In a perfect world, alterna-elitists would learn to stop worrying and love sleek teeny-pop: Mandy, Britney, Christina, ’N Sync. Pain is pain. Being alone, withdrawn and despised is not just the province of punk rock. These squeaky-clean stars, in their own daft way, project adolescent concerns (even if the one guy in ’N Sync is like 35) as viably as Sleater-Kinney or Ben Lee. The difference: About a billion-dollar promotional budget.
And in this perfect world, the same kids who’re buying Britney’s sophomore release Oops!… I Did It Again, would pick Pink. Pink — the 20-year-old Philadelphian who’s spent the last five years working at Atlanta label LaFace, run by hitmakers L.A. Reid and Babyface — has made the finicky white funk record for young America, Can’t Take Me Home.
Her sinewy vocals and melodic funk workouts are nothing like the pop catchphrases of Oops.
“I have mixed feelings,” says Pink about Britney and Christina while rehearsing in Atlanta for her opening slot on ’N Sync’s July stadium tour. “My background is in R&B, singing in punk bands and gospel music every Sunday. It’s hard for me to understand conformist stuff. Those guys don’t move me, but they’re good at what they do. Britney’s cool. N’Sync is entertaining. Christina can sing her little butt off.”
In contrast to Spears’ innocence, Pink’s is an old, bruised adult sound. The clipped strings and busy signals bouncing behind the angels and devils of “Split Personality,” the choral blasts on “Most Girls,” the ball-breaking heartache of “There You Go” all make Can’t Take Me Home rough around the edges.
The genuine adult tumult and no-nonsense lyricism, most of which Pink the writer is responsible for, conveys a rainbow as opposed to, say Christina Aguilera’s pastel shades. For Pink, it’s all about getting personal. “I threw these songs in L.A.’s face every day, because I knew I had to speak for myself,” she says with confidence that sounds like a smirk.
“There You Go” and “Private Show” do not contain run-of-the mill sentiments for 20-year-olds. The tracks she contributed to, she explains, are based on real experiences where she was real pissed off. “I’m not an evil man basher, a Fiona Apple girl,” she says. “I just get inspired when I have the most extreme emotions— anger, depression, confusion — raging inside me. I have to write or I go crazy.”
How she arrived at this sound is slowly becoming legend. Pink, born Alyssia Moore, spent her early years shuffling between Cheltenham, Bucks County and Atlantic City. She went to Central Bucks West High. She sang with her granddad Buddy Kugel and her mother Judy. Most importantly she hung out and sang with her dad Jim, a proud Vietnam War vet. He’s her current manager and notorious onetime wild man who still likes to jump on his motorcycle from time to time. There is nothing Clive Davis could do that would faze him. “I’ve logged a lot of miles,” he says with a laugh. “But nothing’s better than and wilder than seeing her do this. She said she was going to do it as a kid and she meant it.”
She’s had some help. Her cousin is Bernie Resnick, a local entertainment lawyer who signed her to her first management deal. “She’s been singing in public for so long, stage fright isn’t part of the equation,” says Resnick. “Don’t think that because her first gig in Philly’s at a sold-out ’N Sync show that she’s not ready for it.”
Pink’s been performing since the early ’90s when she hung out at Club Fever, singing up a storm during their local superstar spotlights. “Oh my goodness, Fever, the Trocadero. I went everywhere. But Fever was my main hang at age 12, 13.”
She tells the story as if it were detective fiction. “They used to have these rave nights. One Friday, 6:30 in the morning, the DJs were packing up the hip-hop room and the mike was still up and on. My friend dared me to sing. And I did it. Like that. From there on, I became a regular.”
It was at Fever that she joined up with two other girls to become Choice, a TLC-like act that got signed to LaFace. But L.A. Reid quickly singled her out as a solo act. Though she’s back living in Philly now, it was a culture shock moving down South. “Everything’s a lot slower. They’re not as open to pink-haired freaks running around as they are in Philly,” she says. She spent the last five years of her life in Atlanta, hanging with Reid and LaFace folks. According to Pink, she did it her way from the start. “L.A. pushed me to be myself, always,” says Pink. “He was hip on me, not what anyone else wanted me to be. I brought everything to the table. He left the music and lyrics to me and set me up with the best producers possible to bring out my sound. He’s my biggest cheerleader.”
With Reid, Babyface and a handful of LaFace producers like Russell Simmons, Pink fashioned a record and a live show with no lip synching or stagey shit ever. “Lip synching is corny. What’s the point?” she says snidely. “I came to play. I came to sing. No matter what the other candy shit that comes with this gig, the singing is what I’m here to do. Hand me a microphone. Listen up.”