If P!nk occupies a niche in the architecture of pop music, it’s the sardonic, pseudo-apathetic Shockwave feminist. Her latest single, “So What,” is the apotheosis of those, ahem, principles. Die-hard fans hailed it as “a comeback,” while perennial dissenters pooh-poohed it as mere noise. Regardless of one’s ideological or musical allegiances (and there is something to be said for P!nk’s brazen disregard of self-righteous loyalty), it is possible to relate to the song’s juxtaposition of don’t-give-a-damn lyrics with a high stakes, battle cry rhythm. It is also possible to sing along and rekindle one’s desire to “start a fight.”
But with whom does P!nk wish to wrestle? There is elbow room enough between her Thoreauvian celebration of social deviance and, say, Britney Spears’s intellectually deviant Thesaurus-burning, even if both are candy-colored. Perhaps, with her latest palatable if not entirely digestible album, “Funhouse,” P!nk is at war with another pop rock cliche — The Winehouse. If so, then “Sober” is the best track in her arsenal; in it, P!nk musters all sincerity to assault the self-destructive, nihilist characteristic of stars her age (she’s 29 now, and recently divorced). “I don’t want to be the girl / who never wants to be alone,” she exhales, fearless even as she is conscious of fear.
All other “Funhouse” tracks, though, want to be either as compelling as “Sober” or as rousing as “So What.” Instead, they are to varying degrees carnivalesque distortions of P!nk’s essential character.