In the world of Top 40 pop, Pink nails the difficult role of credible gimmick. A tough girl from the Philly suburbs, she dressed her edge in a close-cut pink hairstyle and pedestrian R&B on debut Can’t Take Me Home. Then she got in touch with former 4 Non Blonde Linda Perry and showed her true guts and neuroses on Missundaztood. An ensuing collaboration with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong on Try This didn’t prove as successful, but no worries; Pink came back stronger than ever with I’m Not Dead. After taking everyone from bimbos to George W Bush to task, she released her biggest single ever—“So What”—and buried it in a middling album that was salvaged by a circus-themed world tour. Something as fanciful as the circus is the very essence of a gimmick. Yet, as her greatest hits compilation acknowledges, Pink’s convictions are strong even when buried under a layer or two of glitz.
For the first 12 tracks, Greatest Hits…So Far!!! is well-formatted, skimping on Can’t Take Me Home and the relative flop Try This. Brushing a debut under the carpet can put an artist at risk of downplaying the leaps they have taken in ensuing releases. Pink avoids such a fate by opening the compilation with Missundaztood‘s “Get the Party Started”, then cutting back to her debut with “There You Go” before moving on to more serious fare such as “Don’t Let Me Get Me”. The accessibility of “Get the Party Started” strikes the listener as not feeling out of place on Pink’s debut, but when we are reminded of that debut with “There You Go”, we see how comparatively anemic the songs on Can’t Take Me Home are.
Missundaztood singles “Don’t Let Me Get Me”, “Just Like a Pill”, and “Family Portrait” remain three of Pink’s strongest songs. “Don’t Let Me Get Me” offers a more detailed account of self-destruction than most pop songs, and lays the framework for her ongoing advocacy of the young and outcast. “Just Like a Pill” is a sturdy rocker in spite of some slightly too on-the-nose metaphors and an utterance of “bitch” that seems little more than a shock tactic, although Pink was probably just testing the water so she could move on to harder curses in future releases. “Family Portrait” reveals an honesty that feels almost voyeuristic in such pop surroundings, and is all the more effective for it. A song such as this goes hand in hand with I’m Not Dead‘s “Dear Mr. President” in terms of thematic audacity, yet the latter also proves that Pink is far more successful when focusing on the personal rather than political.
Pink does get social criticism right with “Stupid Girls”, an “I’m Not Dead” single which garnered a lot of attention due to its clever music video mocking Paris Hilton and her dippy ilk. Again, Pink is speaking for the young outcast girls; given her tough, straight-talking persona, Pink is more suited in this role than the likes of a “Beautiful”-era Christina Aguilera, an artist who still comes across as the popular pretty girl even when rocking S&M gear and bottomless chaps.
“So What” is both personal—it deals with Pink’s separation from her husband Cary Hart—and cartoony, with a video featuring Pink at her prankish best, but somewhere it goes overboard. In the end, it comes across as a tamer version of Try This single “Trouble”. The Funhouse tracks which follow “So What” deviate between snoozy ballads and slightly disco influenced rockers, with all styles being weighed down by lazy lyrics. Many of the Funhouse songs could have been omitted, so the listener could arrive to the compilations new chorus-heavy tracks more quickly. The Pink-sung version of “Whataya Want From Me”, a song written for American Idol‘s Adam Lambert, is featured in the release’s international edition and is certainly the better for it. Despite being written for someone else, the power Pink foists into the bridge renders it more heartfelt than even her most personal songs. On “Raise Your Glass”, her latest single, Pink is back to encouraging the underdogs with a shouty chorus and by paying homage to Rosie the Riveter in the accompanying video. In the hands of other big pop divas, such an homage risks coming across as highly sexualized, but Pink faithfully portrays the icon as a symbol of hardiness.
Whether she’s collaborating with Linda Perry or Max Martin, Greatest Hits…So Far!!! proves that Pink is a more convincing genre-hopper than many of her peers. At times, she appears to be the missing link between Kelly Clarkson and Courtney Love, but she bests the former by having the edge to sing harder “Since U Been Gone”-style pop songs and the post-Celebrity Skin output of the latter by having a less weathered voice. Although she seemed overload some of her conviction with spectacle for Funhouse, Greatest Hits…So Far!!! reminds us that, whether she’s pulling cartoon faces or not, what Pink has to say bears listening.
// Notes from the Road
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