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P!nk has never been afraid to speak her mind, bare her soul, and share her deepest feelings in her songs. As she casually confers, "I have no choice. It's what I do." Indeed, it is what P!nk does. And, her 23 million in album sales, two Grammy Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, and eight top 10 hit singles are proof that the tattooed badass with the heart of a pussycat does what she does well. Very well. But, with her fifth studio album, Funhouse (Oct. 28 via LaFace/Zomba), P!nk gets even more personal, more exposed, and more revealing.
"This is my most vulnerable album to date," says P!nk, 29, who has no problem fessing up to the fact that the split from her husband, motocross star Carey Hart, earlier this year is the subject of some songs on Funhouse. "On my first record, Can't Take Me Home (2000), I was pissed off at a guy and that was cathartic for me. M!ssundaztood (2001) was very personal and even more cathartic. I remember talking about the song 'Family Portrait' in interviews and just crying. Each record got a little deeper and more cathartic than the last. In two years I will probably have worked through all of my issues."
But, for now, one issue that P!nk is still working through is heartbreak. "Heartbreak is a Motherfucker is what I originally wanted to name the album," laughs the singer. "But this album is not all about that. It's not just a breakup album. There is a lot of that, but there is fun happening too and that's why I named it Funhouse in the end."
P!nk admits that it felt as "scary" as it felt "great" to reach new depths of vulnerability on such tracks as "Please Don't Leave Me," a painfully honest love song disguised by upbeat, cheerful, and happy instrumentation with sing-along "da da da da"s in the background, and "I Don't Believe You," the heart-wrenching ballad featuring P!nk's raw vocals over simple piano and strings. (Both songs were co-written with Max Martin.)
"It's like letting down the armor and admitting I'm human. I'm a girl. We all want to be loved and love. That's all we want," she explains. "'Please Don't Leave Me' is also kind of funny though. It's like, 'Okay, I'm an asshole, but love me anyway.' I'm trying to be better. We're all a work in progress. And, 'I Don't Believe You' is one of my favorite songs because it's just so naked. It's like taking a deep breathe and saying, 'Here I am. Take me. Take your best shot.' 'Mean' is a country-Aerosmith-rock song that asks, 'How did we get so mean?' Everything starts out so yummy. 'Where did we lose the plot? How is it that you once were holding the door for me and now I'm slamming it in your face?'"
P!nk also pulls no punches tackling the breakup issue on the first single, the infectious pop-rocker "So What," which hit No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100 on September 18, 2008 making it the singer's first No. 1 solo hit song in her career. (She previously shared the top spot on the Hot 100 with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, and Mya on 2001's "Lady Marmalade" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.)
On "So What," P!nk gets real once again but this time it's infused with her trademark humor as evidenced by such funny-honest lyrics as "I guess I just lost my husband/I don't know where he went/So I'm gonna drink my money/I'm not gonna pay his rent." Having her ex, Carey Hart, in the Dave Meyers-directed video diffused some of the reaction to the lyrical content. "At first I was kind of irked because everyone was like, 'Well, wait. I thought the split was amicable and now she's talking shit about him?! What the fuck?' It's hypocritical.' But once everyone saw the video and saw that Carey was in it, it shut everybody up, which was lovely," explains P!nk, who collaborated with Martin once again for this track. "Carey hadn't heard the song before he did the video. That's how much he trusts and loves me. He pretty much just rolls his eyes, throws his hands up in the air, and hugs me. He gets it. He gets me. It's nice."
Although P!nk expanded her emotional and musical horizons on this new collection, the one song she is most proud of is "Crystal Ball," an acoustic guitar ballad written with Billy Mann, who worked on such past hits as "Stupid Girls," "Dear Mr. President," and "I'm Not Dead," among others. "I am proud of the songwriting, melody, and vocals on that song," she says. "I recorded it in one take and we didn't mix it. It just went straight to master. It was all about a vibe and not about perfection or being polished. I just love that song and I loved recording it. Me and Billy got in a room and lit some candles, had some wine, and threw up a guitar mike and two vocal mikes and just went with it."
Other revealing tracks include "It's All Your Fault," in which she proclaims in the lyrics "I conjure up the thought of being gone, but I'd probably even do that wrong." While in "Glitter in the Air," P!nk asks a lot of questions such as, "Have you ever looked fear in the face and said I just don't care?" and "Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?" P!nk admits, "I still don't have some of the answers to the questions I pose on this record. I'm still figuring it all out."
But as P!nk said, Funhouse isn't just a breakup album. "Bad Influence" (written with Billy Mann and Butch Walker) is a straight up rock chick party song that makes no apologies for wilding out with your gal pals once in a while. "I'm with the Hindus on that one," laughs P!nk. "Pleasure for pleasure's sake is not a guilty sin." "Sober" is another song that has nothing to do with heartbreak. It's a dark ditty with strings about how one wishes they could be fearless and lose their inhibitions without having a vice.
The bluesy "One Foot Wrong" is about an acid trip gone bad. "I used to be into a lot of crazy shit," says P!nk. "Acid's the most awful drug ever. Don't take it. But, that song is also about losing control and how easy it is to lose the plot in life and teeter on the edge." Meanwhile, "Ave Mary A" takes on the world and social issues, asking for help in letting go from "the chaos around me" and dealing with a "world gone mad."
As for the title, Funhouse, P!nk explains, "I look at life like a carnival. Clowns are supposed to be happy, but they are really scary. Carnivals are supposed to be fun, but really they are kind of creepy. But, we go and we buy cotton candy and we force our laughter and we get on rides and we strap ourselves in and we do it. And that's like life to me, and love. Love is supposed to be fun, but it can sometimes be really scary. And the funhouse mirrors that make you look so distorted that you don't recognize yourself and you ask yourself, 'How did I get here? How do I get out of here?' But, you think that you want to do it again. That is the same as love and life. It's a metaphor for being in love and for life."
The title track itself is a funky rocker with the fists-in-the-air refrain of "This used to be our funhouse/But now it's full of evil clowns/It's time to start the countdown/I'm gonna burn it down." "It's about when the box you're in doesn't fit anymore, burn that fucker down and start a new one," says P!nk. "This was the first song I did with Tony Kanal of No Doubt and his writing partner Jimmy Harry. I fell in love with working with them. We wrote fun fucking songs together. We did 'Funhouse' and 'Sober.'"
P!nk stepped out of her comfort zone in the recording of Funhouse by working away from her usual stomping grounds of Los Angeles and New York for the first time. She recorded "One Foot Wrong," a bluesy slow-cooked rocker showcasing the grittier side of the singer's vocal talents, with British musician/writer/producer Eg White (Francis Anthony "Eg" White, who has worked on No. 1 albums by British singers Duffy and Adele) in his home studio in London. And, she headed to Stockholm, Sweden to work with Max Martin, who previously co-penned such hits as "Who Knew," "U + Ur Hand," and "Cuz I Can" from 2006's I'm Not Dead.
"It was really good to get out of my house and get away from my life. No distractions. No phones," explains P!nk of her overseas sessions. "It was my first time working with Eg White and I just adore him. He's eccentric and messy and fucking awesome. We worked in his basement while his wife would be cooking dinner upstairs with their three babies and I just loved it. It was really inspiring and a great change of pace – different people, different energy."
With its mix of sad, thoughtful love songs and fun, upbeat, feisty rock anthems. P!nk achieved exactly what she wanted to on Funhouse. "It feels good to get people not just emoting and releasing all that energy, but getting angry and motivated too. It's group therapy."