When Pink came onto the music scene almost a decade ago, did anyone think we’d still be talking about her a decade later? After making her initial entrance as a reasonably anonymous R&B singer, Pink remade herself with 2001’s Missundaztood and has rolled along ever since, with a sound that straddles the line between pop and rock much like Pat Benatar did twenty-five years ago.
Pink’s fifth album, Funhouse, follows in much the same path as 2006’s I’m Not Dead. The songs are hooky as all hell and Pink wails her behind off (someone should really start giving this girl props for her singing voice…even if she can’t act,someone at least needs to have her sing the vocal parts in any Janis Joplin biopic). The difference is that, for the most part, this album is themed around Pink’s recent divorce from motocross racer Carey (not Corey) Hart. Every song centers around bitterness, heartbreak or defiance. Actually, Funhouse reminds me a lot of Kelly Clarkson’s 2007 album My December. Difference between the two? Pink has a sense of humor, and that makes Funhouse go down a lot easier.
Of course, by now you’ve heard So What, a swaggering rocker in which Pink (sarcastically?) shrugs off losing her husband by claiming “I’m still a rock star!”. You can almost see her laughing with her middle finger in the air during songs like this and Bad Influence (a song with a devil-may-care attitude that someone really needs to use in a rock musical), although there’s a catch in that throaty voice that makes you feel like maybe Pink’s not having as good a time as she says she is. The track Sober indicates as much, as she wonders sings “No pain inside/You’re like perfection/But how do I feel this good sober?”
The album’s title track has a deceptively upbeat dance/rock flavor (think Franz Ferdinand). However, listen to the lyrics, and you’ll find that Pink isn’t exactly discussing a circus or carnival. “This used to be a fun house,” she sings, clearly directing her venom towards the end of her relationship. At one point, she growls “I’m gonna burn this f*cker down”. The rage is palpable. The acoustic Crystal Ball is another winner, as is Mean, on which Pink tries on a new hat with a song that would sound right at home on country radio…although I don’t think the cuss words would get past the censors. She only takes one break from the breakup talk with the rockin’ (but lyrically somber) Ave Mary A, this album’s one attempt at a socially conscious tune.
My one quibble with Funhouse is that it’s a bit overproduced. Listen to a song like the beautiful piano ballad Glitter in the Air and think of what a great record Pink could potentially make with a simple guitarist, bass and drums. That minor detail aside, Funhouse is one of those rare albums that manages to be achingly personal and also pop-friendly. There are enough danceable tunes to keep the kiddies satisfied (and just about every song on the album has a killer chorus), but there’s a confessional singer-songwriter album lurking just beneath the shiny exterior. The ability to combine all of these elements into one coherent-and solid-album is what makes Pink one of the few to come out of the late-Nineties teen-pop boom to deserve the title of “artist”.