Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

Pink – Beautiful Trauma

Words apparently can bring us down…


Austin Brown: “Beautiful Trauma,” the second single and title track of Pink’s latest album and one of Jack Antonoff’s few 2017 productions, is a good teaching moment for the pop machine’s current attempts to wriggle out from the Big Pop bubble. Max Martin and Dr. Luke compositions function with famously mathematical precision, absorbing the vibe of R&B but discarding any perceived excess swing, while developing hooks that turn heads from a mile away. Antonoff takes pop cues from the usual sources but also from the bumpy momentum of heartland rock, creating a signature sound that’s a little more rhythmically cascading and predisposed towards personality showcases. Unfortunately for Pink, her personality WAS Big Pop, punchy and Epicurean with a brash voice that often drew attention away from her formal vocal talent. The sublimity of her best songs is exchanged for an arrangement that prioritizes words over catharsis.

Alfred Soto: Is there a more Pink-esque title than “Beautiful Trauma”? It even describes the decision to open with Mellotron chords, follow them with a snippet of piano balladry, and keep listeners hopped up with contemporary electronic programming. Kelly Clarkson would have sung with greater precision a decade earlier. 

Hannah Jocelyn: In which Jack Antonoff uses every trick in his arsenal trying to match Pink’s intensity rather than grounding it. Aside from the actual hook (ah yes, the two genders, Love and Drug), there are too many melodies and lyrics stuffed into every section, not to mention the over-the-top orchestral flourishes and the fade-out that’s unfortunately become one of Antonoff’s worst habits. Pink does her thing where she elevates anything she’s given, never swallowed by Antonoff’s eighth-note pianos and gated drums, but her overbearing vocal production doesn’t help.

Will Adams: “Overproduction” is still poorly defined in music criticism (I’ve seen the term used to condemn things as minor as “they used Auto-Tune”), but to me this is it: layers upon layers meant to impart grandness but only serving to distract. The sudden pitch-bends in the bass on the chorus, the gurgling in the post-chorus, backing vocals pouring in from all sides, the glockenspiel and fake horns — everything about it is exhausting.

Micha Cavaseno: Last year I casually joked that perhaps the only musical act of the dawn of the millennium whose success becomes harder and harder to explain with the passing of time, after the viciously unpopular Eminem, might actually be Pink. Even seemingly successful songs like “Family Portrait” wallowed in brokenness but, in retrospect, never managed to feel universal, as opposed to uncomfortable. Even here, Pink croons happily about maliciousness undermining relationships and pharmaceutical aids, but in a way that feels dangerously canny. The production on “Beautiful Trauma” is no cornier than a lesser Katy Perry track, and while Pink’s singing has gotten pretty uneven over the years, it’s still the same voice. Why, then, does everything she do now not only sound cliched but downright painful?

Katherine St Asaph: After the success of Waitress, Sara Bareilles was tapped to quietly contribute an extra song to Missundaztood: The P!nk Musical (replacing all the Can’t Take Me Home and Try This singles, cut from soundtrack and memory and consigned to YouTube clips with the likes of Turpin’s “Johanna” and “An Open Letter to John Adams“). Critics praise her “impressive Alecia Moore pastiche,” though audiences tend to sneak out to beat the bathroom lines.

Eleanor Graham: I can’t even make a snarky comment about Jack Antonoff. This is the kind of scrappy, raucous, grandiose, visceral, adrenaline-filled pop music that I wish women made more of; pop music that’s ambivalent about prettiness. It’s like Taylor Swift getting drunk and bashing out “Leeds United” on the piano. I wish Taylor Swift was allowed to sing about fucking up a hotel lobby.

Isabel Cole: Perks up a bit in the pre-chorus, which is just barely loud and aggro enough to activate the part of my brain that still adolescently responds to shit like “now I’m gonna fuck up a hotel lobby” by ineptly crushing a beer can and hurling it forward with an unfocused cheer (basically Pink’s target demographic). Unfortunately, verse and chorus are sedate enough — which is to say dull and treacly with nary an appealing melody to be found — to draw full attention to the completely fucking stupid lyrics. Not dumb lyrics, mind you, which are forgivable to positive, but tired and unconvincing, which are just a waste of time.

Reader average: [6.71] (7 votes)

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