The history of popular music boasts a long tradition of musically inspired and emotionally complex albums about divorce, including such classics as “Blood on the Tracks” by Bob Dylan, “Here, My Dear” by Marvin Gaye and “Shoot Out the Lights” by Richard and Linda Thompson.
With all due respect to the pain and suffering she’s feeling in the wake of her split last February from motocross celebrity Carey Hart, no one ever will mention the fifth album by the former Alecia Beth Moore in the same breath as those discs–though to be sure, divorce informs every syrupy note. (Arriving in stores next week as “Funhouse,” Pink’s original title of “Heartbreak is a Mother——” was nixed by her record company, though at least it offered truth in advertising.)
Throughout her platinum pop career, our dance-rock heroine has dumped more than her share of alleged soul-searching balladry upon us, including such regrettable top-heavy duds as “Family Portrait,” “Dear Mr. President” and “Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely).” We loved her anyway, because scrappy, assertive and self-empowering anthems such as “Get the Party Started,” “Don’t Let Me Get Me” and “Stupid Girls” carried the day, making it hard to believe that anything could keep the owner of that rough but endearing rasp down for long.
Yet even as she pretends to claw her way back with bitter wit and righteous anger, Pink glosses over real emotions here, weirdly magnifying the trivial while minimizing the serious, just like the ripples of a funhouse mirror. “Pictures framing up the past/Your taunting smirk behind the glass/This museum full of ash/Once a tickle/Now a rash,” she yelps. Love lost has been compared to many things, but this may be the first time anyone has claimed that heartbreak equals psoriasis.
As in the past, the ballads are dreadful; witness “Sober,” written with Tony Kanal of No Doubt, or “I Don’t Believe You,” co-written by Swedish pop producer Max Martin, if you can stomach them. But for the first time, the up-tempo numbers are even worse: trite, formulaic and lacking the heart that has always been Pink’s saving grace. “I’m still a rock star/I got my rock moves/And I don’t need you,” she protests in the opening track and first single, “So What,” already an inexplicable hit. I have no problem believing that sentiment, but clearly Pink needed something before coasting through this recording, a mere reflection of the artist we’ve celebrated before.