This very well may be the album that turns the whole plastic teen pop/bubblegum/TRL video diva franchise on its ear and send it screaming down the street. My first inclination that Pink was incredibly fucking cool and not just another hip chick who could carry a snappy tune over a processed beat was when she took part in the whole “Lady Marmalade” cover for the over-hyped and bomb of a flick Moulin Rouge earlier this year. Every time the video for that song got played, I watched it just to hear Pink sing her part. Why the hell was she wasting time with those other ladies? She can sing rings around Christina Aguilera who still can’t seem to understand that “singing” does not always mean wail your ass off up and down the scales.
No, Pink has broken the mold of her previous release with M!ssundaztood, an album that eschews the what was once thought as merely another money making video ready mama formula for a tougher, funkier, and downright rocking album. Kind of like how Robbie Williams did it last year with his fantastic Sing When You’re Winning album. So while Britney Spears is wasting her time grunting out the words on her new album and trying to decide on whether or not to finally take her shirt off, Pink will be kicking everyone’s asses with some real substance. M!ssundaztood deserves to be the pop album of the year.
The fact that things are decidedly different this time around is evident on the first song, “M!ssundaztood”. Over a simple backing beat, Pink sings “I might be the way / Everybody likes to say / I know watcha thinking about me / There might be a day / You might have a certain way / But you don’t have my luxuries / And it’s me I know / I know my name ‘cause I say it proud / Everything I want I always do Lookin’ for the right track / Always on the wrong track / But are you catchin’ all these tracks / That I’m layin’ down for you”. Without even note one being played, Pink hits upon a killer melody that’s undeniable. But then, the music kicks in and it gets even better than that. Over a funky ass bass line, some simple electric rhythm guitar and a spare synth line here and there, “M!ssundaztood” is infinitely enjoyable. Even if there were no other good tunes on this album, this song alone would make a believer out of anyone.
But there are a ton of other good songs here. Great songs, even. On the power rock of “Don’t Let Me Get Me”, Pink herself tells it like it is and attempts to break free from the image making machine. “Tired of being compared / To damn Britney Spears / She’s so pretty / That just ain’t me”. Well, that’s debatable in itself, but the fact that Pink takes it upon herself to call Spears out should be nothing short of revelatory. Spears certainly has nothing on Pink in the vocal department. Pink can actually sing. And damn well, mind you.
The lead single for M!ssundaztood is the dance inducing “Get the Party Started”. Again, even this isn’t really in the mold of current dance tracks. Instead, it feels more like the kinds of grooves that were coming out in the early Nineties, when alt-rock was influencing the discos as well as the college charts. In fact, it sounds a little like Apollo Smile who had an album out back in ‘91 or so. “Get The Party Started” also echoes the good time vibe that other hits like Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” had that successfully won over many fans. This track should do just the same thing. It did for me, anyway.
Even the slower numbers are strong here. The drama laid out in both “Just Like a Pill” (“I can’t stay on your life support / There’s a shortage in the switch”) and “18 Wheeler” (“You can hang me like a slave / I’ll go underground” are poignant without ever becoming sappy. It’s respect Pink wants most of all throughout this album, and it’s respect she’ll have. She sings about it in explicit terms in “Respect”: “Back up, boy / I ain’t your toy / Or your piece of ass”.
Part of what makes this album so strong is Pink’s own hand in the songwriting process. For the most part, she has collaborated with producer Dennis Austin and ex-4 Non Blonde Linda Perry here. And when Pink sings about her inner feelings in songs like “Eventually”, “Numb”, and “My Vietnam”, she’s 100% believable. Again, this is not the same kind of farm raised gloss pop that the likes of Britney, et al. are always pumping out. What could Spears have to say that would even be marginally interesting?
M!ssundaztood is not without its flaw. “Misery” features Steven Tyler and will undoubtedly become a big hit if it is destined to be a single, but so what? Haven’t we heard enough of Tyler by now to get the point? This opportunistic moment is really the only seriously pale moment on this album. The rest of the disc covers such a wide array of style and substance that it’s hard to find something not to like here.
It’s nice to see Pink breaking away from the stereotypes and misconceptions regarding pop stars. Indeed, it certainly feels like a bold move to make in the current Top 40 climate. Yet it had to be done eventually, and who better to shatter the imagery than from someone on top and on the inside? When groups like *NSync and Backstreet Boys demand their respect, you can’t help but feel that it’s just more of the same old washed-out New Kids on the Block nonsense of yesteryear. When Pink wants her freedom and pushes you around for it, you’d damn sure better give it to her. She’s the real deal. And M!ssundaztood is all the proof anyone needs.
// Notes from the Road
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