P!nk has worked for many years to establish her identity as an artist: she’s the left-of-center option for those who love pop hooks but don’t connect with impossibly perfect pop stars. After a debut album that she felt didn’t accurately reflect her musical DNA (read: too much R&B, not enough rock), she spent her younger days doubling down on partying like a rockstar and eschewing the trappings of the Britneys of the world. Then, she evolved into the edgy mom and wife —the one who still dyes her hair wild colors and flaunts her tattoos in the carpool lane. Oh, and part-time master acrobat. So now we all know who P!nk is and, more or less, what to expect. She holds steady on her eighth studio album, Hurts 2B Human, delivering uplifting, frank songs about outsider-dom, addiction, the challenges of long-term relationships, and motherhood.
To keep things interesting, P!nk, who executive produced the album, recruits many, many collaborators who range from totally unexpected to very much on her wavelength. Among the former are Beck, Wrabel, Khalid, Uffie (an enfant terrible beloved by French pop aficionados in the aughts), and Cash Cash. Rounding out the latter are Chris Stapleton, Sia, Julia Michaels, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, Nate Ruess (formerly?) of Fun., and Teddy Geiger. There’s barely a track without an amazing co-writer, performer, or feature.
I don’t know who has the balls to call out P!nk, but she calls them out in “Hustle,” the album’s first track. It sets her brand as someone who “live[s] my life like a bullet in a gun” and then emplores: “don’t fuck with me.” But the next two tracks, “(Hey Why) Miss You Sometimes” and “Walk Me Home” falter, feeling like songs written for someone else and jammed onto this album. “My Attic,” feels more on message as she rifles through her intimate thoughts in a song that will surely be set to a gorgeously choreographed Cirque duSoleil-inspired routine on her tour. “Hurts 2B Human” with Khalid and “Circle Game” are other standout slow jams that spotlight her soft vulnerability while “Happy” is on par with Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” If you know that Teddy Geiger co-wrote that one, you can pick out the idea that it’s an anthem for the transgender community, but listeners who don’t dig that deep will hear it as a universal message of acceptance. One of the album’s best songs is “We Could Have It All,” with Sia’s recognizable delivery style driving the pace and an infectious, danceable beat.
Unfortunately, there are several misses on the album, too. Despite lyrics that are full of potential,“Can We Pretend” is nearly unlistenable. On paper, her Chris Stapleton duet on “Love Me Anyway” is an excellent marriage of two artists who have upset the status quo, but doesn’t quite work in reality. P!nk is at her best when she’s letting us in, and loses us when she works, too hard, on being the exception to the pop star rules.