P!nk - Hurts 2B Human (Review)

Martin_Canine
P!NK
Hurts 2B Human
★★½☆☆

Hurts 2C the creativity of a great artist decline

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P!nk is awesome. Her albums from M!ssundaztood to Funhouse were straight masterpieces that went a thin line between edge, deep lyrical content, poppiness and individual personality. Like Anastacia and Nelly Furtado, she was one of the big stars of the 2000s that stroke with genuine creativity, a no holds barred unapologetic attitude and an appreciation of the many different facets the music landscape has to offer. P!nk always appeared like the kind of woman that a mainstream audience who at that time preferred strict formulas and the image of a pitch perfect princess over a little more risk would have never accepted if it wasn’t for her ability to craft insanely addictive earworm choruses. While for most big stars the latter would be more than enough to make a cool record, for P!nk her radio ready melodies were always the least interesting aspect. She even disliked her debut album Can’t Take Me Home, a CD filled to the brim with memorable pop music everyone else would have been proud of, because she wasn’t allowed to show as much of her vision as she had in mind. What followed this album were songs like Stupid Girls, a bold feminist statement standing in for ambitions and intelligence over attractiveness in times when the mainstream did not yet give a whoop, Family Portrait, a song dealing with her former self suffering from the intense break up of her parents, and So What, a cynical anthem celebrating letting go of your ex. One of her best tracks is Don’t Let Me Get Me, in which stresses how much she doesn’t fit the pretty girl image everyone expects her to be. And she was part of the all star lineup of the amazing Lady Marmalade, of course. Her musical influences ranged from punk rock to RnB. One of P!nk’s biggest characteristics has always been her voice: raspy, raunchy, and so distinctively unpoppy. She sounded like a rockstar; she sounded real. She was also one of only two artists other than Freddie Mercury who artistically successfully sang Bohemian Rhapsody (the other one was Malinda Kathleen Reese, whose rendition was a parody, but with spot on vocals).

Having experienced P!nk in her heydays, an albums like Hurts 2B Human is more than just a little disappointing. From a professional point of view, there’s nothing wrong with it, but its polished vocal production, tame melodies and easily likable beats make it not only uninteresting, it’s also pretty much everything that P!nk was hailed for not doing. She’s at a point in her career when her debut album far surpasses her newest self written music. Her use of strong language stands out of the record like the last thing remaining of her initial appeal, and in times when superstars like Ariana Grande, who regularly use curse words so casually they became completely normal for pop, dominate the radio, that doesn’t really come off as the middle finger it might have been ten years ago.

Sometimes, it sounds a lot as if P!nk tried to imitate several trends of the past ten years, crop them together and offer a palette of different styles that go well with what else gets airplay. Can We Pretend? has a soft, melodic pitch vocal bass drop in the chorus, (Hey Why) Miss You Sometime uses autotune and RnB drum kits. In the meantime, Walk Me Home and Courage would have done great on a 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack (whose music albums are superior to the flicks). It also appears that P!nk aims for exactly those sections of pop music that are the most traditional. Beyoncé, Rihanna, the aforementioned Ariana Grande, even Miley Cyrus - they all successfully made pop music that ripped the boundaries of what’s acceptable in mainstream to shreds. Self confident attitude, pride in their backgrounds, catharsis of tragic events, shocking imagery with a thought, and an extremely broad spectre of styles and aesthetics is what makes them the queens of the genre. Does that sound familiar? That was exactly what made P!nk such a great artist in the first place, only that she drew more from alternative rock than hip hop.

P!nk’s new music however is more to the likes of Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora, or what we got so far from Ava Max. And that in and of itself is nothing bad. Goulding and Ora provided stylistically similar albums earlier this decade, which were awesome, earworm filled rides that were able to brighten up your day, and Max’s So Am I is currently one of the best songs of the year. In times when major stars turn their hits into statements, we often forget that pop music can also simply be entertaining, and that’s it. Essentially, all it needs is an infectious chorus, an instrumental that instantly grabs you, and a charismatic singer to embody it all, to truly succeed. They all did just that.

P!nk’s newest effort however pales in comparison. There are few tracks on the album that actually leave a lasting impression, most of them sound like the leftovers, and are forgotten as soon as the next song starts. The pattern of the melodies, beats and build up feel oddly familiar, as if heard before numerous times, in very similar outfit. Hustle is the album's clear highlight. It has oomph, is good fun and dares to sound different with its slight swing rhythm. Being placed as the opener, it promises a great time, but never has anything to continue this moment of entertainment. At the same time, P!nk’s vocals can’t bring in any unique personality to save them, because their distinctive cracks and hoarse moments are far too often buried underneath some usually very subtly mixing erasing all the “flaws” of her voice, and along with it all the distinctive traits it had for years.

To make one thing clear: there is not a second on Hurts 2B Human where it’s actually even close to “bad” territory. You may or may not like the direction of music the record is set in, but within its style, this was executed at a technically good level. But what it lacks is either heart and soul, or at least compositions and ideas that keep you going back to the tracks. It's listless and lifeless. P!nk’s previous two albums The Truth About Love and Beautiful Trauma had all that. They weren’t her most brilliant works, and both of them heavily tiptoed towards conventional pop territory already, but their songs found a welcome combination of maturity, coolness and catchiness that was extremely enjoyable. Hurts 2B Human however lacks such music. It’s solid but exchangeable fodder good enough for a carefree listen or two, but it never hints in any way that the artist who performed this one was one of the most daring of her game.

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