Review Summary: A reminder of what the world was like pre-Lady Gaga.
If geoscientists continue to persist with their view that we should use stratigraphic or paleontological information to delineate major time periods within the history of the Earth, then I say that we scrap the geological timescale altogether in favour of a much simpler chronological division. The one that I propose is the partitioning of all 4.6 billion years of natural history (6,000 if you buy into Creationism) into two distinct and readily distinguishable periods: the Pre-Gaga eon and the Post-Gaga eon. I think this is a valid proposal, and one that has some scientific merit: The Fame's
release coincided with a massive earthquake across pop culture which, in one fell swoop, overturned our preconceived notions of both style and popular music. There's also the fact that this Ladius gagaius
creature/thing is definitely a life form the likes of which we have never seen before.
But ludicrous proposals aside; prior to The Age of Gaga, the bulk of urban radio's pop rock/dance/R&B music was heavily fronted by one American contralto named Alecia Beth Moore - better known as P!nk. Moore emerged into the national consciousness on the back of a label-driven marketing campaign which initially chose to portray her as another run of the mill, cookie-cutter pop act - save for, perhaps, the pink hair. Despite this unfortunate handicap, the cohesiveness of P!nk's debut album meant that her career still got off to a flying start. The rest of the story, as they say, is history, and the gist of it is best hinted at by the fact that we're currently about to start discussing her first Greatest Hits album.
As P!nk's first compilation album, Greatest Hits...So Far!!!
is quick to market itself as the definitive product that spans the best of her entire back-catalogue. This is a rather dubious claim, and is almost instantaneously rebuked by the fact that there are some glaring and rather obvious omissions. Listeners will quickly notice that several of her more significant older hits are missing, in favour of much newer cuts: "You Make Me Sick" is nowhere to be found, as is "Most Girls". However, the largest collective face-palm moment is reserved for the incomprehensible absence of "Feel Good Time", the single which P!nk recorded with William Orbit for the Charlie's Angels 2 soundtrack in 2003.
That said, the songs that did end up making the cut have aged surprisingly well. "Don't Let Me Get Me" is still the ridiculously infectious radio rock tune that it was some eight years earlier, and other riff-driven numbers like "Get The Party Started" (which opens the compilation) and "Just Like A Pill" manage to successfully maintain their fist-pump-inducing euphoria. In fact, these songs even possess an extra dimension which they did not have in their previous incarnations: the ability to tap into the transportive ability of music and transcend time to evoke memories of much simpler days.
My previous complaints about the over-abundance of newer material is in no way a slight at P!nk's more recent work. Indeed, they actually may be some of her best: there's something charmingly bad-ass about Moore when she's singing how she's "not here for your entertainment", or even when she's nonchalantly thinking aloud about indulging in some radical upholstery on "Funhouse". Yet, beneath this tough-as-nails veneer is the tender soul of a young woman who is easily hurt; in introspective songs like "Family Portrait" P!nk shows this more vulnerable side of hers as she beseechingly whispers, "Let’s play pretend, let's act like it comes naturally". The pop ballad "I Don't Believe You" also features what is, in my opinion, P!nk's best vocal work yet. With just a stripped-down acoustic guitar and soothing strings in the background, this cut suggests that Moore may actually be a much better singer than she has led us all to believe.
Of course, this wouldn't be a proper Greatest Hits CD without a few new songs - indeed, there are three to be found here. P!nk fans the world over will heave a collective sigh of relief to learn that they are actually pretty good, and not just filler. The compilation's lead single "Raise Your Glass" has a strong pop/rock style that is not altogether different from P!nk's best work with producer Max Martin over the past few years. Its celebratory tone also fits the mood of the album very well, and is a fitting flagship for the latest phase of P!nk's career.
ckin' Perfect" is - in spite of itself - a song in the vein of a soft rock ballad. Although nowhere near P!nk's best, its layers of crashing cymbals, simple synth beats and a reverberating string section still make for a solid piece. "Heartbreak Down" is possibly the weakest of the triumvirate, as it doesn't really bring anything new to the table aside from a stack of rather bland lyrics ("All I wanted from you/Was a night, maybe two/You beat me at my own game/Now it's not okay"). Yet, as far as new tracks on "best of" albums go, it really could have been a lot worse.
Regardless of whether we all buy into my radical new calendar or not, I think that we can all be comfortable with agreeing that P!nk was somewhat of a trendsetter for the Gaga-free world. In her own way, she was a refreshing listen, and through pure vitality alone somehow managed to embody all that is well and good in the rather simplistic world of modern pop music. Love her or hate her, the legacy and following that she has built for herself over the years is hard to dismiss. Indeed, even as the looming finality of the first half of this album's title comes to pass, up pops the second - and we have P!nk herself offering us a bad-ass reminder that she's far from being done.