Review Summary: History suggests Pink is at her best when she has something to prove. With 'Funhouse', history remains intact.
After many listeners labeled Pink's debut 'Can't Take Me Home' as just another heavily produced pop release, she hit back with the excellent & personal 'Missundaztood'. Then, when critics rejoiced at the near unnoticed attempt to infuse rock and punk on 'Try This', the sassy carefree performer responded with 7 hit singles off of 2006's 'I'm Not Dead'. Surely there was nothing for Pink to prove on her 5th release 'Funhouse'... Well, there was one objective still left for the now 29 year old blonde singer to achieve; A solo #1 single in her homeland. That can now be checked off the list also, as lead single and album opener 'So What' has raced to the top of the charts in not only America, but in at least 7 other countries!
An energetically enthralling rollercoaster ride of a cut, Pink intentionally laces 'So What' with the multiple love-or-hate characteristics that often result in the best pop songs. Whether it is the "na na na's" that litter the track, the proclamation that she is a rock-star who gets in trouble & wants to start a fight, or the near gloating concerning her divorce, Pink almost dares you to hate this arguably childish song. Initially, it seems easy to, yet the track will eventually win many over, whether it is through the contagious chorus, the bouncy synth-produced upbeat vibe, or her ability to sell her carefree nature in a genuine (not superficial) manner.
Just like previous release 'I'm Not Dead' however, the lead single is by no means the norm on this LP. In fact, only 2 further tracks approach those over-the-top methods. These are the Butch Walker co-produced 'Bad Influence' and the Tony Kanal (of No Doubt fame) collaboration that is the bass-driven tempo-switching title track. Both songs contain dubious lyrics, as on the former, Pink sings about drinking alcohol in the morning, her partying habits being genetic, and being "the instigator of underwear". Yet, 'Bad Influence' will undoubtedly contend as a likely single (and another hilarious video) due to its near-perfectly executed flow, as well as a super catchy and melodic chorus.
So with only three of the tracks being of that style, does Pink's separation from husband Carey Hart weigh the remainder of 'Funhouse' down? Well, despite some of the song titles, it is not really the case... Definitely not enough to call the album 'Heartbreak Is A Motherf**ker', which Pink jokingly suggested. While many of the tracks do concern relationship problems, it is not to any greater extent than most other pop-rock releases. If anything, the subject is most referred to in the very good, drumless and unplugged-sounding ballad that is 'I Don't Believe You'. When Pink's emotionally vulnerable vocals ask "The passion's there, so it's gotta be right, right?", it seems entirely real and genuine.
There is a kind of 2 up and 2 down inconsistent quality running through 'Funhouse'. In addition to 'Bad Influence' and 'Funhouse' being placed together at the center of the album, 2nd single 'Sober' is a highlight that immediately follows the opener. Pink's vocals are at her heartfelt best on this strings-assisted cut, which is sure to be a grower. Meanwhile, the late-album 1-2 punch of 'It's All Your Fault' and 'Ave Mary A' will satisfy those looking for some rock-based sing-alongs. In both cases, respective producers Max Martin & Billy Mann find the right combination of live instrumentation & synths. The former is more immediate and effectively utilizes a slow/fast dynamic to highlight its chorus, while 'Ave Mary A' uses an involving "(insert city name) I think we've got a problem" vocal hook in its verses, before building up impressively.
Unfortunately, the filler factor on 'Funhouse' is high. On most occasions, this is due to the fact that Pink's want for a challenge often gets her into trouble by seeing her reach beyond her capabilities. Look no further than the misplaced jazzy number 'One Foot Wrong', which is a real letdown. Furthermore, she unsuccessfully attempts to right prior wrongs when it comes to piano ballads (the closing 'Glitter in the Air') and mid-tempo country rock (the boring & generic 'Mean'). Although, she does also include a valiant attempt at a folksy acoustic ballad, which could see 'Crystal Ball' become an under-rated grower.
Since Pink appeared to find her feet on previous release 'I'm Not Dead', it has to be concluded that 'Funhouse' comes off as a little disappointing. It predominantly rehashes the formula found on its predecessor, which results in a number of very good songs, but nothing truly outstanding. Furthermore, the consistency is a real concern here, with arguably as many as half of the 12 tracks either being too run of the mill or simply not all that good. We should not be surprised though, as Pink had little to prove on 'Funhouse' and the pattern seen thus far with her releases should mean that her next album will be much better!
Recommended Tracks: Sober, So What & It's All Your Fault.