Pink’s Album ‘I’m Not Dead’ Turns 10: Backtracking
Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.
While Pink‘s turn-of-the-millennium magnum opus Missundaztood shifted the public’s preconceived notions of what constitutes as “pop music,” in its wake came a flurry of pristine, run-of-the-mill pop starlets glossed under the guise of the singer’s signature “tough chick” persona. After 2003’s lackluster Try This, pop’s favorite problem child ventured back into the studio in 2005 with a renewed sense of confidence, eager to prove to her languishing fan base that she was not a flash in the pan and was more than a mere antidote to the commercialized pop princesses of our yesteryears.
It’s no secret that Pink (a.k.a Alecia Beth Moore) didn’t quite relish in the experience of making Try This. Not one to mince words, the singer described the experience of making the album in a 2006 interview for the Irish Times, in which she stated, “I was kind of rebelling against the label on that one. I was going: ‘You want a record? Fine, I’ll write 10 songs in a week for your fuckin’ record and you can press it up and put it out.’ That was an awful time. I was walking out of half my interviews crying. I just felt they were putting a quarter in the slot to watch the monkey dance.”
Perhaps owing to the rushed nature of Try This, as well as her label’s eagerness to capitalize on the hard earned success of her sophomore effort, the end result came off as poorly constructed and contrived.
Three years later, Pink renewed interest in her music with the aptly title I’m Not Dead. The LP arrived on April 4, 2006, exactly six years after the short-coiffed singer stormed onto the scene with her debut album, the brash, R&B-leaning Can’t Take Me Home.
I’m Not Dead wastes no time diving into some histrionics. The opening track, “Stupid Girls”, peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, surmounting a lagging chart record for pop’s born and bred spitfire. Sonically, the song combines the hip hop musings of Pink’s early recordings with her signature pop-rock sound. Lyrically, “Stupid Girls” encourages youngsters not to forsake ambition and intelligence for the sake of popularity: “Outcasts, girls with ambition / That’s what I want to see.”
The song’s empowering message is further punctuated by its memorable video, in which Pink is seen parodying the typical tabloid denizens from the mid-2000s, from Lindsay Lohan to Paris Hilton, with some assistance from 50 Cent, who makes a cameo appearance in the video.
With many pop girls of the moment showcasing an inflated sense of edginess through a refined lens, authenticity is a seldom commodity in the music industry. But it’s not just Pink’s realness that makes her a rarity in the pop game; she’s feisty, bold, brazen and somber, sometimes all in one song. This innate ability to showcase a variety of emotions is further evident in Max Martin and Dr. Luke collaboration “Who Knew,” the second single off I’m Not Dead. A mid-tempo number with elements of soft rock, it sees Pink lamenting the loss of former friends to drugs.
A keen listen to “Who Knew” reveals her ability to emote boldness and restraint in one vocal performance. While the song initially got off to a slow start, it was eventually re-released and peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2007.
On songs like “Long Way To Happy,” “Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self” and “Runaway”, Pink treads dark territory with themes such as sexual abuse and the emotional upheaval that comes with experiencing adolescence. While on “Dear Mr. President,” we see the singer get political in an open letter to former President George W. Bush: “What kind of father would take his own daughter’s rights away? / And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?”
“U + Ur Hand” can be best described as “classic Pink,” as the singer revisits her signature brand of unapologetic humor on a hard-hitting rock anthem that warns men that she’s not here to be seduced. An instant fan favorite off of I’m Not Dead, the song (also produced by Max and Luke) was eventually released as a single and further helped to revive Pink’s pop radio standing when it peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
With it’s clever combination of the personal and political resonating with listeners, it goes without saying that I’m Not Dead, a Platinum-selling, Top 10 album, lived up to its title.
Given that Pink’s career now spans 16 years and the singer has 10 top 10 hits under her belt, It’s a wonder why she’s arguably the most underrated female act to emerge from 2000 pantheon of pop girls. While it has been customary for journalists and the John Q public to heap praise upon the Beyoncés, the Britneys, the JLOs and the Christinas of the world, Pink’s brand of inhibition, individualism and FU flavored pop rock is just as omnipresent in today’s artists.