Friday, November 9, 2012

P!nk - The Truth About Love [album review]

Released in September

It's partly a by-product of my age (42), but to my ears and eyes, most pop music today is vacuous and completely forgettable. Admittedly, that's hardly an original statement. One of the genre's few artists of merit is P!nk, who recently released studio album number six, The Truth About Love (and I'll refrain from using the cutesy "!" in her name from this point on, as typing it makes me feel like an utter tool). I was surprised when I read that this release marked her first #1 debut on the Billboard 200 album chart, considering the massive success she's experienced in her career. To link to this review, I went back to find the post I put up a couple of years ago featuring a video of one of the singer's daring performances in a wire rigging setup. Watching it and the other incredible Grammy performance I mentioned in the post impressed upon me once again me just how dynamic a performer Pink is. Aside from her visual flair, she also consistently brings the vocal goods in a live setting. That and a well-crafted power pop sound are traits she shares with one of the few other pop singers whose work I admire, Kelly Clarkson. Here's a breakdown of The Truth About Love's strengths and weaknesses...

The good: It's juvenile, but I so wanted to hate the track "Just Give Me A Reason" that Pink duets on with Nate Ruess of the group fun., purely based on the participation of Ruess. fun. (and that is the way it's spelled) is a perfect representation of the kind of indie music I can't stomach, with my dislike of these acts' exacerbated by the band members' wardrobe choices that scream "hipster douchebag" (I told you I was juvenile). However, within a minute of hearing this song for the first time, I had goosebumps, as the singers' back and forth exchanges of lovers with radically different reads on the state of their relationship plays out over a piano, synth bass line, and drums musical arrangement that sounds positively Queen-like. It's rather phenomenal. First single "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" is far better than the puerile title that Pinks occasionally blemishes her songs with. A Cyndi Lauper-ish bubblegum pop intro gets steamrolled in the chorus by the heavy guitars that are another big reason of why I'm a Pink fan. One of the other main reasons is the highly infectious nature of her songs - Pink's material has more hooks than a tackle box. Said catchiness also dominates the self-empowerment anthem "All We Are We Are", "True Love" (featuring Brit singer Lily Rose Cooper, formerly known as Lily Allen), the excellent "Try", and the playful "Walk Of Shame". If the high gloss production sheen on Pink's upbeat pop material isn't your cup of tea, she really lays her musical talent bare on the ballads that are mostly stripped of the studio bells and whistles: "Beam Me Up" features just an acoustic guitar and a tasteful string arrangement, while "The Great Escape" showcases more strings and a lone piano.

The bad: "How Come You're Not Here" has no shortage of those heavy guitars in the chorus, but this track just never grabbed me. "Slut Like You" is another non-starter that features bratty tongue-in-cheek (I think) lyrics about using men purely as playthings, set over a chorus that nicks the "woo hoo" from Blur's "Song 2", with snippets of intended humour that tend to grate. Speaking of grating, the album's worst track is the plodding "Here Comes The Weekend"; the fact that Eminem has a guest appearance on it only makes a crap song that much worse. Finally, the generic "Where Did The Beat Go?" sounds like a Destiny's Child leftover that Pink would have been advised to shelve in favour of any of the four songs that were relegated to The Truth About Love's deluxe edition ("My Signature Move", "Is This Thing On?", "Run", and "Good Old Days"). Oh, and I could do without the badass posturing that Pink seems to think is necessary with her gratuitous usage of f-bombs throughout the album.

The curious: One thing I've never fully understood and always been rubbed a little wrong by in the pop world (country too, for that matter) is the practice of using tons of producers and songwriters on an album. The Truth About Love has 11 different producers and aside from Pink, a full 20 different songwriters credited. I guess the end result is what matters, though, and in this case, it's a fairly solid one.

Back in June when I railed in a post about the visual over-skankification so many of today's female pop artists seem to present, I refrained from mentioning Pink, although the provocative singer truthfully wouldn't be too out of place within that group. Acts like Katy Perry and Kesha need to parade around half-naked to distract an audience from the fact they're musical hacks. Pink, however, actually possesses loads of talent and shouldn't need to resort to such cheap tactics. 

There's a disappointing inconsistency to the material, but when the songs on The Truth About Love work, they work big-time.

Rating: B- 

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