A Rockier Shade of Pink
Today, Pink appears in yellow: Her hair, no longer fuchsia, is a sunny blond, and she's wearing a straw-colored jacket. Two weeks ago, on Halloween, Pink appeared entirely in green.
"I went to the Village parade and not a single person recognized me," smirks the singer, as she sits in an upper West Side penthouse. "I loved it."
She had better hope others like that sort of thing, too. The 22-year-old singer just recorded an album that none of the 2 million fans who purchased her first album will in any way recognize. For her 2000 debut, "Can't Take Me Home," the singer recorded rigidly commercial, Destiny's Child-ish R&B like no white girl had before. On "Missundaztood," to be released Nov. 20, Pink gunned her engines in a totally different direction, recording rock- and blues-tinged pop.
It's as if Beyonce Knowles suddenly ripped off a mask and announced "Guess what? I am actually Gwen Stefani."
"I had to do it," declares Pink, formerly Alicia Moore. "[In my past] I was the lead singer of a punk-rock band. I sang gospel in black churches. I sang opera. I love all music. And I've always had a big problem with having to put it into categories."
So do a lot of people, but hardly any of them manage to convince their record company to let them turn their backs on a hit franchise after just one album. Normally, when a musician tries to make a break with his or her accepted sound to create something fresh, the company listens politely, pats them on the head, then tells them to go cut the "real" record.
Pink says that's just how L.A. Reid, her boss at Arista, reacted at first. That's understandable, considering Reid himself remains relatively untested at Arista, having taken over from Clive Davis only in the last year.
"He said I was abandoning my fans and that there's no way" he would release it, Pink explains. "He said people are expecting another 'Can't Take Me Home.' I said, 'I refuse to live in fear. If everyone else lives in fear, I will live in love.' "
Pretty uppity stuff from a pipsqueak singer. But Pink says her feistiness eventually wore Reid down. (The executive declined the Daily News' request for a comment.) "I know how to push buttons," she says with a triumphant smile. "I know it p--sed him off when I said, 'You're living in fear.' I said, 'You're f---ing scared.' He said 'I'm not scared. I released "Outkast." ' He kept bringing up that I said he was scared. He thought about it and eventually said 'You're right. You're an artist. Go ahead.' "
Making things riskier was Pink's choice of a writing and production partner. She tracked down Linda Perry, an artist most music fans know only as the frontwoman of 4 Non-Blondes, one-hit-wonders from the '80s with "What's Going On?"
Clearly, Pink saw more in Perry.
"I don't care what other people think. If you make a song that makes my day better, I have respect for you. I'll never forget being 13 years old and sitting on the corner with my only two friends who could play guitar and jamming to at least four of those [4 Non-Blondes] songs every night and getting arrested for disturbing the peace."
Pink got to pay back her hero by reviving Perry's fairly dead career. "This brought her out of her bubble," she says with a beam.
It also gave Pink a way to fully collaborate on her recordings, unlike on her debut, where the producers controlled things. The singer admits her first album was rife with cliches.
"It's a combination of where I was at the time and of having to crawl before you can walk," she says. "Yes, it was restraining. I think of singing to a [studio] DAT machine as karaoke. I've seen drag queens in Vegas do it better than I did. The best thing I can say was that I refused to lip-sync. I would sound terrible before I would do that."
Pink credits her defiance to her father. "I am my dad," she declares. "He's a smart a——. We're not allowed to travel together. The label frowns on it because we get into trouble."
Pink's Past Problems
The singer describes her youth as nothing but trouble. Her parents split when she was 8, and her mother "kicked her out of the house" at 15, at which point she went to live with her dad. She wrote about the trauma in the new song "Family Portrait."
"My mom cried for four days when she heard that song," says Pink. "When people hear this it will either make them suicidal or it will release some stuff."
In her most over-the-top song, Pink refers to her childhood as "My Viet Nam." When told that some people might find it a tad offensive to compare a war in which hundreds of thousands died to her personal problems, she shrugs.
"I do tend to overexaggerate. But my dad's a Vietnam vet, so if he's not mad... And I do still feel like I'm fighting a war — on sexism, on racism."
Pink feels her career choices have taken the latter battle head on. She claims to have had no self-consciousness about creating so-called black music on her debut, even though it earned her some questioning stares and comments.
"I've been called every name you can be called," she says. "I used to sing in a hip-hop club in the ghetto of Philadelphia by myself, and one week it would be 'You go girl.' The next it would be 'You white bitch, I'm going to kick your a--.' But I don't care. I don't choose to get caught up in the whole color scene."
She acknowledges that some listeners may compare her two albums and accuse her of playing with R&B for commercial gain and media attention, before going back to her "real" white roots. Pink is unfazed. "I just created something musical to open people's minds. I made something eclectic. That's my favorite word right now."
Pleased with that last comment, Pink stops to look down from her penthouse suite, surveying all the upper West Side below her. "Because I did this," she says, grinning from ear to ear, "now I'm free."