– by Walt Mueller
©2002, The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
It’s a recipe for mainstream pop music success that’s been used over and over again: Take one ambitious and curvaceous teenage blonde who can get her foot in the young music audience door by oozing youthful innocence and enthusiasm. Cover her – at least partially – with a wardrobe full of stylish, tight-fitting clothes. Add a heavy load of generic pop/dance music built around lyrics that address sugary and shallow themes of adolescent love found and love lost. Throw in a dash of choreographed sexy dance moves. Insert the mixture in a marketing machine turned up to high heat and. . . . . oilaa! You’ve got Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore, or the host of other perfect young female pop stars who’ve sold lots of albums and ideas to a legion of impressionable young fans over the last few years. But brace yourself! The formula just might be outdated.
There’s a relatively new chart-topping arrival on the mainstream music stage who’s changing the recipe with an aggressive, in-your-face, issues-oriented, and vulnerable pop music package well-suited for a youth culture whose inhabitants realize everything in life isn’t simple or picture perfect – and she’s connecting. Her name is Pink and she says, I had a dream when I was a little girl that I was going to grow up and change the world, and it was going to be through music. (Spin, 5/02). In many ways, her dream just might be coming true. The world Pink’s changing is a branch of pop music that’s been marked by a lack of authenticity and relevance for much too long. Pink describes her musical dream this way: I’d like people who never thought they’d listen to a Pink album to be enlightened about how an artist can take control of her life, do what she wants, and f______ break the mold and be successful. (Rolling Stone, 4/25/02).
Pink’s music, message, and persona are directing and reflecting the heartbeat and heart cries of North American youth culture. As she sings music that’s been shaped by her sad personal history, she’s become a poster girl for millions of her young peers whose already confusing adolescent lives have been complicated further by broken homes, peer rejection, and spiritual confusion. As always, it’s important to look beyond the obvious to see what we can learn from what lies beneath the hit songs of multi-platinum artists. What is it about Pink that’s led her to become one of today’s most recognizable faces on the pop music landscape? What messages and worldview does her music teach and reflect? Is there anything her music can teach us about the realities kids face as they grow up in today’s world? And, does Pink issue any necessary challenges or valuable insights to those of use who long to see broken young lives mended by the Great Physician?
The Pink Story
The 22-year-old Pink that the world sees and hears today, has been powerfully shaped by a childhood and adolescent life marked by instability. In many ways, that story is her music.
Born on September 8, 1979 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Alecia Moore would live with both her feuding parents until she was 7-years-old. That was the year her favorite person – her dad – moved out. AThe only thing my parents could agree on was that they hated each other, she says. It was like World War III in our household. I mean, you didn’t know which parent wasn’t coming home until 3:30am. (YM, 4/02). After dad left, young Alecia spent much of her time assuming a premature adulthood by cooking and caring for older brother Jason since mom wasn’t home much anymore either. Mom was either working as a full-time nurse, or out socializing on her own. Alecia found an escape from her hurt and heartache in dreaming about being a musician. Music was a love that her dad, a guitar-playing Vietnam veteran, had instilled in her from a young age.
Given her nickname at a young age due to the color of her childhood complexion, the name took on more meaning when a boy at camp – someone she liked – pulled down her pants in front of the other kids and Alecia turned pink with embarrassment. Harassment by peers would become a regular occurrence.
During her childhood and teenage years, she sang anything (Gospel, hip-hop, punk rock) anywhere (lots of clubs in Philadelphia) she could. By the time she reached the age of 13, Alecia was for all intents and purposes totally responsible for herself, filling her time with skateboarding and hanging out on the streets both day and night. It was also at this age that she began to sing with the rap group schools Of Thought.At age 14, her mom sent the street-wise young teenager to a therapist. Pink says it didn’t last long because it didn’t work. She soon found herself singing backup vocals for the group Basic Instinct. That stint was short-lived as the group broke up shortly after Pink joined their ranks. Still, she managed to write and record her first original song.
When she was 15, Pink was thrown out of the house by her mother and went to live for a short time with a friend in West Philadelphia. I was rebellious, opinionated, and none of my opinions agreed with my mom’s, she says. besides, once you give someone independence at a young age, you can’t take it back. That was our fight. She was trying to take back control that was already lost a long time ago. (YM, 4/02).
Life at Central Bucks West High School was marked by pain and conflict. Pink claims she never had friends her own age and she spent her school years as an outcast. In one especially brutal and embarrassing prank, a girl stole Pink’s diary, ripped out several pages, and posted them on a locker for all to see. Rejected and dejected, she would sit by herself in the back of the classroom and was often assigned detentions for her behavior. Her teachers pounded home the discouraging message that she would never amount to anything. During her Junior year in High School, Pink dropped out. She says, How could I stay someplace where the most important thing was where you got your shoes? The never-ending stream of relational upheaval led Pink to escape into the world of writing and poetry in a quest for self-understanding and relief. She says of her young teenage years, I was screwed up, lost, and unhappy.
Pink’s big break came when she sang at a Philadelphia Hip-Hop club with the R&B group Choice. They sent a demo tape of their songs to LaFace records. The label was so impressed by what they heard that they flew the group in to sign a recording contract the next day. The group disbanded before ever laying down a track. Even though the group disbanded, their discovery proved big for Pink as LaFace, impressed by her writing and singing abilities, would sign the young singer to a contract and later release her first album. In 1998, Pink released her first single, Don’t Stop.
In just three short years, Pink has released two multi-platinum albums, become an MTV and hit radio mainstay, and racked up numerous awards. She collaborated with Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil’ Kim, and Missy Elliott on the cover of the 70’s LaBelle hit Lady Marmalade from the Moulin Rouge film soundtrack. That song not only went to #1, but won an MTV award for Video of the Year and a Grammy. The song’s success served as great publicity for Pink’s solo work. Her own music garnered a 2000 Billboard Magazine award for Best New Female Artist. Most recently, she won favorite Female Singer and Favorite Songawards at the 15th Annual Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.
Even with all her musical success, Pink remains a person scarred by her past. She worries a lot and is haunted by ulcers. She says, I’m pretty confident, and at the same time, I’m pretty insecure. I’m like a walking conflict. (Rolling Stone, 4/25/02). She also describes herself as having a tough outer shell and like oatmeal on the inside. (Teen People, 4/02).
Besides keeping busy with her career, Pink stays in touch with her mom and dad, spends time with her boyfriend (freestyle motocrosser Carey Hart), and takes care of her Jack Russell Terrier named F___head.She’s trying to reconnect with and redeem her relationship with her mom. She says they have a candy-coated, selected memory relationship. I love her and she knows that. But she is a lunatic and she knows that too. (Rolling Stone, 4/25/02). To this day she still views her dad as her idol and hero. She says, He’s real and he tells it like it is and he’s consistent. He doesn’t change.(entertainmentasylum.com). Pink sees her dad as a stable reference point in a world full of upheaval.
As Pink looks back on her life, she recognizes the role that music played as a coping mechanism – the same powerful role her music is playing for millions of kids. If not for music, I’d be in trouble all the time,she says. AMusic saved my life. It still does. (pinkspage.com).
Pink uses her music to express herself and fulfill what she sees as her mission in life. She describes that mission this way: I want to open up minds, break stereotypes. . . . in music, sex, everything. There are so many lost kids not into teenybopper garbage. I’m one of them, and I want to reach out my hand. I’m not in this for the >entertainment business.’ Music should be much bigger than it. (pinkspage.com).
When Pink sings, her brand of big music comes from the heart. Her high energy and emotion are evidence of the fact that she keeps moving in an effort to overcome and separate herself from her difficult past. Her lyrics capture that same take control of life resolve. It’s a powerful and appealing musical package, especially for kids who see Pink as a reflection of themselves. Everyone who cares about kids must look closely at Pink’s lyrics – they are confessional not only for her personally, but for today’s collective youth culture. The lyrics and themes are eye-opening and powerful!
Can’t Take Me Home (2000)
Released in April of 2000, Pink’s debut album yielded three Top 40 singles, went double-platinum by the end of the year, and introduced the music world to a white girl who sings like a black girl. (mtv.com). Its popularity led to a 2001 MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best New Artist. The album is dedicated to Amy daddy, my hero, my glue. In the liner notes she thanks God for the ability to love all creatures and all things, for the never-ending blessings of life and love.
Pink uses the album to reveal who she is, her history, and her philosophy of life. She says it reflects relationship I’ve had, things I’ve been through, and even the stuff I’m embarrassed about. (mtv.com). One theme constantly revisited by Pink is relationships with males. She claims that the guys she tends to attract are difficult. A long-term relationship marked and ended by cheating and lying – something common to many of her young listeners – has heavily influenced her songs on the album.
The straightforward and easily understood lyrics are supported by simple, repetitive dance beats along with some R&B flavor. Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield calls Can’t Take Me Home a sexy teen-pop disco cruise. (Rolling Stone, 12/06/01). This is an album that never leaves listeners confused – it is clear both audibly and thematically.
The album opens with Pink conversing with herself over the phone on Split Personality. Her battle with herself and her overwhelming relational insecurity are the theme of the song: I do not trust, so I cannot love/Can’t no man be trusted/Oh no, no, no/And I would not dare to open up. The chorus reflects the cry of her generation: Can you help me?/Does anybody hear me?/Can they even see me?/This is my reality, oh, oh. Without anyone outside herself to connect with, she becomes her own source of help and says to herself, I’ll say it again/You’re my only friend/I protect you from the world/I basically protect you from yourself. . .
Hell Wit Ya is an angry and jealous break-up song that will connect with young girls coping with adolescent love lost: We just broke up so you know that I’m pissed/They say you’re faithful, I don’t believe that shhhhhh. . . . . I was in love wit ya/But the hell wit ya cuz you didn’t wanna treat me right.
The single release, Most Girls, is a catchy declaration of independence. In the song, Pink contrasts what she’s looking for in a man with what most girls are looking for. While she claims that most girls are looking for a man who can provide showers of material goods, Pink says she’s got all that already: Shorty’s got a job/Shorty’s got a car/Shorty can pay her own rent. She goes on to say, I just want real love. The song could actually be used in a youth group setting to challenge the attitude that the value of a potential relational interest should be wrapped up in things.
There You Go, the debut single release off the album, is a break-up/guy bashing song from a girl who’s been wronged. The song’s second line contrasts with Pink’s stated desire for love from the previous song (Most Girls): that love s___ ain’t for me. Her desire is for honesty in the relationship: So your best bet is to be straight with me. Pink gives a nod to girl power – a common theme in her songs – and the fact that she won’t be manipulated by someone who’s lied to her: So you say you wanna talk, I don’t/Say you wanna change, I won’t/Yeah, it’s like that/Had your chance, won’t take ya back. . . . Don’t you wish you still were mine?/Don’t you wish I’d take you back?
Perhaps the most easily recognizable song off the album is the catchy single release, You Make Me Sick. The love-hate song describes the battle between holding out and giving in. With the sound of sexual moans in the background, Pink battles seduction but eventually gives in: You make me sick/I want you and I’m hatin it/Got me lit like a candlestick/Get too hot when you touch the tip/I’m feeling it/I gotta getta grip/And it’s drivin me crazy baby don’t you quit/Can’t get enough of it/You got me goin again/Baby, you got me goin again/You make me sick. The battle between the body and the mind is played out: In the 6 now, so hot/Gotta pull all the windows down/Eyes lead and I’m thinkin about the sheets now/Wonderin should I really take it there now. . . I felt my knees get weak/His body was calling me/Just couldn’t take the heat.
Let Me Let You Know is a slow R&B tune that revisits the theme of love lost as the girl takes control by leaving after she’s been cheated on: I’m leavin/Say good-bye/Because I know what you did last night. . . . .I’m leavin/Say good-bye/Because You hurt me for the last time. . . . Whatever your excuse is/I’m sure, I’ve heard them all before.
The simple love song, Love Is Such A Crazy Thing, verbalizes the confusion in youth culture over what love really is: Never understood the way I was supposed to feel/Is this love for real?”
The sound of orgasmic male moans fill the background of Private Show. Pink sings about letting go of a guy who is simply using her as a private show. Again, she takes control: He don’t know/I’m gonna be the one who’s gonna let him go/Even if he wants to stay, I’ll let him go/Cuz all he wants from me is a private show. The song reminds us of how our culture has influenced and educated males to objectify women.
Themes of objectification continue in Can’t Take Me Home. In the song, Pink addresses a guy who thinks she’s good enough for bed, but not good enough to take home to meet his mother. ACan’t take me home to momma cuz she wouldn’t think I’m proper. . . .Shoulda thought about that before you f_____ with me. . . . Don’t say you’re fallin for me/Don’t tell me you adore me/Cuz all you’re thinkin about is f______me. Even though she’s being used, Pink still struggles with her emotions and desire to love and be loved by him: understand me, cuz I know we can be/Just as happy as anybody/Let your heart feel me baby. . . . I don’t want nobody else but you.
In Stop Falling (see lyrics below), Pink warns the man that even though she wants and needs love, she’s afraid to give it and get it because she fears she’ll be burned again. The song provides a powerful example of how past relational difficulty leaves one hesitant to ever trust and love again.
Do What U Do is an anthem of postmodern relativism and individualism. Pink calls listeners to be true to themselves, a message resonating through our culture as people increasingly become their own final authority: whatever it is that you do you should do/You should do it wit ya head held high/So when you’re doing your thing it’s cuz you wanna/And they never can ask you why/I say do what you do/Say what you say/Mean what you mean when you say/Cuz it’s your life/Gotta make your own rules/And you gotta do it your way.
Hiccup is about having difficulty saying I love you. Pink sings, Why every time I try to tell you how it feel/It’s like a hiccup-cup come and it won’t come-come/Soon as I think I’m bout to share my lovin/That’s when the hiccup’s comin. The song serves as another example of how a history of hurt can lead to relational difficulty and hesitancy later.
The album’s last song makes a case for strong marriages, healthy families, and constant interaction with your children. On Is It Love (see lyrics below) Pink offers listeners a peek into what it’s like to grow up without parental direction and the resulting relational/emotional confusion and pain. Pink appeals directly to her mom and dad for advice – much of it too late – as she struggles with the emotional heartache of having sacrificed her virginity in her quest to feel and be loved. The song is perhaps the most gut-wrenching on the album.
Pink feels she’s always been misunderstood for the things she’s said, and for who she is. The response to her first album provided more evidence of that fact. Some people think I’m an angry girl, a boy killer, or are just plain confused by me. (pinkspage.com). The title of her sophomore effort is a clear and direct reference to this fact: I think we all feel misunderstood, and our main goal is to be appreciated for all that we are. Most of the time we don’t even fully understand ourselves – one of life’s mysteries – thus, the title of my album: Missundaztood! She admits to choosing errant spelling Ato piss off my teachers.
Released on November 20th, 2001, Missundaztood debuted at #8 on the Billboard album charts and has sold two million copies in it’s first six months. The sound of the album is deliberately different from Pink’s first. She wanted to get away from the dance/pop crowd and distinguish herself from other young female singers. Her original R&B flavor is replaced by more guitar-driven rock but there are several moments where Pink shows more of her softer and more vulnerable side. (YM, 4/02). The songs, several of which were cowritten with Pink’s musical hero – Linda Perry of the band 4 Non-blondes – deal with the gutsy issues of life including family, peers, relationships, and emotions. Sung with an earnestness rarely heard in the world of formulated pop music, the songs are marked by a painful, lamenting flavor.
Pink says the purpose of Missundaztood is to provide listeners with Areal music you can live or die to, songs that make you want to stand up and change your life. (pinkspage.com). Reviewer Stephen Erlewine says there hasn’t been a record in the mainstream this vibrant or this alive in a long, long time. (allmusic.com). Missundaztood has really connected with listeners.
On a side note, the CD liner notes contain a list of thank you’s, including one to the Lord, for every breath I take.
On the album’s opening title cut, Pink leaves no one guessing about who she is and her growing resolve to be confident in that: It’s me I know/I know my name >cause I say it proud/Everything I want I always do. . . . And it’s my name I know/I say it loud >cause I’m really proud/Of all the things I used to do.
Don’t Let Me Get Me (see lyrics below) is one of the most gut-wrenching and moving songs in the pop music world today. Released as a single, the message of youthful insecurity has resonated among the teen population, especially among teenage girls. The video – locked in heavy rotation on MTV for a long time – pounds the message home. Set in a high school meant to represent Pink’s own, the video shows her struggling to fit in and the resulting battle with the outcast she sees in the mirror. Pink says the song’s Aabout feeling inferior, like having to live up to this image of skinny-ass models and society’s definition of beautiful. I look at magazines and I’m like, >She’s so thin – Bitch!’ (Teen People, 4/02). If you love kids, this one will be a tear-jerker.
Just Like A Pill is another in the long line of Pink’s break-up songs. She likens the relational letdown to a bad/trip or overdose: I’ll think I’ll get out of here/Where I can run just as fast as I can/To the middle of nowhere/To the middle of my frustrated fears/And I swear you’re just like a pill/Instead of making me better/You keep making me ill/You keep making me ill. The song helps older listeners understand what young people feel when a relationship sours.
Pink steps out of her lamenting mode with the catchy, upbeat and popular single release Get The Party Started. In the party and dance anthem Pink proclaims, I’m coming up so you better get this party started. She becomes the focus of the party’s attention: Get this party started on a Saturday night/Everybody’s waiting for me to arrive. Pink then provides us with an example of the new girl power form of feminism sweeping through youth culture with a macho declaration typically heard from the mouth of male: I’ll be burning rubber you’ll be kissing my a__/Pull up to the bumper get out of the car/License plate says Stunner #1 Superstar. Not only does she state her intent to establish herself on center stage, but she confidently and boastfully describes how her music will connect with listeners: AMaking my connection as I enter the room/Everybody’s chillin’ as I set up the groove/Pumping up the volume with this brand new beat/Everybody’s dancing and they’re dancing for me/I’m you’re operator you can call any time/I’ll be your connection to the party line. This song is destined to boom over stadium and arena loudspeakers at sporting events this summer.
Respect is a rap style pronouncement of female control. In a world where guys often play the role of sexual aggressor and women are objectified, Pink says it’s not going to be that easy: AThis body is a priceless piece/Of lovin’ unconditionally, yes/So Mr. Bigstuff, who you think you are?/You was thinkin’ you’s gon’git it for free?. . . . Hey ladies, yeah?/Let >em know it ain’t easy/R-E-S-P-E-C-T/Let’s come together. While we can applaud the mention of unconditional love as the context for sex, Pink never goes so far as to say that sex is to be experienced in the context of marriage. She goes on to state her growing sense of sexual self-control and self-confidence: Mirror, mirror on the wall/Damn, I sure look fine/I can’t blame those horny boys/I would make me mine/When I pass you in a club/Ooh la la you gasp/Back up boy, I ain’t your toy/Or your piece of a__. The song raises the issue of modesty and the role a female plays in promoting female objectification by playing the part of the teasing temptress.
The theme carries over into 18 Wheeler, a more explicit song proclaiming girl power while denouncing male sexual control. She tells guys looking to have their sexual needs met, You know I’m not that kind of girl. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Pink’s saying she won’t enter into sexual relationship. No, the kind of girl she isn’t is one that will allow a guy to bed her just for his own physical pleasure. In the next line she clarifies that she’s not the kind of girl A that’ll lay there and let you come first. She’s explained that line in the song this way: I know what I want. And I’m not giving out any favors. I gotta get mine. That’s the kind of girl I am.(Rolling Stone, 4/25/02). Later in the song she implores her female listeners: You are beautiful even though you’re not for sure/Don’t let him pull you by your skirt/You’re gonna get your feelings hurt.
Family Portrait (see lyrics below) is another gut-wrencher and one worth listening to over and over as a window into the world of family breakdown and dysfunction. The heartbreaking song about her parent’s divorce could serve as a theme song for many in her generation. In very helpful ways, the song shows how easily the scars of relational uncertainty lead to hesitancy to love and be loved later in life. Pink says that after recording the song and listening to it played back she had to leave the room. I realized how my life was affected, and to listen to that song was like being naked in front of an auditorium of people.(pinkspage.com). When she let her mom and dad listen to the song, they cried for days. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, Pink believes the pain she reveals in the song is like all pain in life – we can learn from it and become better.
The slow, gospel-sounding Misery features Pink in a vocal collaboration with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler. It’s another song about relational breakdown and the resulting loneliness and hesitancy to love: Guess it’s all meant to be/For love to cause me misery. . . Oh, I’ve been down this road before/When the passion turns into pain/And each time I saw love walk out the door/I swore I’d never get caught up again.. . . . One more heartache for me/Another night in misery.
An avid keeper of her own personal diary, Pink reveals herself in a way that will resonate with girls in Dear Diary. She speaks openly about her confusion in life including her Dad’s leaving home: I’ve been a bad, bad girl for so long/Don’t know how to change/What went wrong?/Daddy’s little girl/But he went away/What did it teach me?/ That love leaves, yeah, yeah. Later in the song Pink makes reference to the angel tattoo displayed prominently on her left shoulder: I gotta guardian angel tattooed on my shoulder/She’s been watching over me.
Eventually is a slow, sad song about the loneliness that comes with fame and the pain of being taken advantage of. She sings, I wish everybody’d just get off me/So many players/You’d think I was a board game/It’s every man for themselves/There are no teammates/This life gets lonely.
Linda Perry joins Pink on the vulnerable and confessional Lonely Girl. In the song, Perry asks Pink a series of questions to help her work through her worries and problems. Perry actually wrote the song after Pink wound up in the hospital with an ulcer attack. Pink says it was probably the most touching thing anyone’s ever done for me because I kinda felt understood and it scared me. (sonicnet.com). Pink reveals her cry for redemption and realization of the emptiness in the world’s answers: I’m looking for a way to become/The person I dreamt up when I was 16/Oh, nothing is ever enough/Ooh, baby it ain’t enough or what it may seem. . . . I’m a lonely girl.
The dissonant sounding Numb is another post-breakup song addressed to the former object of her affection: No sleep, no sex for you from your ex-girlfriend . . . . Like the coldest winter/I am frozen from you/I was weak before/Now you’ve made me so numb/I don’t feel much for you anymore/I gave you my all my baby/I’m numb, numb, numb.
Gone To California is a lamenting ode to the quest to find one’s self. In the song, Pink runs from her surroundings: Philadelphia freedom/Well it’s not like you have heard/The City of Brotherly Love/Is full of pain and hurt. She hopes to find her salvation on the west coast: Goin’ to California, yes/To resurrect my soul.
The album’s last song is one we should discuss with all our kids. My Vietnam (see lyrics below) accurately portrays how the epidemic of family battles and broken homes has become the Vietnam of Pink’s generation. The song opens and closes with the eerie sounds of distant artillery fire. At the end, what sounds like Jimmy Hendrix’s solo guitar version of The National Anthem brings the album to a close in a sobering manner. Pink has truly taken mainstream pop to a new depth of relevance and vulnerability.
What’s the draw?
Why has Pink’s troubled message found a home in mainstream pop culture and why has it connected with so many kids? There are several reasons.
First, widespread exposure has thrust Pink into the collective consciousness of today’s youth culture. Children, pre-teens, and teenagers are aware of Pink – the music star with the trendy look, energetic demeanor, and single syllable name. They’ve seen her face on magazines, heard her music on the radio, and watched her on MTV. And with a role as the dominatrix in the remake of the film Rollerball, Pink is everywhere.
Second, the music’s a hook. Pink’s catchy dance beats and emotionally charged ballads have grabbed kids, both young and old alike. Every one of Pink’s single releases are pleasing to youthful ears. Even many adults would admit that the tunes are contagiously upbeat! Ask a kid what they like about Pink, and one of the first answers you’ll hear is, Her music!
Third, Pink is a walking, talking and singing multi-cultural poster girl for the globalized youth culture. Her persona reflects the growing global youth culture and encompasses a wide variety of diversity. When she first came on the scene, listeners and viewers wondered, Is she white, black, or something in-between? The answer is that in many ways, Pink embodies it all. She’s a white female who puts forth a heretofore typical male toughness and it all comes across in a package that embodies the dominant source of today’s youth culture – the urban world of hip-hop. She is truly an artist uniquely suited to reflect the times. We live in a youth culture where the walls of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and diverse ideas are crumbling. Rising in their place is a new set of rules marked by appeals to pluralism and tolerance. Pink’s oft-spoken rallying cry reduces outward differences with these words – We’re all Pink inside.
Fourth, Pink’s outspoken individualism is not only attractive to kids, but in sync with the spirit of the emerging postmodern worldview. Pink’s well-spring of personal authority is in her creed, Follow your heart. (YM, 4/02). In today’s postmodern cultural milieu, the individual becomes the final authority – based on how I feel at any given moment – in all decisions. Pink not only reflects that sense, but uses her music to promote it as well. It’s an approach to life few in today’s youth culture would argue with.
Fifth, Pink’s music is relevant, timely, and fan-friendly. It accurately reflects the difficult issues facing today’s children and teens. As she sings about adolescent alienation and angst, Pink puts a musical face on the real stuff kids face each and every day. She deals with these issues in a simple, yet introspective manner. Pink speaks for the outcast. She speaks for the confused. She speaks for the pained. She speaks for the angry. She speaks for those who are experiencing the breakup of their families. Consequently, her music connects at a deep emotional level. One Pink fan says, I find myself able to relate with Pink on certain issues such as anger towards myself, my parents’ divorce, and being compared to others. Another says, I’m a 15 year-old girl who thought she had it all. Then, as I got older I started fighting with my mom. She ended up sending me several states away with a father I don’t even know. She won’t talk to me and I broke down crying – – – – hitting the lowest. I put on Pink’s CD and realized how much I can relate to the pain she went through. . . . . (Pink’s music) really saved me. Pink has become a friend to the hurting.
Sixth, Pink’s lyrics are straightforward and easily understood. There’s nothing poetically deep or cryptic about these songs. You can hear, understand, and interpret the lyrics easily. As a result, Pink’s message and music are more accessible and appealing to the younger members of today’s youth culture. It’s not surprising that she’s building a significant elementary and middle school following.
Seventh, vulnerability is important to today’s emerging generations. Pink’s music opens the cover on the book of her life. She offers listeners a look into her challenges, choices, pressures, and problems. For a generation that values relationships that are real, Pink is very, very real. Unlike Britney Spears and the other sugar-coated teen pop stars, Pink tells it like it is with a gritty, in-your-face honesty as she reveals herself to her listeners.
Eighth, Pink represents the growing wave and new face of feminism sweeping through our culture. There are two distinctive marks of this new feminism obvious in the music and persona of Pink. First, she clearly decries and personally resists the objectification of women as sexual objects. This attitude has been a mark of classical mainstream feminism from day one. It’s also an attitude we all should applaud. However, Pink reflects the new response to male sexual dominance – that is, to counter male advances through female sexual dominance. In other words, a woman can dress provocatively not to entice men, but to gain sexual control over them through I’ll make you look but don’t dare touch.. And second, Pink continues to carry the flag of girl power first flown in the world of dance/pop music by the Spice Girls in the late 1990’s. Pink encompasses it all in her tough chick appearance and attitude. By doing do, she’s not only attracting young female fans, but influencing them strongly.
And finally, Pink doesn’t wallow in her misery. She’s determined to overcome. While engaged Christian listeners can see that Pink’s barking up the wrong tree of salvation, she is at least barking up a tree rather than wallowing around in victimized self-pity. She implores listeners to pick up and move on by taking control of their lives. Unfortunately, Pink sees salvation in self. Christians understand that this is a dead-end road that doesn’t ultimately lead to redemption. But for Pink and her followers, just having the resolve to carry on will keep them going in their search for true and lasting peace and hope. Inadequate as her answers are, just the fact that she offers a glimmer of some kind of hope makes her attractive to those broken kids who are lost on the road of hopelessness. In the absence of no better offers, you can’t blame them for reaching out and taking her hand.
How should we respond?
What then, should parents and youth workers make of Pink? How can her music serve to open our eyes to the realities and ministry needs present in today’s youth culture? What can Pink teach us about our children and teens? And how should we respond to our kids if they express an interest in Pink and her music? CPYU offers the following analysis and suggestions:
First, Pink offers us a ride through the landscape of adolescent life in today’s youth culture. It’s an eye-opening ride we must take. Like it or not, Pink’s in-your-face exposure of her life and feelings isn’t about some conjured-up fantasy world that exists solely in her music. Nor is it an exaggeration or overstatement of something that really isn’t that bad. This music is about Pink’s reality. And it’s connecting with a mainstream audience that sees Pink’s musical self-portrait as their picture too. If we want to know kids, their issues, their cares, their concerns, and their pains, then we’ve got to get to know Pink. The picture might not be pretty, but it’s real. Pink has something to say to the church about the world. We need to listen.
Second, we can celebrate Pink’s resolve to break down walls that should never exist. It’s true that we’re all Pink inside. We applaud Pink for reminding us that the prejudice that exists due to racial and socio-economic stereotypes in our society-at-large is wrong. This message desperately needs to be heard in high school and middle school situations where sub-cultures feud and outcasts are the brunt of ostracism. Perhaps we might not agree with Pink’s philosophical foundation for preaching this message. When it goes so far as to accept and validate sinful behavior, then she’s wrong. But we can’t deny the theological truth that all humanity – even the outcast – is created with value and worth in the image of God. Pink reminds us that this is a truth that’s never been validated or experienced for too many kids.
Third, Pink’s connection with the emerging Millennial generation should remind us of the fact that their relational heartache varies little from that of Generation X. Generational researchers unanimously agree that X’ers adult lives have been profoundly affected by the string of relational breakdown and heartache they faced in their formative years. (Counselors have even diagnosed an epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder in many Xer adults.) Many of those same researchers have hopefully labeled the next generation as a generation that will turn the corner and be full of hope. Yes, they are still young and consequently youthfully idealistic. But we must never confuse idealism with true hope. One of Pink’s recurrent themes is relational breakdown at a variety of levels. Because those themes resonate with her young audience, we can expect that their adulthood will yield fallout. As Pink sings, their Vietnam may indeed be the home.
Fourth, we’ve got to love kids out of their love famine. Pink wants love. Her musical cry for love is so loud that it should make our ears, heads, and hearts ache. As parents, educators, and youth workers, we face the choice of whether or not to take steps to silence the cry. We can easily silence the cry by walking away from those who cry and moving out of hearing range. But while we may no longer hear the cry, the cries will continue. The cries cannot be silenced by leaving. They must be silenced by loving in the name of Jesus while praying He would fill their hearts. Our relationships with kids must be marked by love, trust, vulnerability, and longevity. For crying out loud, the church should thank Pink.
Fifth, we’ve got to lead kids out of their love confusion. Our culture’s postmodern climate has provided perfect conditions for the continued loss of love’s meaning. While the desire to love and be loved remains universal, love’s definition has become particular. It means different things to different kids. Pink confesses her confusion in the words of Love Is Such A Crazy Thing. Her generation understands and lives love as a feeling, a sex act, etc. If this distortion is not corrected, it will continue to spread through the culture, leaving a bigger and bigger trail of heartache, emptiness, and brokenness. We face the urgent task of redefining love in the image and purpose of love’s Creator. We must target kids with the Biblical definition of love (i.e. love as commitment) through our deliberate words directed to them, and our intentional relationships lived with them.
Sixth, we must teach kids that while relationships are always difficult, they are not impossible. Sadly, the relational heartache that’s become a part of this generation has led many to believe that a healthy and good relationship is not a possibility either in family or romance. This belief can lead to two sad consequences. First, kids are hesitant to love and be loved for fear of getting hurt. And second, when they do enter into relationships, the inevitable normal difficulties encountered are not seen as something to work through and solve, but as a sign of relational failure. As a result they give up. We must paint a realistic picture of relationships, telling them about the certainty of difficulty, while equipping them with the tools necessary to overcome those difficulties and strengthen bonds.
Seventh, Pink paints a Family Portrait that we must answer with a never-ending effort to build strong families. She’s given us a compelling peek into the reality of family breakdown and the resulting fallout. The church should never forsake its duty to prophetically proclaim God’s design and order for the family, to equip families in such a way as to prevent breakdown, and to work to redeem those who have experienced brokenness by leading them through the process of repentance and restoration while ministering them back to wholeness.
Eighth, Pink’s teachings should shape the context of our ministry efforts. Pink’s audience is very young and very large. Consequently, her power to shape values, attitudes, and behaviors is immense. Even while she entertains, she’s teaching lessons about life. She’s teaching her audience how to understand and live out their sexuality. She’s instructing them about how to respond to authority. She’s telling them where to find their personal value and worth. She’s guiding them through relationships. She’s defining boundaries of right and wrong. We have a responsibility to understand Pink’s precepts. Then, we must speak to her young audience, affirming lesson content that we can celebrate, and correcting that which doesn’t mesh with God’s design and order for life.
Ninth, Pink has something to say to the church about the church. While she rarely if ever overtly addresses spiritual themes in her music, Pink does have feelings about Christianity and the nature of God. Like so many others in the music industry, those feelings have been shaped by a combination of her own life story and the spirit of our times. She says, Organized religion is a joke. I’m convinced God is a woman. (Spin, 5/02). Still, her interest in spirituality is evident as she thanks God in the liner notes of both albums. One wonders if Pink the outcast was shunned by Christ’s followers at any time during her childhood. And even if we can’t answer that question, we must ask ourselves, AAre we reaching out to Pink and her followers now? She’s trying to find her way. Her music issues a loud and clear cry for redemption and completeness – the redemption and completeness that only comes through a relationship with the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If we were to ask Jesus, Who is my neighbor?, I think he’d point to Pink.
Tenth, if our children and teens express an interest in Pink, we must help them make wise music choices. Because of Pink’s widespread popularity in today’s youth culture – especially among young girls – we should be ready to set boundaries and explain our decisions by pointing out where Pink’ music doesn’t conform to the Biblical world and life view. If your older kids are into Pink, sit down and listen with them. Ask them about the reasons for their attraction. Is it the sound? Is it her persona? Is it that she’s singing about them and their life experience? If the attraction is based on a child’s needs, strive to understand and address the issues/voids that have drawn them to the music. Remember – popular music is oftentimes attractive because it reflects one’s own understanding and experience of the world around him/her. To say Ano to the music without addressing the deeper root issues does nothing but remove the Amusical symptom while leaving the real problem(s) unaddressed. Be sure to use the music to spark discussion about matters of faith and life. And for kids who are striving to live out their faith in all of life, listen to Pink with them and then discuss what they can do to become the hands and feet of Jesus to the outcasts and disenfranchised kids they know or should know. Pink’s music is guaranteed to provide fodder for lively discussion.
Finally, pray for Pink. In the last line of the last song (AGoin To California) on her last album, Pink makes an amazing request we can’t let slip through our fingers: Asomebody say a prayer for me. She speaks for a generation. That generation will hear her message as she embarks on a major concert tour this coming summer. Her popularity is sure to rise as she garners numerous awards with the start of the music awards show Aseason this coming September. Pink will be around for some time. But if our past response to pop music icons is any indicator, the church might only respond with a wagging finger of disapproval. Perhaps the more Godly response would be to fold our fingers together and keeps our hands clasped in prayer. That response to Pink must be our response to the kids in her world. What will we do?
Is It Love?
Is it love, or just a curse/Do you feel good when I get hurt/I need your heart to open up/If this love’s not real, then it’s just my luck.
Mommy help me, I need your help/This little boy, he took my love/And he says these things that make my body pump up/But then he runs leavin me undone/And I don’t understand/For sex he said he’d be my man.
Daddy listen, I gave it up/Iâ€™m not your little girl/My cherry, and all the trust is missing/But please listen, what do I do/I know you wanna hurt him/But I like what he do/He’s only doin what you used to.
You never told me bout the birds and the bees/Or bout hide n’ go seek or what he gets when he finds me/The biggest mistake in the choices I make/Won’t you help me decide, what’s going down in my mind.
That thing you’re puttin on me/Has got me so confused/Won’t somebody help me/Tell me what I should do/In my heart it feels so good/Is it just a curse/Will it get better or will it get worse.
I ain’t lookin for a steady thing/I ain’t lookin for what love brings/I’m still young and I ain’t ready babe/I’m still lookin for some better days/I don’t wanna give you everything/I just wanna make you feel things/If you ain’t done to give me everything/Just throw it away.
Don’t assume cuz I’m a woman that I’ll fall in love/Don’t expect I’m young and need to be took care of/Don’t wanna hear you got what I need/Cuz how would you know before we speak/You’ve gotta understand my side/I’ve had a crazy, crazy life/Nobody came along to open up my eyes/You’ve gotta take what you can get/Don’t even bother with my heart/Cuz I get a feeling I won’t let it start
Please believe me/I’ve been down this road and back again/Learned my lesson and it was that love is not my friend/For the day I put my trust in you/Would be the day I say I do/Don’t expect me just to open up/Maybe I’m just a little scared/Please don’t tell me what you think I wanna hear/Oh baby save it, I’ve heard it all before/There ain’t nothin you could say/Whoa, to make me change my ways.
So stop falling/Stop falling/You know you’re falling. . . . for me/Stop falling/Stop falling/Stop falling. . . . for me.
Don’t Let Me Get Me
I never win first place/I don’t support the team/I can’t take direction/And my socks are never clean/Teachers dated me/My parents hated me/I was always in a fight/’Cause I can’t do nothing right.
Everyday I fight a war against the mirror/Can’t take the person staring back at me/I’m a hazard to myself/Don’t let me get me/I’m my own worst enemy/It’s bad when you annoy yourself/So irritating/Don’t want to be my friend no more/I wanna be somebody else.
L.A. told me/You’ll be a pop star/ All you have to change/Is everything you are/Tired of being compared/To damn Britney Spears/She’s so pretty/That just ain’t me/So doctor, doctor won’t you please prescribe me something/A day in the life of someone else.
Mama please stop cryin’/I can’t stand the sound/ Your pain is painful and it’s tearing me down/I hear glasses breaking/As I sit up in my bed/I told God you didn’t mean/Those nasty things you said/You fight about money/About me and my brother/And this I come home to/This is my shelter/It ain’t easy growin up in WW3/Never knowin’ what love could be/You’ll see, I don’t want love to destroy me/Like it has done my family/Can we work it out/Can we be a family/I promise I’ll be better/Daddy please don’t leave/Daddy please stop yelling/I can’t stand the sound/Make mama stop cryin’/Cause I need you around/My mama she loves you/No matter what she says it true/I know that she hurts you/But remember I love you too/I ran away today from the noise/Ran away ran away/Don’t wanna go back to that place/But don’t have no choice, no way/It ain’t easy growin’ up in WW3/Never knowin’ what love could be/But I’ve seen I don’t want love to destroy me/Like it has done my family/In our family portrait/ We look pretty happy/Let’s play pretend/Let’s act like it/Comes naturally/I don’t wanna have to split the holidays/I don’t want two addresses/I don’t want a stepbrother anyway/And I don’t want my mom to have to change her last name/Mama I’ll be nicer/I’ll be so much better/I’ll tell my brother/I won’t spill the milk at dinner/I’ll be so much better/I’ll do everything right/I’ll be your little girl forever/I’ll go to sleep at night/Daddy don’t leave/Daddy don’t leave.
Daddy was a soldier/He taught me about freedom/Peace and all the great things/That we can take advantage of/Once I fed the homeless/I’ll never forget/The look upon their faces/As I treated them with respect/This is my Vietnam/I’m at war/Life keeps on dropping bombs/And I keep score/Mama was a lunatic/She liked to push my buttons/She said I wasn’t good enough/But I guess I wasn’t trying/Never liked school that much/They tried to teach me better/But I just wasn’t hearing it/Because I thought I was already pretty clever/What do you expect from me/What am I not giving you/What could I do for you/To make me okay in your eyes.
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