“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.
In the living room, Pink’s six-year-old daughter, Willow – the subject of a moving speech her mother gave at August’s MTV Video Music Awards about stifling beauty standards – was practising cartwheels loudly as her father, Carey Hart, prepared to take her for a motorcycle ride.
“Don’t be home too late,” Pink told Hart, a retired motocross racer. “School tomorrow.”
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 blue-collar Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Pink has just released her seventh solo studio album, Beautiful Trauma.
On the album, 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 co-wrote 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 pop 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.
What’s scary about putting out an album? You’ve done it plenty of times.
I have two kids. And it’s so different now. I’m not inclined toward drama and feuds and soundbites. 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.
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 to 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.
Do you still prejudge people?
I prejudge certain types – like maybe at this point certain Republicans that I haven’t met that I feel like I understand and don’t really want to meet. But even those – I mean, my dad’s a 72-year-old Republican white man from Pennsylvania. So I’d have to hate him too, and I don’t – I love him. I think he’s a fascinating man that’s grown into some of his opinions. Which are surprising.
Are you ever hesitant to express your opinions on big issues? The Team Taylor thing shows how scrutinised everything you say is.
If I take an action, I mean it, and I will take the consequences that come with that, celebrity or not. My husband would rather separate things. But I come from a military family. I pay taxes. I vote in every election. I educate myself on what’s going on all over the world. So why shouldn’t I have an opinion? Just because I sing?
Last thing: Billy Joel recently told me you guys had worked together.
Billy Joel is, in my opinion, one of the best songwriters that’s ever lived. He paints a picture with words unlike any other. I walked down the aisle to She’s Always A Woman. I grew up listening to him with my dad. He was the first concert I ever went to at two years old.
I did the Songwriters Hall of Fame 15 or 16 years ago, and I saw him and went over to him and I went, “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m Pink, and I want you to write a song with me.” He goes, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that – I don’t write pop music anymore.”
Then I ran into him again – I brought my dad to his concert, and he had us backstage. Then I went to a master class of his in Times Square. And I’ve never left him alone. I’ve never stopped asking. He always says no – he’s kind, but he’s firm.
But then we ran into him in the Bahamas at a piano bar. I bought a very good bottle of wine and sent him a glass. He came over and I said, “You gonna write that song with me?” He said, “OK, I’ll try it.” So several months ago I flew to Palm Beach with my brand new baby and we tried to write a song.
He’s too good for me. I clammed up. But we’re gonna keep trying. He goes, “Do me a favour: Go home, pick out the best poem you’ve ever written and send it to me, and I’ll make you a song.”
I got home and was like, “All my poems are the worst pieces of trash I’ve ever seen in my life.” – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service