Thursday, October 26, 2017

Beautiful Trauma | P!nk

In the five years since we last heard from P!nk, not much out of the ordinary seemed to have gone down in her life – or at least from what we know, she steered clear of anything that would have inflicted great emotional pain. Aside from a one-off folksy album released with a friend, she hasn't done much aside from fostering a family: She saw her firstborn child through her formative years and gave birth to a second. Her marriage with motocross racer Carey Hart, which was rocky from the start, seems to have stabilized into a tabloid nonevent.

But when she returned to music this year with "What About Us," she didn't seem quite like the P!nk we've come to know. Though the pulsating dance track hints at context within the turbulent American political climate, it is uncharacteristically subtle, especially for an artist whose opinions have never been to herself. Then comes Beautiful Trauma, an album with a title that bears the weight of many healed scares – but an album that never quite gets to the point on how the scars got there or proves if they're even genuine at all.

With P!nk's personal life mended and "What About Us" giving few hints, Beautiful Trauma leaves few things for her to bear issue with: the political landscape, of course, being one. And if any pop star could have conjured a fury over the Donald, it could have been P!nk. After all, she was the one to shoot a musical missile toward George "Dubya" Bush point-blank ten years ago. Yet what we are greeted with is a discrete album, overflowing with acoustic midtempo tracks that busy themselves with undisclosed problems within her marriage. (See: the folk-dipped "Where We Go," piano ballads "You Get My Love," "But We Lost It," and "For Now.")

The album is not odious by any stretch, but it's far glossier and more nondescript than it should be. Her stern voice still being her main selling point, she commands a groove over the rhythmic "Better Love" and across the album's liveliest track, "Secrets." And her sense of humor reappears on "Revenge," a lighthearted Eminem duet that works much better than the description "lighthearted Eminem duet" reads on paper. But too often, she gets sleepy and kicks it into autopilot: Dawdling through their run times, fluffy filler tracks like "Whatever You Want" and "For Now" don't assert themselves on the assumption that P!nk's voice can capture attention without a sturdy melody or thoughtful lyrics.

In the back end of the album, she rolls into gospel-influenced choruses of the straightforward "I Am Here." That she is – and historically, that's been enough. Every few years, she has appeared from dormancy with another novel's worth of life packed into an impressive album. After taking to a hiatus from music and having feared she was forgotten, she blasted herself into relevance with I'm Not Dead. When her marriage fell to shambles, she unleashed the burn-the-house-down, run-over-his-shit-with-a-lawnmower, punch-someone-in-the-face Funhouse. Upon that marriage's reconciliation, she dedicated an album, The Truth About Love, to the often untold details of love and forgiveness.

While it splashed onto the scene with the highest debut sales week for a female this year and will hold the title until Taylor Swift storms through next month, Beautiful Trauma doesn't tout the same genuine spark that previous albums set us up to expect from P!nk. She is most definitely here, which is nice and all, but that doesn't matter when she – a self-proclaimed loudmouth, mind you – bites her tongue and lets herself go unnoticed.

Beautiful Trauma is available now under RCA Records.

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