Album Review: Pink’s ‘The Truth About Love’ revels in life’s messiness

A major part of Pink”s appeal over the past decade has been that she is so down to earth. Her considerable pop chops put her up there with Rihanna, Beyonce and Katy Perry, but she is the furthest thing from a pop diva.

When she sings “It”s been a shit day” on “The Truth About Love”s” first single, “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” or prays for the elevator to come a little faster on “Walk of Shame” or admits “Sometimes I hate every single word you say” on “True Love,” there is something imminently relatable about Pink no matter how far up the charts she flies or how many platinum records she hangs on her walls. Even songs that seem joyous often come wrapped in a darkness that the self-proclaimed life-long “misfit” can”t ever quite shake. Unlike other artists who attempt to explain how things are to us, Pink is content to live in the confusing, murky margins along with the rest of us morons.

On “The Truth About Love,” her first album in four years and her first since becoming a mom, the effort Pink puts into making sure she doesn”t come off lost in the mommy afterglow is palpable (and audible). Motherhood has clearly added an important dimension to Pink”s life, but in many ways, she”s still the hot mess she”s always been. Thank goodness for that.

Much of “Love” deals with what the album title suggests: just how hard it is to make love stay. Sometimes she”s comical about it and sometimes Pink’s heartbreaking, but she”s always honest. “The truth about love is it comes and it goes,” she sings in the title track and that may be the most that any of us ever really understand about it.

Musically she overtly reaches for more depth than we”ve heard from her before. She”s best known for party anthems or mid-tempo ballads about love gone wrong, but here she stretches into more musical millieus and they fit her just fine. Both the bouncy “True Love” and “The Truth About Love” owe more than a small debt to the hand-clapping songs made famous by the girl groups of yore. She goes for a White Stripes” bluesy, echo-y vibe and distorted vocals on the verses of “How Come You”re Not Here.” Though she works with a raft of collaborators, including Dan Wilson, Max Martin, Jeff Bhasker, Greg Kurstin, and Billy Mann, there”s a consistency (and a certain recurring beat) that runs through the full album.

She can curdle with her withering lyrics. “I”ll wait right here until you get bored or she gets carded for beer,” she sneers as she simultaneously laments the absence of her cheating lover on “How Come You”re Not Here.”  “You”re an asshole, but I love you,” she sings to “the only love I”ve ever known,” on “True Love.” But we all know the truth: under that tough exterior is a soft marshmallow who isn”t beyond bursting into tears the second she”s alone.

One of the highlights is her duet with fun.”s Nate Ruess, who co-wrote “Just Give Me A Reason.” The two play a couple who are looking for some sign to stay together despite the fact their relationship is “collecting dust.” The song has an instantly recognizable  “We Are Young” stomp as its musical bed and the two play off each other well.

The same can”t be said for “Here Comes the Weekend,” one of the album”s weaker tracks. There”s an insistent four-on-the four beat that”s meant to “set off your sirens,” but the song feels a little flat until Eminem drops in out of nowhere. He”s a welcome presence, but it sounds as if he”s in a different song.  Lily Allen”s sweet-voiced guest verse on “True Love” fares much better. (Allen is credited under her married name, Lily Rose Cooper).

Pink doesn”t receive enough acclaim for her way around a ballad, even though she”s recorded beautiful ones before. She hits a new high on “Beam Me Up,” a poignant, string-laden tale about longing to be with someone who has died. Though never maudlin, the song, and her delivery, will touch anyone who “pick[s] a star to watch it shine” to feel a connection with the departed. On piano ballad, “The Great Escape” she recalls Bonnie Raitt. (Yep, you”re as surprised to read that comparison as I am to make it).

Though Ke$ha has tried to mud wrestle the title of trashy party queen away from Pink, Pink”s not about to give up her right to slur, wobble, and puke publicly without a fight, despite any new-found maturity. On “Slut Like You,” she borrows liberally from Blur”s “Woo Hoo” on the electro-clash rave up.  The message may be questionable, but the catchy beat is undeniable. On the hilarious “Walk of Shame,” she just hopes she hasn”t woken up with a tramp stamp as she tries to make a quick getaway from the previous night”s shenanigans.

With “The Truth About Love,” Pink continues on her path as the superstar we”d most like to grab a drink with. As her life experiences grow, so does her happiness, but also her questions and her confusion.  Better make that a double.