Pink rises above assembly-line pop

New on CD

Music: in concert, CDs

November 20, 2003|By Joan Anderman | Joan Anderman,THE BOSTON GLOBE

I would love to party with Pink, and that makes me love her new album. If this sounds like dubious criteria for a critic, it's not.

In a pop music landscape littered with boardroom-approved sex kittens and photo-ready rebels -- yes, Pink is all that, too -- the 24-year-old singer has an actual personality. She's cheeky and funny and blunt, all of which infuses her third album, Try This (Arista). When Pink announces she's trouble -- check out the disc's sassy first single -- we believe her.

Imagine Christina or Britney, whose transformations from teen dreams into wild things smack more of a handler's vision than nature's call, pulling off a horn-stoked, throat-shredding tribute to Janis Joplin. Pink does on "Unwind," in part because she can sing a rock song and in part because her willingness to follow forays into R&B Lite (2000's Take Me Home) and confessional dance-pop (2001's M!ssundaztood) with attitude-soaked rock hooks reveals a fundamental fearlessness.

Pink's main collaborator on Try This is Rancid's Tim Armstrong, who co-wrote and produced eight of the album's 13 tracks. Pink harbors no pretensions of blazing new musical paths, and Armstrong does a brilliant job shaping unceremoniously catchy choruses that lasso Pink's supernatural energy.

She's irascible in rejection on "Last to Know," a shameless seductress on "Oh My God" -- a collaboration with porn-rapper Peaches -- and she's a loud, proud homegirl in "Humble Neighborhoods." "God is a DJ," an irresistible slice of anthemic pop-rock, is powered by a buoyantly irreverent reduction of life's meaning to cutting loose on the dance floor.

Unfortunately, Armstrong's commanding chain is broken by a string of weak links, courtesy of a handful of other producers. Linda Perry, who was deft at the helm for the bulk of M!ssundaztood, stumbles with "Waiting for Love" -- a trippy, dippy power ballad -- and the middle-of-the-road soul tune "Catch Me While I'm Sleeping."

Likewise, Damon Elliott's "Love Song" saps the crackle and snap that lifts much of Pink's third effort above the pop-rock fray.

Pink

Try This (Arista) ** 1/2

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