|Pink mixes in fully cranked party tunes with ballads about her breakup.|
Pink is a rare bird: a pop star who gets real and gets on the charts. She brings an interior life to factory-assembled fluff and rocks stupid riffs with real soul. Glitzy dance-floor anthems and loaded confessionals go toe-to-toe in her musical playbook. And Pink's got a sense of humor, an immensely appealing and elusive quality among multiplatinum divas, and a great asset - at least for the length of one killer anthem - on "Funhouse," Pink's divorce album, which is out tomorrow.
"So what/ I'm still a rock star/ I got my rock moves/ And I don't need you," Pink sings, or sneers, on the first single, a black-and-blue kiss-off, and she ups the ante by casting her ex, motocross racer Carey Hart, in the video for "So What." But it's a fake-it-till-you-make it storyline that doesn't last. From there Pink settles into variations on a theme of what went wrong while plumbing sonic turf that, five albums into her career, is starting to feel just a bit too familiar.
If this were an Avril or an Ashlee album, we would jump for joy to behold such a sturdy and shame-free array of hooks and refrains. But Pink has always been better than her material. She's blessed with personality and pipes that lift Top 40 pop-rock above the fray. And while the lyrical themes here are clearly personal to Pink, who co-wrote all of the songs, she continues to rely on standard-issue hitmakers Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys), Billy Mann (Ricky Martin, Take That), Butch Walker (Fall Out Boy) and Kara DioGuardi (Kelly Clarkson) for her musical direction.
That said, Pink continues to make everything she touches her own. She uses brains and brawn to turn the mainstream into a complicated place, which means that "Sober" finds the sweet spot between "American Idol" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and "Ave Maria A," an overwrought Incubus knock-off, feels urgent as well as ill-advised. "Funhouse" - an ironically titled farewell to domesticity - is a mash of vintage funk licks, stiff rock riffs, squiggly synths, and poisonous Pink frosting, with the singer's sweet, spiteful voice sliced into a dozen layers.
"Bad Influence" is a signature track, a fully cranked, reggae-flecked party tune celebrating the singer's, um, leadership skills. That this is the same girl who puts over bruised ballads like "Glitter in the Air" and "Crystal Ball" with piercing tenderness is testament to Pink's depth, which is still criminally underappreciated. "A fortune teller says maybe you will go to hell/ But I'm not scared at all," Pink sings on the latter tune.
That fearlessness shines through the occasional stock chord changes, and it makes Pink a unique, and thoroughly compelling, poster girl.