Tough, brutally honest, and not shy of a little humor: Pink. This powerhouse has been topping the charts for over 19 years, and as she will be visiting The Netherlands and Belgium this summer to put on (supposedly) 3 incomparable shows, it’s about time for the ultimate investigation: what exactly is Pink’s music about?
Whoever thinks that Pink’s catchy tracks are without meaningful content are dead wrong. Pink stands up for the underdogs, discusses the highs and lows of her love life, and puts American presidents up to the test. Not many other artists in the industry are as open, pronounced, and raw as Pink in her lyrics. It is exactly this directness that makes it difficult not to relate…
Alecia Beth Moore, better known as Pink (or P!nk), was born in 1979 in Doylestown. Her parents divorced when she was 9, and between the age of 12 and 15, Alecia lost herself in the nightlife scene, selling ecstasy and crystal meth. This ultimately resulted in an overdose in 1995, and she has sworn off drugs ever since.
Not long after this incident she joined girl group, Choice, which didn’t bring in any commercial success. So Pink decided to start a solo career: her first album Can’t Take Me Home was relatively successful, but she couldn’t relate to the R&B sound prescribed to her by the label.
She then approached her childhood idol 4 Non Blondes frontwoman, Linda Perry, to help her work out a distinctive sound. Together they created the pop-rock sound that launched Pink into world fame.
Over the years, she has released tens of world hits and sold millions of albums. She has also written scores for films such as The Greatest Showman and Suffrogettes, and even acted in movies like Thanks for Sharing and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
On top of this, her prize cabinet is filled with no less than 3 Grammys, 7 MTV Video Music Awards, and 5 American Music Awards.
Pink’s honest and personal lyrics are an important driving force behind her critical acclaim. She discovered their potentially enormous impact when a 13-year old girl approached her after a TV performance a couple of years ago, giving her an incredibly touching letter. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the singer stated:
“It was literally, ‘My mom just died, my grandfather was raping her, and now he’s raping me. And I want to kill myself, but I don’t because of your music.’ I’m sitting there bawling my eyes out, trying to call Child Services and figure out where this girl is and can I take her with me.”
However, the girl had already left and she would never be seeing her again. This kind of emotional connection is not rare between Pink and her fans. In an interview with The Guardian, she explains:
“I started to realise that when I am the most uncomfortable and the most vulnerable and saying the most honest, shameful shit, that’s what’s getting to somebody else. And I’m basically having therapy and somebody else is getting something from it.”
She brings out the best in her fans:
“It’s not just like, ‘Oh my God, Pink, I love your hair!’ And it’s not even ‘I want to be like you.’ It’s ‘I like you because you make me want to be like me’.”
It was difficult to decide on a selection of Pink’s enormous stack of hits, but I’ve selected the next 5 tracks which I believe are representative for themes she considers to be important and showcase the unique way in which she discusses topics in her songs. Have we missed any essential tracks? Let us know in the comments!
5. Family Portrait (M!ssundaztood, 2001)
Charted at #5 is the heartbreakingly candid Family Portrait. Inspiration was drawn from a poem Pink wrote when she was 9, following the departure of her father. She discusses the direct impact it had on her:
Momma please stop crying, I can’t stand the sound
Your pain is painful and it’s tearin’ me down
I hear glasses breaking as I sit up in my bed
I told dad you didn’t mean those nasty things you said
You fight about money, ‘bout me and my brother
And this I come home to, this is my shelter
It ain’t easy growing up in World War III
Never knowing what love could be, you’ll see
I don’t want love to destroy me like it has done my family
Can we work it out? (Can we?) Can we be a family? (Can we?)
I promise I’ll be better (I promise)
Mommy, I’ll do anything (I’ll do anything)
Can we work it out? Can we be a family?
I promise I’ll be better
Daddy, please don’t leave
Family Portrait – Pink
In an interview with Telegraph, she elaborates:
“That was my life. I was a daddy’s girl and I was devastated when he left because my mom and I never really got along.”
Yet, at the same time she said:
“God, what a relief. You spend the first nine years of your life afraid of what’s going to happen in your house and then you just have quiet. I flinch now when people fight. I can’t handle it.”
But how did her family respond, given that their dirty laundry was suddenly out for everyone to know (and hear)? For one, Pink’s mother was not pleased and returned the favor in an interview with the National Enquirer. Luckily, the two women have since reconciled and are now able to look back and laugh.
4. Stupid Girls (I’m Not Dead, 2006)
Two important values for Pink include self-love and inner power. In 2017, she managed to inspire audiences when receiving the MTV Vanguard Award at the VMAs. In her acceptance speech (which went viral soon after), she dedicated the Award to her daughter, Willow.
She explained how her little girl recently told her ‘I’m the ugliest girl I know. I look like a boy with long hair’. This negative self-image of the 6 (!) year-old girl upset the singer, who, in response, decided to create a Powerpoint-presentation on androgynous popstars.
“We don’t change,” she concludes in the acceptance speech, “We help other people to change, so they can see more kinds of beauty.”
Versions of this statement surface in many of her lyrics. Where Raise Your Glass and F*ckin’ Perfect reflect it in the literal sense as traditional powertracks, Stupid Girls is approached differently. In this song, she critiques women who act as if they were stupid or overtly sexy for attention.
Go to Fred Segal, you’ll find them there
Laughing loud so all the little people stare
Looking for a daddy to pay for their champagne
What happened to the dream of a girl president?
She’s dancing in the video next to 50 Cent
They travel in packs of two or three
With their itsy-bitsy doggies and their teeny-weeny tees
Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?
Oh where, oh where could they be?
Maybe if I act like that, that guy will call me back
Porno paparazzi girl, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl
Baby, if I act like that, flipping my blonde hair back
Push up my bra like that, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl
Stupid Girls – Pink
Not a very traditional way to bring across an encouraging message, but it’s definitely inspiring!
3. Beautiful Trauma (Beautiful Trauma, 2017)
Compared to so many other artists who would rather keep their love life private, Pink is quite open about it in her lyrics and in interviews. In 2002 she started dating motocross racer, Carey Hart. They broke up for a while, but eventually got married and had two kids together.
Their relational ups and downs are an obvious inspiration for a number of Pink’s songs. She discusses her doubts in Blow Me (One Last Kiss), she convinces (herself) that she’s doing alright in So What (which features Carey in the music video – even though they were broken up at the time!), and declares her love to him in her own way through True Love (‘I really hate you so much, I think it must be true love’).
Their relationship is best described as ‘turbulent’, which Pink perfectly summarizes in Beautiful Trauma.
We were on fire
I slashed your tires
It’s like we burn so bright, we burn out
I made you chase me
I wasn’t that friendly
My love, my drug, we’re fucked up, oh
The first two sentences were inspired by what happened on Thanksgiving a few years ago. In Jimmy Fallon’s show, Pink reveals how she accidentally set Carey’s parents’ bedroom on fire by not properly stubbing out a cigarette. This sparked a huge fight with Carey where she ended up slashing his tires. Yes, you heard that right!
Subsequently, she compares their relationship to drugs; it supplies her with enormous highs but also has many lows. And it is addictive too!
‘Cause I’ve been on the run so long they can’t find me
You’re waking up to remember I’m pretty
And when the chemicals leave my body
Yeah, they’re gonna find me in a hotel lobby ‘cause
Times they keep comin’
Laughin’ and fuckin’
Some days like I’m barely breathin’
After we were high and the love dope died it was you
The pill I keep takin’
The nightmare I wake in
There’s nothin’, no nothin’, nothin’ but you
My perfect rock bottom
My beautiful trauma
My love, my love, my drug, oh
Beautiful Trauma – Pink
In an interview with The Guardian, she explains:
“There are moments where I look at [Carey Hart] and he is the most thoughtful, logical, constant … he’s like a rock. He’s a good man. He’s a good dad. He’s just the kind of dad I thought he’d be and then some.
And then I’ll look at him and go: I’ve never liked you. There’s nothing I like about you. We have nothing in common. I don’t like any of the shit you like. I don’t ever wanna see you again.
Then two weeks later I’m like, things are going so good, you guys. Then you’ll go through times when you haven’t had sex in a year. Is this bed death? Is this the end of it? Do I want him? Does he want me? Monogamy is work! But you do the work and it’s good again.”
How cool of her to be this brutally honest!
2. Dear Mr. President (I’m Not Dead, 2006) / What About Us (Beautiful Trauma, 2017)
Knowing the outspoken way in which Pink discusses her family and love-life, her vocal political stance comes as no surprise. In an interview with NPR, she explains where this viewpoint originated:
“I grew up with a Vietnam vet dad and a Vietnam vet stepmom and a nurse for a mom, people that have always been of service. My dad’s nickname is Mr. Cause. I grew up listening to rock and roll and, you know, protest music. And I feel like with songs like ‘What About Us’ and ‘Dear Mr. President’ and even ‘Stupid Girls’, I’m doing my part a little bit.
It’s very clear who I am and what I believe in. I’ve been marching and protesting. And, yes, I could do so much more. Honestly, I could do so much more.”
Dear Mr. President, which she released with Indigo Girls in 2006, is an open letter to then-president George W. Bush. Through cutting-edge lyrics she poses him several questions, challenging his stance on the war in Iraq, his aspirations toward banning gay marriage, and his policies regarding homelessness.
Dear Mr. President, come take a walk with me (come take a walk with me)
Let’s pretend we’re just two people and you’re not better than me
I’d like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly
What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?
Dear Mr. President – Pink feat. Indigo Girls
When Donald Trump was elected president, a fan asked for an updated version of the song. In response to this, Pink tweeted:
“There aren’t words for this shameful person”
She never officially confirmed whether What About Us is about Trump, but it appears that her frustration towards the most powerful man in America acts as the main inspiration for the song. In the lyrics, she cries out for more attention to ‘us’;
We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
We are billions of beautiful hearts
However, she then aims for one person in particular:
And you sold us down the river too far
‘Selling (one) down the river’ refers to betraying somebody for your own sake. In the chorus, she poses a series of (rhetorical) questions:
What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?
And in the bridge, the lyrics become more argumentative:
Sticks and stones, they may break these bones
But then I’ll be ready, are you ready?
It’s the start of us, waking up come on
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
I don’t want control, I want to let go
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
‘Cause now it’s time to let them know
We are ready, what about us?
What About Us – Pink
With the music video reaching over 262 million views on YouTube, this cry for attention has certainly been heard. But whether or not it seeped through to the White House…?
1. Courage (Hurts 2B Human, 2019)
The #1 track in this list is taken off Pink’s most recent album Hurts 2B Human. Courage was co-written by Sia, and I’ve chosen this lesser known song to conclude this list since it clearly reflects the overarching theme in Pink’s lyrics; courage.
It takes courage to speak up about your painful past, to directly address the president of the United States, to be completely honest about your turbulent relationships, and to stand up for outcasts. In Courage, Pink describes how this can make her feel vulnerable, which, in my opinion, is what makes it so powerful;
I’m walking uphill both ways, it hurts
I bury my heart here in this dirt
I hope it’s a seed, I hope it works
I need to grow, here I could be
Closer to light, closer to me
I don’t have to do this perfectly, yeah
Rain, it pours, rain, it pours
It’s pouring on me
The rain, it falls, rain, it falls
Sowing the seeds of love and hope, love and hope
We don’t have to stay, stuck in the way
Have I the courage to change?
Have I the courage to change?
Have I the courage to change today? (Oh)
Courage – Pink
Pink illustrates the importance of vulnerability in her Pink Beautiful Trauma Documentary:
“I think vulnerability is important to me because it’s so difficult, because it’s so uncomfortable. I think the human experience shouldn’t be covered up, I think it should be lived out loud.”
However, you can’t be vulnerable without compassion:
“I think empathy is a human necessity. I allow myself and others around me, I can hold space for flaws, and faults and pain and true experience. I see in other people the truth that’s happening and I want them to feel comfortable being that. I want to be like ‘Look, I’m doing it too. I feel like an idiot, I’m scared half of the time.”
Will You Be There?
Are you attending one of Pink’s live shows? The shows are renowned for the powerful vocals, impressive stage sets, and… spectacular aerial acrobatics! You’re in for a treat!
Are you interested in more background stories about world stars? We previously dove into lyrics sung by Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and many more. Check out the links!
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– Family Portrait is written by Alecia Moore / Alecia B Moore / Scott Storch / Scott Spencer Storch © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Reservoir Media Management Inc, 2001.
– Stupid Girls is written by Alecia Moore / Billy Mann / Niklas Olovson / Robin Lynch © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Reservoir Media Management Inc, BMG Rights Management, 2006.
– Beautiful Trauma is written by Alecia Moore / Jack Antonoff © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 2017.
– Dear Mr. President is written by Alicia Moore / William Mann © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management, 2006.
– What About Us is written by Alecia B. Moore / John McDaid / Steve Mac © Universal Music Publishing Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Spirit Music Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., 2017.
– Courage is written by Alecia Beth Moore / Gregory Kurstin / Sia Furler © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 2019.
📸: Ryan Aylsworth