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Beautiful Trauma -- P!nk

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Been mostly listening to books on tape during commute (school year), but when the book I was reading finished the other night, I realized I still had P!nk's new album in my car CD player. (I got tickets for concern last Spring, but I was not able to attend due to a last-minute teaching assignment.) 

Anyhow, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the album. Here's a short recommendation I made for CT last year:


It is a staple of Christian marketing to suggest consumers invite friends and neighbors to evangelical movies and concerts to perhaps spark a "conversation." Whenever this happens, I always wonder if there is a reciprocal assumption that we will approach the art of our secular friends and counterparts with the same listening posture. P!nk's new album comes with all the requisite content advisories for explicit lyrics, but it's also a soulful and at times exhilarating expression of American Romanticism. Like Walt Whitman, the pop diva sounds her own barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world with the aptly titled "I Am Here." Like Thoreau, she wants to suck the marrow out of life, living each moment to its fullest even if doing so means making "some mistakes." Like Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville, her poetry expresses deep-seated, often painful, doubts regarding matters about which the Puritan elements of society have always been dogmatically certain. The question "Where does everybody go when they go?" is repeated 18 times in "I Am Here," and while P!nk acknowledges she doesn't "have the answers," she is absolutely correct that this is the central question that at turns drives and frightens us. There are moments of nostalgia for a simpler, idealized existence: "And all I wanna do / Is go back to playing Barbies in my room." In "Barbies," the speaker cryptically references "sin" and laments that she has become the person she "swore I would never be." As the title suggests, Beautiful Trauma is at times painful, but in embracing life's wounds as an inextricable part of being human, it is also at turns joyful and profound. It's not orthodox, but it is well worth our attention.

I confess I was only vaguely aware of who P!nk was until she was in Thanks for Sharing, but I enjoy her music. Anybody else have this album? 

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Ken, I was just lamenting, again, how my exposure to, and interest in, new music has, at last, not just declined - age will do that - but fallen off a cliff. I'm 48 years old now and have sensed this coming for years, but somehow, between NPR and the Music section at A&F, I'd managed to keep up with enough recordings and bands to feel like I wasn't completely lost to the appeal of new artists and new sounds, even as the old familiar sounds and artists came to dominate my play lists. 

All of which is to say that I miss the activity that once characterized the Music forum here. I don't know that it'll ever be recovered or, if it is, that the bands/songs mentioned will stoke the music-appreciation fires the way they once did for me, but if nothing else, I do have some good memories of conversation and recommendations from this area of the site. I bring this up now because I was just thinking of Andy Whitman. I loved reading his stuff here for many years. Eventually he referred to me - twice, if I'm remembering right - in unkind ways, but that was part of his personality. I didn't follow him on social media, but I just pulled up his Facebook page to discover he logged off the site for good at the end of 2018. (This won't come as a surprise to many here, who I saw listed among his friends on FB.) He said he'd grown angry at the current state of American politics. He did say he loved his church, although I couldn't tell if he still attended the Catholic church that he was trying the last time I remember reading his stuff, or if he'd moved on again.

Anyway, the anger: That's what got me thinking about Pink. I, too, really like Pink, and can't figure out why the stuff I find off-putting - I'm still very prudish when it comes to foul language, and she seems to relish using the stuff - works for her songs and persona. In fact, yesterday I tweeted out that my favorite song of 2018 was "Beautiful Trauma," which I then Googled so I could figure out what lyrics had been edited out of the radio version I'm familiar with. (I don't own any Pink albums.) I had to blush a bit - I mean, whoa! I'd been troubled by what I thought, from hearing the song on the radio (I'm terrible with understanding lyrics), was suggestive of, perhaps, an abusive relationship. It sounded like a woman making excuses for her lover's very bad behavior. And I guess the songwriter might not disagree. Still, while I can't say I love the lyrics, I do love that tune, which goes in unexpected (to me) places musically, especially for a Top 40 single.

I'm afraid I don't have more to say about the album as a whole. I know only the singles. But as with the singles from Pink's previous albums, I'm mostly a fan. I do love her voice. 

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Hey Christian, thanks for an interesting response. 

I don't find P!nk particularly angry (with one exception that I'll mention in a second), and I do find that the anger goes down easier as it is usually mixed with personal reflection. So much of the anger is turned at the narrator of the lyrics herself. In some ways, that reminds me of Long Way Home, the best album by The Dixie Chicks, where Natalie's anger is mixed with other emotions. Given how uncomfortable Christian subculture is with anger, seeing it expressed as part of the human experience is often a relief.

As far as the crude language...well, I'll admit that P!nk's persona is one that speaks deeply to my inner 15 year-old. Post Funhouse album, she project exactly the sort of persona that I would probably have been infatuated with as a teen but terrified to actually, you know, speak to. So her crudity often speaks to an openness that is endearing. I also think double-standards regarding gender still make us uncomfortable with women discussing their sexual feelings, so I do think there is something defiant in the "I don't care if you disapprove me" kind of posture. Then again, as I said in my review, the link in "Beautiful Trauma" (I wanna f---k til I'm done) is actually a somewhat conventional attitude, one that I share -- carpe diem, live life to the fullest -- just expressed very differently than, say, Thoreau saying he wanted to suck the marrow out of life. That helps remind me that despite our differences, there are ways in which we (humans) are the similar, and those points of connection are the bridges towards reconciliation or at least tolerance.

The one song that is the exception though is "Dear Mr. President" which always sets my teeth on edge and sends me towards the Skip button. I think I despise(d) George W. Bush as much as the next guy, but the level of sanctimony in that song has none of the qualities I mentioned in the last paragraph. "You don't know nothing about hard work"? And I don't like it that she goes after Laura Bush. It's the one song where I feel like legitimate pain sorta gives way into self-indulgence lashing out. (I try to blame it on the Indigo Girls, but, to be honest, their other songs are usually a bit better too even if I don't like them as much as my wife.) So I try to chalk it up to a reminder that even calm, reflexive people have particular buttons that set them off and may have traumas that are easy to misjudge the effects of from the outside. It's customary these days to think about and talk about the fine line between anger and pain, and sometimes the extent of the anger reveals to me something that I've too quickly dismissed about the degree of the pain. 

P.S. I never did much in the music forum or politics, so I never had much interaction with Andy, but I've heard a number of people expressed admiration and appreciation for his writing. 

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