Pink’s ‘Beautiful Trauma:’ Album Review

Mike Nied | October 13, 2017 3:59 pm

Pink weathers countless tragedies on her seventh studio album, Beautiful Trauma. The “Just Give Me A Reason” singer has proven to be one of pop’s most consistent acts with a career that now spans 17 years. With her latest effort, the enduring hitmaker proves she is still capable of delivering strong pop productions and relatable anthems.

The pop/rock star launched the album with an insightful statement on lead single, “What About Us.” Part break-up anthem, part political call to arms, she leapt into the era on a powerful mid-tempo tailored for success on radio. “What about us? What about all the broken happy ever afters,” she demands. Her passionate delivery becomes uplifting as she moves into the bridge and delivers a rallying call.

“Sticks and stones, they may break these bones. But then I’ll be ready; are you ready?” she declares as she prepares for battle. Armed with an effortlessly cool production, she rode her protest anthem into the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track has reached a new peak at number 25 and could soar higher in the coming weeks if she plays her cards right.

With its rebellious messaging and bold lyricism, it is a quintessentially Pink release. The title track is more of the same. Teaming up with Jack Antonoff, the pair deliver an exuberant pop ballad that transforms into a soaring rock anthem as massive as one of her aerial shows. It was another promising release though hardly groundbreaking from the hitmaker, who helped helm the pop/rock crossover.

Pink reunites with Swede-pop mastermind Max Martin and Shellback for a handful of songs including the project’s second buzz track, “Whatever You Want.” Opening at the apparent close of a relationship, the 37-year-old refuses to give up on her partner. “I feel like our ship’s going down tonight, but it’s always darkest before the light,” she sings as she refuses to abandon hope.

The pair also delivered production on one of the most highly-anticipated cuts, a duet with Eminem on “Revenge.” After working together on the rapper’s 2010 LP, Recovery, the pair reunite on a vengeful ode to cheating partners that has been selected as the LP’s second single. “I’m daydreamin’. Let me count the ways, how I’ll get you and how I’ll make you pay,” she chants over a playful production. Her partner delivers an equally punchy verse, making for a total knockout from the spurned lovers.

Though they are hardly as prolific as Em and Rihanna, they have a strong chemistry and Pink remains one of the few pop acts plucky enough to not be overshadowed by a hip-hop feature.

Martin has helmed some of Pink’s most successful releases including a pair of chart toppers with 2008’s “So What” and 2010’s “Raise Your Glass.” Their work together on Beautiful Trauma is not quite as instant as their earlier hits but is still enjoyable. Though it features some of the laziest writing on the LP, their final collaboration on “Secrets” is undeniably catchy. The track sees the hitmaker unleash her monstrous secrets on a partner while hoping that they won’t push him away. It is a fun pop track but not the massive anthem one would expect from the pair.

Heartbreak plays a central role on Beautiful Trauma, and the Greg Kurstin-assisted ballad, “But We Lost It,” delves into a relationship after the flame has gone out. “There’s a stranger, he’s lying in my bed. Still the girl that you chased all around the world. I haven’t changed just replaced all the chains with pearls,” Pink laments over an aching piano production. It is easily the project’s darkest point, but there is a beauty that penetrates the downtrodden delivery. It is the kind of deep winter release that could become an instant hit with its honest lyricism.

A sense of longing carries through onto the followup track, “Barbies,” on which the worldweary singer dreams of returning to her childish innocence. Julia Michaels contributed to the writing on the track, and the pair prove to be worthy collaborators with similar brands of reflective pop. “Another day, another sin. Another day, I’m late again,” Pink delicately sings on the opening lines before longing for the simplicity of playing in the safety of her bedroom.

The nostalgia-inducing release is all the more telling about her state of mind when considered through the lens of previous efforts like “Family Portrait” on which she compared her childhood to World War III.

Kurstin returns for another pop rock ditty on “Where We Go.” This one picks up after the cold snap in a relationship and opens with an explosion of fiery passion. “Death is in the air tonight. i can smell the fear inside,” she cryptically sings on the bridge. However, she refuses to give up hope and puts a positive spin on things. “We can see when we close our eyes that it’s alright.” It is another stereotypical Pink release that fits nicely within the project.

In comparison, “For Now” is a bit of a miss. For her second writing collaboration with Julia Michaels, Pink seems to emulate the songwriter’s style and loses herself. Similarly, Antonoff’s effort on “Better Life” features a staccato production and some nice harmonies but gets lost in the mix.

Although Pink was inspired by heartbreak, the LP’s final three tracks impart strong messages of resilience and strength in the face of trauma. “I Am Here” is an inspirational offering that brings on a choir to deliver an engaging singalong on the chorus. “I am here, I’ve already seen the bottom. But there’s nothing to fear,” the hitmaker belts as she refuses to back down.

She reunites with Bubsee, the mastermind behind “Try,” on “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.” The producer delivers an orchestral production, which sets the scene for some of the project’s most fearless lyricism. “You beat me, betray me,” Pink declares, but she won’t give up. “You’re losing. We’re winning. My spirit above me, you cannot deny me. My freedom is burning. This broken world keeps turning. I’ll never surrender,” she confidently sings as strings swell below her. It is a timeless message on one of the album’s strongest tracks.

The album’s closer, “You Get My Love,” features some of the project’s best vocals as she vows to stand by a partner through whatever storms they may weather. “You get my love. If there’s only one thing about me that you can trust, you get my love, baby” she belts over an acoustic production. The track highlights her vocal chops and her ability to emote without the bells and whistles of a typical pop release.

Even better, after an album of storms, there is nothing more moving than to see the hitmaker still offering up her heart. It is here that you realize that nothing will break her. No pitfall will stop her from getting back to her feet and persevering.

Beautiful Trauma is as evocative as it is timely. It bursts with clever pop productions and abounds with some of the most breathtaking lyrics of the year. Pink has crafted an album of striding anthems that are eternally relatable and effortlessly cool.

The only element that is glaringly absent is a high-octane bop the likes of “Raise Your Glass” or “Get The Party Started.” Instead, the siren has crafted a collection of cohesive mid-tempos. It is slightly disappointing considering her track record with pop anthems. However, the project is strong enough to stand without relying on a surefire bop.

With her latest, Pink has delivered another project that will be amongst the most powerful of the year. She proves that no matter how dark the day it is always possible to find beauty in trauma, and in the process has reminded listeners why pop music will always need her.

Score: 4/5

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