Pink, perhaps alone among the current crop of pop musicians (in the radio-format sense of the term), has consistently tried new things. Starting with her second album, 2001’s widely praised Missundaztood, she’s jumped all over the place. She’s written songs with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong. She’s revived the career of that chick from 4 Non Blondes. She’s performed songs with Steven Tyler, the Indigo Girls, and even her dad.
This jumping around didn’t always work, but it always kept her interesting, and with her fourth album, 2006’s I’m Not Dead, it paid off big time. I’m Not Dead was one of the best albums of its year and revived her commercial fortunes after the unjust flopping of her previous album, Try This.
For her follow-up, Funhouse, she returns to the team she worked with on I’m Not Dead, and it’s easy to see why–I’m Not Dead was a hit, and as close to a masterpiece as we are likely to get in the current pop environment. And at times, taking a second shot with them pays dividends. The post-divorce single “So What” works on two levels–as an emancipation from an unhappy marriage, and as a desperate scream for attention from a devastated divorcee killing the pain with profusive quantities of alcohol and likely looking for a revenge fuck. She’s got a way with big pop hooks, and with the electrifying “Bad Influence,” she sinks her teeth into one so meaty she’s in danger of having her PETA membership revoked.
But the dividends are too few. There are a number of perfectly respectable ballads here that showcase what a great singer Pink is–something that can be lost in her overwhelming Pinkness–but only “Please Don’t Leave Me,” with its haunting, melancholy “da da da da” underpinning and New Order-style bass line, rises to the level of most of I’m Not Dead. The couple of attempts to stretch here don’t stretch all that much, and only “Mean,” which answers the question of what it might sound like if Pink tried to have a country hit in a world where Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” is considered country, really works. (The answer: Not bad, but a lot like ’90s Aerosmith.)
One can’t blame Pink for working again with the people partially responsible for her greatest artistic triumph, but unfortunately, the result is I’m Not Dead Lite. This is not a bad album, but as she’s proven she’s capable of so much more, it’s time for Pink to do what she does best–set out in a new and unexpected direction.