“You want a beer?” Catching up with pop star Pink
“You want a beer?” Pink asked, though she seemed more than happy to drink alone.
Standing in her cheerfully cluttered kitchen on a recent evening, the pop star had just finished a lengthy television shoot at her home north of Los Angeles and was now overseeing dinner for her nine-month-old son, Jameson.
It had been a long day, and it wasn’t over yet.
“Cheers,” the singer said, turning to me with a weary grin. Then she clinked her bottle against mine and took a restorative gulp.
At this point, Pink, 38, is accustomed to hanging in there — and to doing more than one thing at a time. Born Alecia Moore in bluecollar Doylestown, Pa., she’s set to release her seventh solo studio album, “Beautiful Trauma,” on Friday, nearly two decades after she first crashed the top 10 with her debut single, “There You Go.” Since then she’s consistently racked up hits (including the No. 1 smashes “So What” and “Raise Your Glass”) even as her music has evolved from quickstepping R&B to guitar-fueled pop to lungbusting power ballads like “Just Give Me a Reason.”
On “Beautiful Trauma,” Pink takes up many of her reliable themes — fear, anxiety, the lure of damaged love — in highly detailed productions that pull from rock, folk and hip-hop. Yet the music, which Pink created alongside studio wizards such as Max Martin, Jack Antonoff and Greg Kurstin, always feels designed to showcase her powerful singing.
Ross Golan, who cowrote “Barbies” and served as Pink’s vocal producer on the track, remembered asking his engineer to turn off Auto-Tune as they were recording the song.
“He looks at me and goes, ‘There isn’t any Auto-Tune on,’” Golan said. “I was sure the vocal was being manipulated — that’s how accurate it was. But she’s just that good.”
Pink’s singing isn’t merely a technical achievement; its emotion also gives her records a welcome timeless quality. At a moment when many of her peers seem preoccupied with chasing the latest sonic trend, she’s clinging to an older-fashioned idea of what a great song should deliver.
Which doesn’t mean she hasn’t been “terrified” to get back in the game, as she revealed when she flopped down on a wine-stained couch after Jameson finished dinner.
“Sorry,” Pink said, pointing to a dark splotch. “Carey likes to fall asleep holding his glass while we’re watching shows at night.” These are excerpts from our conversation.
What’s scary about putting out an album? You’ve done it plenty of times.
I have two kids — I have a baby. And it’s so different now. I’m not inclined toward drama and feuds and sound bites. But I almost got caught up in it. I was doing radio in London, and we played this game called “Pink Fast.” They’re like, “Team Katy or Team Taylor?” And I said, “Either way, I can’t win — but Taylor?” And I should’ve just kept my mouth shut, because I don’t believe that. I don’t care. But I felt rushed, and I didn’t know what to do. And I paid for it, because then the next day: “Pink is Team Taylor.” Does the climate surprise you? It surprises me how snarky it’s gotten. There were always these feuds between rock stars — I mean, if you like Oasis, there’s always a feud. But it’s gotten pretty bad. And we’re giving our power away by playing into it.
It’s become the main way to stay in the conversation.
I can’t base my self-worth off this stuff because it’s silly. I’ve chased that carrot my whole life. I wanted to get the hell out of Doylestown and get to Venice Beach and get discovered and change the world. But I’m going off a thing that died at Woodstock. My model was the model my dad gave me, which was Steven Tyler singing “Dream On” and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and this thing where everybody hangs out together and has bonfires every night, and somebody gets lit on fire but they’re OK. That’s what I’m buying into.
Do you see new things to get excited about?
Real moments like Kendrick Lamar’s performance (at the VMAs) — people that are still out there, still really kicking ass and doing it from an authentic place. That’s super-inspiring to me. I walked into that night feeling a little bit like an outsider as always. But I did my performance and I said something to my daughter, and I felt really good about that because it was an authentic mom moment for me.
That speech touched a lot of people.
It did. I got a lot of cool Twitters from mamas. Willow and I have a really good connection. I tell her very honestly about my life, and she listens.
“Beautiful Trauma” has some heavy moments. You wrote “Whatever You Want” with Max Martin about a couple whose “ship’s going down tonight” — not exactly the type of pop banger he’s known for.
I wasn’t feeling that way most of the time in the last four years. I spent a year just writing slow, sad songs, thinking I was Adele.
When you work with Max or Jack Antonoff or one of these other A-list guys, do you think the process is different from how they work with other singers?
I have very honest conversations with them. If they play me something, I’m like, “No, that could be anybody — I’m not doing that.” It has to be a little bit darker. But, you know, Max is a closet punk rocker.
And they’re generally up for that?
I think they take it as a real challenge and have a lot of fun with it. The first time Max and I got together, I didn’t want work with him, and he didn’t want to work with me. It was a record company blind date: “You need singles, and I want you to work with this person.” So I showed up with three bottles of wine and we started talking and getting to know each other, and I said, “Wow, I’m the person I always said I wasn’t — I totally prejudged you.” And it’s blossomed into a beautifully honest friendship.
The pop star Pink in Los Angeles last month