There’s no doubt that Pink has been one of the most consistent hitmakers of the 2000s. Her fierce hybrid of dance/pop barbed with a rock and roll edge and sprinkled with R&B influences has been a winning formula.
She’s a powerhouse vocalist capable of delivering both genuine emotion and vulnerability, along with a fiery badass attitude. Beginning with her 2000 debut “Can’t Take Me Home,” Pink has scored a remarkable six platinum albums and 15 top 10 singles. Her most recent, 2012’s “The Truth About Love,” notched three top 10 hits, including the no. 1 smash “Just Give Me A Reason.”
Unfortunately, “Beautiful Trauma,” the star’s first album after a five-year absence, is somewhat of a disappointment. This time around she stays mostly in the electro-pop realm, with her rock side deemphasized. Pink is obviously striving to keep a niche in the modern pop marketplace, but in the process of following current sonic trends she loses much of the gritty realness that has always set her apart.
As is typical for pop albums these days, Pink collaborates with multiple producers and songwriters on “Beautiful Trauma” and the result is an overly slick collection that sounds much like any other pop album released in the last few years. It doesn’t help that the material, with a few notable exceptions, is largely bland and forgettable.
The first single, “What About Us,” is far and away the album’s strongest track. It’s a yearning, emotional anthem and a piercing reflection that relationships, and our lives in general, often veer far off the tracks. Pink’s vocal is sincere and deeply felt and she belts it out with dynamic force and authority over glistening keyboards and pulsing rhythm. It’s among the finest singles of Pink’s impressive career.
But surprisingly, “What About Us” reached a paltry no. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. Perhaps the second single, the hip-hop fueled “Revenge,” featuring a high-profile guest spot by Eminem, will perform better. It’s a spiky electronic strut that displays Pink’s tougher side, a sharp contrast to the vulnerability exposed on “What About Us.” Another winner is “Whatever You Want,” an engaging pop nugget with a strong melodic hook that screams for radio play.
The poignant acoustic-guitar based “Barbies” slowly builds intensity as it progresses, culminating in a powerful climax. The gorgeous piano ballad “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” features a graceful string arrangement and one of Pink’s loveliest vocals on the album. The heartbreaking “But We Lost It” would have fit perfectly on Adele’s most recent blockbuster.
One issue is that Pink’s vocals are too high in the mix. Sure, it makes sense to emphasize the power of her singing, but it becomes a bit grating after listening to the album all the way through, and at times it simply seems like she’s shouting. “Beautiful Trauma” is so pristine and overly polished that there’s hardly room to breathe. It becomes too clean and clinical, sapping the grit and rough edge that has always been a hallmark of Pink’s best work.
Ultimately, though, there is little new ground covered here. It all seems a bit rote and far more controlled and toned down than what we’ve come to expect from Pink. There’s no clear direction or focus, it’s overcooked in the studio and the material is surprisingly tame and forgettable. It’s not terrible, but it just doesn’t deliver the goods with the same power and impact as her previous albums.