Alecia Moore, otherwise known as Pink, seemed a breath of fresh air when she first appeared in 1999. Fiesty, tattooed and pierced, she was a world away from the ‘MTV babe’ image of Jessica Simpson – indeed, she actively marketed herself as the ‘anti-Britney‘.
Happily, she also knew how to write some cracking pop tunes, with her collaboration with erstwhile 4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry resulting in the smart, sassy Mizunderstood album. Her star took a bit of a knock somewhat when she teamed up with Tim Armstrong of punk rockers Rancid for the flop Try This, but I’m Not Dead comes with a cast-iron guarantee that she’ll have people talking about her again.
For Pink’s fourth album has it all – she slags off pop rivals and media whores in Stupid Girls, the F-word is scattered liberally throughout the hour, and most arresting of all, there’s a savage attack on President Bush. In an age when Britney Spears says “I think we should just trust the President in every decision he makes and we should just support that”, and when the Dixie Chicks were receiving death threats not that long ago, it’s an incredibly brave move for a mainstream pop act.
Musically though, she still seems a bit confused about who she wants to be. Kelly Clarkson seems to have stolen her crown as angsty female rocker du jour, and the music here is a weird mish-mash of FM rock, folky ballads, and funky, poppy dance tracks. It makes for a diverting, interesting listen – but not a totally successful one.
There is plenty of good stuff. The opening Stupid Girls is one of Pink’s finest moments yet, a lyrically brilliant attack on “papparazi girls” who “travel in packs of two or three, with their itsy bitsy doggies and their teeny-weeny tees”. It’s a funny, intelligent song, and one that makes a mockery of those who claim Moore isn’t a good role model.
Yet even Stupid Girls is put in the shade by the excellent Dear Mr President, a stripped down ballad performed with folky lesbian icons Indigo Girls. An open letter to George Bush, this includes lines that would probably have Moore strung up in the Deep South (“You’ve come a long way from whiskey and cocaine” for one) and has some perfect backing from the Indigo Girls. It’s one of the best songs you’ll hear all year.
Elsewhere, Who Knew is perfect driving, anthemic pop while Cuz Can is just bizarre, a expletive-strewn marching song with “Ice cream, ice cream, we all want ice cream as a chorus”. It’s very strange, but oddly addictive. U + Ur Hand marries dirty guitar licks to a soaring chorus, while Fingers continues the controversy by appearing to be about masturbation.
It’s not all successful though. At 15 tracks, it’s rather overlong and the second half of the record does drag a bit. Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self is as cringeworthy as its title may suggest – an overblown ballad reassuring Pink’s troubled younger self that everything will work out in the end. Blank ends the album on a rather jarring note, being an acoustic ballad with her father that seems to sit uneasily at the end of the record.
In parts, Pink’s fourth album is quite brilliant – intelligent, subversive pop with a message. Yet there’s also a lot of anonymous ‘power rock’ which, while listenable, is annoying as you know that Pink is capable of so much more. She’s certainly not dead, and if she can build on the many good moments of this album, she’ll be back to full health in no time.