Pink pulls a switch of styles

Music: It's not just her hair that's changed

she's moved from R&B to rock, too.

November 20, 2001|By Jim Farber | Jim Farber,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

NEW YORK - Today, Pink appears in yellow: Her hair, no longer fuchsia, is sunny blond, and she's wearing a straw-colored jacket. On Halloween, she appeared entirely in green.

"I went to the [Greenwich] 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 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 (out today), Pink gunned her engines in a totally different direction, recording rock-and blues-tinged pop.

It's as if Beyonce Knowles ripped off a mask and announced: "Guess what? I am actually Gwen Stefani."

"I had to do it," declares Pink, formerly Alecia Moore. "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.

L.A. Reid, Pink's boss at Arista, "said I was abandoning my fans and that there's no way" he would release it, she 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. "I know how to push buttons," she says with a smile.

Even riskier was Pink's choice of a writing and production partner: Linda Perry, known only as the front woman of 4 Non-Blondes, one-hit wonders from the '90s with "What's Up?"

Clearly, Pink saw more in Perry.

"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 [Perry's] songs every night and getting arrested for disturbing the peace."

The partnership 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.

Pink credits her defiance to her father. "I am my dad," she declares. "We're not allowed to travel together. The label frowns on it because we get into trouble."

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."

Pink claims to have had no self-consciousness about creating so-called black music on her debut, even though it earned her some stares and comments. "I've been called every name you can be called," she says. "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."

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