Colorful Pink 'goes for it' on new album

"I talk a lot," says Pink. "So stop me any time you want to."

The 22-year-old singer, who was born Alecia Moore, is sitting on the balcony of a Manhattan hotel, explaining how she got the childhood nickname that inspired both her nom de fame and her hair color for the past five years.

"I'm not bashful," she reiterates, "so my friends were always trying to see if they could embarrass me in public. One day I was at the YMCA, and this boy I had a crush on pulled my pants down in front of everybody in this auditorium. I turned bright pink, and so that's what everybody started calling me, just to be mean. But I got over it and then I decided to throw it back in everyone's face."

Did she ever. Last year, Pink released a debut album, Can't Take Me Home, that went double platinum and spawned two top 10 singles, Most Girls and There You Go. The latter song, a stinging anti-valentine to an unfaithful lover, struck a chord with many young women who felt alienated by the frothier fodder offered by some of Pink's pop peers. It also, Pink notes, caused some backlash: "A young woman with an opinion? Uh-oh. I was called a man-hater and an angry girl and disturbed and crazy and belligerent."

But Pink insists that the hip-hop-soul-laced songs on Home just scratched her emotional surface. "Though I was proud of that album, it involved a lot of compromise. You have to crawl before you can walk. It's what I needed to do before I could break free and just go for it."

Which brings us to Pink's second album, Missundaztood, which arrived in stores Tuesday. "This one is, like, 250% me," she says. "Everything I have including my entire past, which I wrote into the lyrics is on the line. It's absolutely terrifying."

In fact, Pink insists she has already been "very scared" by the success of the album's lead single, Get the Party Started, a fast-rising hit on Top 40 radio and MTV, where a now-blond Pink "It's my natural color," she points out can be seen on a regular basis. It's one of several new tunes that Pink co-wrote with a longtime idol, former 4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry, who also produced a number of tracks.

"(Party) is all about fun," Pink says. "To me, it's a bridge to the new album because it's a little bit like the last one, but not really. Then when people hear the rest, they're gonna be like, 'Whoaa!'"

Pink says that her label, Arista Records, was "hesitant at first" about her new musical direction, which finds her channeling her hip-hop and R&B textures into more of a singer/songwriter mode and incorporating more of her classic-rock influences.

"They thought I was abandoning my fans. I told L.A. (Reid, Arista's president and CEO) that I refused to live in fear and that when he wanted to live in love with me, he could jump over the fence. It was a fight, but it was totally worth it."

Pink attributes much of her fighting spirit to her father, a Vietnam veteran whose divorce from Pink's mother is documented on the plaintive new song Family Portrait. "We're the same person, my dad and me I'm just younger and a girl," Pink says. "He's my best friend and my support system. He hasn't encouraged all of my ways, but he hasn't tried to stop me either, because he knows I'm just like him. I'm lucky I raised my parents well."

Having previously toured as an opening act for'N Sync, Pink now hopes to bring her own show to small theaters. "I love the intimacy, the idea of no barricades I wanna bring stage-diving back." She also wouldn't mind playing a few dates with Lenny Kravitz: "I'm gonna send him a pair of custom-made pink panties, with 'Lenny/Pink tour' on them. He's gotta take me!"

But above all, Pink wants the world to see her true colors. "What's the point of living if you're not learning and changing stuff?" she reasons. "I don't say I'm right about everything. But if God gives me the opportunity to talk to thousands and thousands of people, I've gotta say something important. I'm a feisty girl, you know? Long-winded, but feisty."

Elysa Gardner