the great mysteries of death is that it disarms us in unexpected ways and at unexpected times—ones that are often very unserious. That's the case with this unexpectedly devastating song that Miley Cyrus wrote for her late pet blowfish, Pablow, who has joined such pets as Miley's beloved husky Floyd at that great Miley menagerie in the sky. Recorded as the latest of Miley's Happy Hippie Backyard Sessions (by the looks of it, the same night as her Crowded House cover with Ariana Grande), it starts out lighthearted, with Miley in a unicorn onesie and singing such patently ridculous lines as "You've never been on land / and you've never seen the sky / you don't know what a cloud is / why did everything I love have to die?"


Miley goes on in the second verse to tell a story about going to sushi with her friends, where "watching my friends eat my friends / ruined my appetite," and in the final verse she imagines, with a slight country twang, Pablow falling in love with a seahorse named Sadie. Like I said, at first listen, this song seems absurd and silly and surreal in the same way that, say, Miley's Instagram feed is. After all, it is a somber obituary for a dead fish. But as Miley breaks down crying and we, the audience, come to contemplate exactly what it might mean for a fish to die, it becomes something more. Consider that final verse:

I heard of a seahorse named Sadie
I heard she was quite the lady
Maybe you'll find her and you can make babies
That'd be kind of crazy
If Pablow the Blowfish found love deep in the sea
Then that would mean
Pablow the Blowfish was better off than here with me

Here we are, suddenly imagining the many paths (or currents, I guess?) Pablow's life might have taken and, by extension, contemplating the lives and circumstances of all of our loved ones. What are we to make of life's strange detours, the ways it traps us and entangles us and sets us free? What worlds might exist in which the lives of those we love might have gone a little bit differently? Would they have been happier in another life? And seen in this light, the song's lightheartedness takes on a serious note, too, because, even if Pablow was just a fish and even if Miley's song might feel like a simple approximation of real grief, there's something real in the way that it expresses its pain: Who faces the death of a loved one and doesn't imagine the what ifs, doesn't think of all the clouds they never knew? Sure, most of the time we don't literally find ourselves at the restaurant eating from the same food group in which our friends lived, but anyone who has felt loss has probably found themselves at a restaurant brought to tears by some unexpected memory welling up.


There's a poetry and depth in this simple, funny song about a dead fish that a million clichés about the dreaded onslaught and dark terrors of death could never capture. I love this song. And weirdly enough, it fits right in with the current wave of artists like Frankie Cosmos, Waxahatchee, and Hop Along who find such poignant moments of poetry in little vignettes like these. Miley's entry into the world of singer-songwriter exploring the world in miniature could not be more affecting. I mean, here I am, a guy who half an hour ago was just eager to make some jokes about sushi, now brought to tears at the thought of what it means to live and then, naturally, what it means to die. RIP Pablow, gone too soon. In the words of Miley, "I won't forget even one second we had / because you might be gone / but you could never be dead."

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Some of you may remember a few months ago my dear blow fish Pablow past away. I wrote this song for him…He made me so happy and I miss him everyday…. But now he is with Floyd and Melanie's sweet Sadie

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Miley Cyrus

on Monday, May 18, 2015

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