'Beautiful Trauma' is perfect pop

NOSELL

RCA
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 4:35pm

On her seventh studio album, P!nk nears 21st century pop perfection. The lovably spunky singer’s latest release, Beautiful Trauma, delivers to fans all of P!nk’s characteristic contradictions; it’s joyful and it’s angry, it’s bright and it’s dark, it’s beautiful and it’s traumatic. Some music connoisseurs may be skeptical of the singer’s raw pop, as some tracks lack substance and are plagued by love song cliches, but even the snobbiest of music snobs won’t be able to resist stomping their feet to Beautiful Trauma’s energetic anthems and indulging in the album’s moving ballads.

From the get-go, the Beautiful Trauma’s titular track sets the tone of the record with an irresistible pop anthem. The song has everything a pop track needs: a strong chord progression, an empowering beat and a melody dynamic enough to be musically engaging while anthemic enough to be a sing-along. When the chorus hits, it’s pop — it’s slightly corny, but it’s good.

P!nk also took a page out of the 21st Century female pop star playbook by featuring a traditionally rough-around-the-edges rapper to give the album’s second track some grit (e.g. Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” with Kendrick Lamar). In this case, that rapper is Eminem. The track “Revenge” features an infallible “My Name Is”-esque hip hop beat blended with modern synths to develop an overall bright sound, one that contradicts the song’s lyrics that depict a messy and unhealthy relationship, an interesting and slightly comical technique that both P!nk and Eminem have deployed in the past. The song is a head-bouncer, and Eminem’s verse approaches The Marshall Mathers LP-level crudeness with the final line, “You’re a whore. You’re a whore. This is war.” P!nk did not miss on Revenge by bringing on the king of brutally honest tracks about relationship struggles.

Another interesting characteristic of Beautiful Trauma is its current relevance. P!nk manages to extrapolate turbulence within a relationship to turbulence within the United States in 2017. “What About Us” is both a meditation on a struggling couple and an analysis of modern political and social turmoil. In the second verse, P!nk sings, “We are problems that want to be solved / We are children that need to be loved / We were willin’, we came when you called / But man, you fooled us, enough is enough.” In the context of a pop song, a listener could take these lines as a description of broken promises and disappointment within a relationship, but P!nk’s use of the words “we” and “children” hints at a deeper meaning, one that relates to a nation of people looking for answers. As Billboard writer Patrick Crowley notes, P!nk has not shied away from political commentary in the past, as she actively shared her objection to the white supremacist rallies in Virginia and was vocal about her support for Hillary Clinton. “[I]t’s not far-fetched to think that the double meaning was intentional,” Crowley wrote, and in a time of racial struggle and frustration over political inaction, P!nk deserves some credit for making music bigger than herself.

Now, do not be mistaken — Beautiful Trauma certainly has its cliche moments, but what pop album doesn’t? In the track “Whatever You Want,” the line, “I feel like a ship’s going down tonight, but it’s always darkest before the light,” will have many listeners groaning and rolling their eyes, and unfortunately there is no shortage of these cheesy lines throughout the album. P!nk can get away with these eye-roll-inducing lines, though, because her brand is essentially relatable heartbreak, and there is little one can do to avoid sounding corny or mushy when meditating on love and its consequences. As a listener, just remember that pop with a universal appeal has its base consequences, and take P!nk’s shallow lyricism with a grain of salt.

Beautiful Trauma has another cliche characteristic, but this one is less likely to make listeners cringe. P!nk sprinkles her album with classic, heart-string-pulling ballads that reveal the singer’s status as more than just a pop star, and exhibit her expertise as a vocalist. These slower, piano-driven songs may be basic and slightly hackneyed, but they speak on the ever-relatable topic of the struggle for love by including some of the shallow but accessible lyrics aforementioned, and P!nk’s impressive vocal range and emotional vulnerability make these songs even more powerful. The love-ballad is alive and well on Beautiful Trauma.

From top to bottom, P!nk’s latest release is a well strung together pop project. The pleasantly abrasive pop star successfully delivers to her listeners a unique blend of grit, love and political commentary, a breath of fresh air in today’s pop music world. With relatable content, invigorating beats, exciting features and P!nk’s undeniable talent, Beautiful Trauma is worth the listen for both pop-lovers and pop-skeptics.