This is the lead single from Miley Cyrus' fourth studio album. The song was produced by Mike WiLL Made It, who has also worked with Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, Kanye West, Rihanna and Kelly Rowland.
Cyrus told E! News the song is dedicated to her fans, the people who have never stopped believing in her. She said: "I feel like this song really is for them and how I feel, that I can't stop and I'm going to be who I am and they should be who they are and that they can't stop and no one can stop us."
Cyrus added: "It really is an inspiring song for my fans. We don't care, we can do what we want."
Cyrus debuted the song on Ryan Seacrest's radio show on June 3, 2013. She told the DJ that the tune reflects her current lot in life. "I think I keep getting more connected with a sound that's my own. I love making music, so I've just been in the studio working," she said. "Everyone always judges. They say what they want. My fans [are] this group that's always stood by me. This song says where I am in my life right now."
There is some confusion as to whether one of the lyrics has Cyrus singing about the party drug Ecstasy ("dancing with Molly") or herself ("dancing with Miley"). Mike Will Made It told MTV News it's up to the individual to interpret it as they want. "If you want to dance with Molly, then you gonna enjoy the line 'dancing with Molly.' You know what I'm saying,?" he explained. "But whoever wants to dance with Miley, and whoever enjoys Miley Cyrus, then you know what I'm saying, then they're going to take it as 'dancing with Miley.' So however y'all want to take it. It's not really for us to just really lay out. We just put the record out."
Cyrus later revealed to UK newspaper The Daily Mail that she is indeed referencing the drug but changed the lyric to "Miley" for radio. "It depends who's doing what," she said "If you're aged ten it's 'Miley', if you know what I'm talking about, then you know. I just wanted it to be played on the radio and they've already had to edit it so much."
Cyrus added: "I don't think people have a hard time understanding that I've grown up. You can Google me and you know what I'm up to - you know what that lyric is saying."
Co-writer Theron Thomas , who is one half of the Rock City songwriting duo, confirmed the lyric is "dancing with Molly." He recalled in a Genius attribution how they had to tone the lyrics down as a result of pressure from Cyrus' label.
"We got fought on 'We Can't Stop' hard because they wanted us to change the lyrics so f---ing bad. Originally it was 'Getting high off of mollies, doing whatever we want.' We said 'dancing with Molly' because we were like, 'It sounds like Miley.'"
The lyric "And everyone in line in the bathroom. Trying to get a line in the bathroom" has surprised some of Cyrus' fans as it appears to be referencing cocaine. "Its a point-of-view record, so she never said that she was standing in the line in the bathroom, trying to get her line in the bathroom. She said everyone in line in the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom," Mike Will explained to MTV News. "So I mean there's different party. You got some parties where people might dance with Molly. You got some parties where people might be doing lines... A party is a party. It's like a point-of-view. So I wasn't at the exact party that made her connect with the record, so I can't really tell you whoever she's talking about. It's not her. It's really like a point-of-view record."
The producer added that Cyrus was inspired by some real-life events she witnessed for herself. "When she heard this song, what made her connect to this song is it reminded her of a specific party, a specific party where she was at," he said. "If you listen to the lyrics, it's not really her saying like she's in the bathroom getting a [line]; it's like everyone's in line in the bathroom trying to get a [line] in the bathroom. You know what I'm saying?"
"And then it's like 'All my home girls here with the big butts...' you know what I'm saying,?" he continued. "She's saying real stuff. It's all real. So it's not like her trying to force anything or anything like that. It's like speaking from experience. It's like a point-of-view record."
The song was originally intended for Rihanna. "When I originally worked on 'We Can't Stop,' we had did it for Rihanna. The idea was more towards Rihanna," Mike WiLL Made It told MTV News. "Rihanna, she heard 'Pour It Up' right away, and she didn't even hear 'We Can't Stop.'"
After he'd finished working on Rihanna's Unapologetic album, Mike Will switched his attention to Cyrus, and when Sony first heard the song, the label decided it was "perfect" for the pop star. "They played it for her, she liked it, so I thought we were just gonna knock out one record," he said. "But we ended up going in and caught a good vibe. She's real cool, a regular person."
The song's vague references to drugs use and strip clubs raised some eyebrows but Miley maintained to Billboard magazine that it is her right to talk about issues she has experienced first-hand no matter how controversial the subject matter. 'I'm 20 years old and I want to talk to the people that are up all night with their friends,' she said. 'It's based on a true story of a crazy night I had: When I heard the song for the first time, it captured exactly what I was living."
Mike WiLL Made It described this to Billboard magazine as, "like a mature version of 'Party in the U.S.A..'" He added: "That's even how I described it when I presented it to Rihanna, before I'd even met Miley."
The song's house party-themed music video was directed by Diane Martel, who also helmed the clip for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." It was filmed in Los Angeles, California, during the last week of May 2013. The button-pushing visual served as a major contribution in the rebranding of Cyrus as the former Disney star throws a crazy house party. "I think the indirect message is to be free," said Martel in an interview with Celebuzz. "Miley has a very open mind and, like the lovely kids born with the internet as their companion, she's got a wealth of references to play with. We spoke at first about intimacy between friends, but I think the video is more about her intimacy with her audience. She's very playful and silly in the video. She's not self-serious and boorish like so many singers."
The video features a number of surreal surprises, including a French fry skull, taxidermy animals, sandwiches made out of dollar bills, Cyrus making out with a doll, and the severing of fingers that then bleed pink. Mantel explained to Celebuzz: "Miley found a photo online of the French fry skull and sent it to me," she said. "It was a beautiful French fry skull. We were inspired by it and recreated it our own way. After we filmed we found out that it was created by a fine artist named Christopher Chiappa.
The taxidermy was something Miley mentioned early on, and my fabulous art director, Georgia Walker, found in a smarmy prop shop. The lyric with the multiple taxidermy deer image is very touching. It almost makes us cry when we see that shot.
The doll is a weird reference to a Helmet Newton photo. I worked on the idea with a friend, Aramis Isreal, who is a creative director and has worked on a lot of successful ads. We gathered a lot of blogged images and worked them into the short list.
The bread was my idea, bread/cash, etc. And I have a background in performance art, so a lot of the stuff came from the corners of my mind.
The cut off fingers came about when we were on location scouting in the kitchen and I said, 'oh someone has to cut off their fingers.' I grew up on Devo and John Waters, so that might inform some of this stuff."
The song's video became the fastest to 100 million views on VEVO. The clip reached the milestone just 37 days after its original premiere. In doing so it broke the record previously held by Eminem and Rihanna's "Love The Way You Lie," which tallied up 100 million views in 39 days back in 2010.
Georgia-native Mike WiLL Made It wasn't much acquainted with Cyrus' music but he was familiar with father Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart." The producer approached the session with few preconceived notions. "Me and Miley just clicked," he told Billboard magazine. "She has good ideas. She's real creative. Her whole thing is she's getting older so her sound is evolving, but she doesn't want to reach too far. 'We Can't Stop' has so many different vibes to it. She sounds country; the beat has these live, knocking drums; and then it has these pop melodies. It's a feel-good record."
Miley Cyrus made her VMA debut in 2013 when she emerged from the belly of a giant teddy bear to perform this song. Following her steamy performance of the tune, the former Disney star was then joined onstage by Robin Thicke as she stripped off to a flesh-colored bra and panties and sung Pharrell Williams' parts on "Blurred Lines." Scathing reviews of her highly sexual performance, which also involved twerking and a giant foam finger, flooded Twitter. Lady Antebellum, for instance, tweeted: "do you think Billy Ray Cyrus woke up with an achy breaky heart this morning after his little girl's performance at the VMAs last night."
Miley, however was upbeat about the amount of attention her frolics received on the social networking website. "Smilers! My VMA performance had 306.000 tweets per minute. That's more than the blackout or Superbowl! #fact.," she tweeted.
Jamaican songwriter Michael May, who performs under the name Flourgon, filed a suit on March 13, 2018 alleging that the song significantly borrows from his 1988 single "We Run Things." He said the track has been "a favorite for lovers of reggae music worldwide" and topped the chart in Jamaica.
May's lawyers argued that around half of Miley's song comes from him, including a "substantially similar hook" and similarities between Cyrus' refrain, "We run things. Things don't run we" and his lyrics, "We run things. Things no run we". The Jamaican dancehall artist sought a halt to sales and performances of Cyrus' song as well as $300 million (£215m) in damages and legal fees.
"We Can't Stop" reached #2 in the US Billboard Hot 100. Ironically, it was kept off the top spot by Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," itself the subject of a multi-million dollar copyright infringement case.
Camille from Toronto, OhI'm a middle aged woman who happens to love this song, love the attitude, and yes, a person can interpret the lyrics however they want to... It's our party we can do what we want It's our party we can say what we want It's our party we can love who we want...
And we can't stop And we won't stop We run things, things don't run we Don't take nothing from nobody Yeah, yeah.