Arguably, the definition of a pop star is someone whose music is catchy, somewhat generic on the surface, mainstream, ridiculously marketable, and moderately creative.
The label “pop star,” or the words “pop music,” have come to have a bad connotation, especially after the debacle that was the ’90s, with overly superficial manufactured starlets like Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, Christina Aguilera and countless others; as well as the good-looking but marginally talented boy bands like ‘N sync, Backstreet Boys, O-Town, 98 Degrees.
Since then there’s been a major backlash against anything considered “pop”: those mega-selling successes from the ’90s, though some still have some success now, are in no way the huge stars they were at the time.
Britney has been selling less and less with each album that she’s released since …Baby One More Time, Christina Aguilera — though her music and voice have both gotten better — has not held on to all of the audience she appealed to earlier in her career, ‘N sync has faded into obscurity, and even the Backstreet Boys have had to resort to wooing the Adult Contemporary audience to get radio airplay and record sales. Until very recently, “pop” has been such a dirty word even the pop music that has been successful in the past six years has had a tinge of something else.
Either it’s soulful, got some dance or hip-hop beats, or with some strategically placed drums and guitars sounding a little rock. We’ve got our Avril Lavigne, our Evanescence, our Ashlee Simpson, our Pussycat Dolls, and even some people with actual talent like Kelly Clarkson, Natasha Bedingfield, and Kylie Minogue, and — as I get to the point of the article — Pink.
When she started out, she was originally marketed as an urban artist: a white girl with a very soulful voice singing pop tunes that would be mainsteam but also had enough R&B to appeal to the urban audience. Then she got her label to allow her to (reluctantly) release Missundaztood, a mix of pop-dance tunes and edgy songs with attitude, not to mention a much more personal tone. Her success more than tripled. Goes to show what taking a risk can achieve. Pink is the perfect kind of pop star. Her music has rock, R&B, and dance, but is catchy enough to still be pop.
Now Pink, after a long break and an unsuccessful junior album, Try This, is back with the aptly titled I’m Not Dead. Much like Missundaztood, it’s quite biographical. With songs like the dark “Long Way To Happy” that deals with sexual abuse to the indecisive but truthful “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely),” which points out the back and forth feelings about a need for space in relationships, Pink demonstrates she knows how to turn experiences into not only catchy but challenging songs.
Moving beyond herself and into the socio-political, Pink even approaches “Dear Mr. President,” a harsh critique of President Bush and the war in Iraq, and “Stupid Girls,” the anti-Paris Hilton anthem for young women with ambition with a watchful eye and ear.
The great thing about Pink is her ability to perfectly mesh the different aspects of her personality and artistry to create an eclectic mix of music that pleases nearly everyone. From the soulful sounds of “I Got Money Now,” and the excellent “Nobody Knows” (which by the way, showcases Grammy-worthy vocals) to the rockier “Cuz I Can” and “U + Ur Hand,” all the way to her catchier and more pop influenced tunes like “Who Knew” and “Stupid Girls,” there’s no pigeonholing Pink.
The best songs on the album are the haunting “Long Way To Happy,” the tear-jerking yet biting “Dear Mr. President,” the personal “Nobody Knows,” the catchy as hell “Who Knew,” and the Paul McCartney/Sheryl Crow-esque acoustic “The One That Got Away”; they all brilliantly showcase what a talent this young woman is and the potential she has for a long career in music.
I’m Not Dead, though better than Try This (which, by the way, was a good album), is still lacking the freshness of Missundaztood and does swing a few strikes. The last track on the album, “Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self,” is by far the weakest of the album. It is honestly a hamper in what is otherwise a very good CD. The problem with the song lies in the fact that her tendency to write songs like a diary entry are what make her mediocre songs poor, but at the same time makes her best songs phenomenal. For every “Lonely Girl”, there is a “Runaway” (which lyrically is good, but melodically is lackluster), and even the title track takes a few times through before growing on you.
But don’t fret, Pink’s greatest songs make up for every blunder. Her brutal honestly and raw emotion gets under your skin and it is music you’ll remember after a year from now.
Good to know pop isn’t always such a dirty word.