If God were a DJ, which DJ would he be? Paul Oakenfold? Sasha and/or Digweed? No—Larry Levan. They didn’t call it the Paradise Garage for nothin’. I ask because “God Is a DJ,” the obvious and at one time actual choice for lead single off Pink’s third album, Try This, goes: “If God is a DJ/Life is a dance floor/Love is a rhythm/You are the music!”
Grandiosity aside—what’s Art, then, waving glow sticks?—”God Is a DJ” provides excellent philosophical underpinning for Pink’s greatest hit, “Get the Party Started.” But the question remains: Is it the oontz-oontz-oontz of house from here on out, or will Larry mix in the occasional “Should I Stay or Should I Go” the way he used to?
Pink’s last album and ostensible rock move, the chart-altering Missundaztood, flirted with genre—confessional, club, etc.—like only its coquettish mistress knows how. Today, tatted with a razor on her wrist and the name of her dead doggie on her forearm, Pink makes her punk move. Larry would be proud. The 24-year-old Philly native, now fresh princess of Bel-Air, met Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, inheritor of the Clash throne, on a video shoot for his own genre-splicing experiment, Transplants. Faster than Missundaztood co-writer Linda Perry could return her voice mail, Pink was recording tracks with Tim on his tour bus. With the Neptunes and Timbaland on call like Smokey Robinson at Motown, megapop frontpeople do their best to ignore impulses like Pink’s. And while it’s no skin off Justin or Christina’s pert asses, give cred where it’s due: As an example of DIY decision making, Try This dares Pink’s huge but hardly guaranteed audience to hear the world her way—without wasting one moment on indulgent experimentation, rote grandstanding, or retreats into conformism.
Pink revisits her recent career in “God Is a DJ,” a big-chorused, fast-funk bass-lined spaz-out not written with Armstrong. Loving Mom, hating Dad, pulling her skirt up, sticking her tongue out—it’s all here. And it winds up with, “Look for nirvana/Under the strobe light.” No, not Nirvana, though that comparison flashed before my eyes—before the new Hole was pushed back past Courtney’s next court date, I intended to review the two albums together. But it was another major rock chick, Tim Armstrong ex Brody Dalle, who put out the grunge-punk disc of the year, the Distillers’ Coral Fang.
Brody made a slurred, howling, glorious mess; Tim, by all accounts the heartbroken party, produced Pink’s more routinely catchy, organ-nursed windows-down system-up exorcism. (Perry helmed three songs, including the refreshingly bombastic “Waiting for Love” and vintage r&b burner “Catch Me While I’m Sleeping”; two dudes helped pen another pair.) Album opener and settled-upon single “Trouble” isolates Rancid’s primary strains: spare, beat-propelled verse poised for a declarative, kick-guitar chorus; that warm organ; a simple, squealing solo; wistful, throaty bridge to furious finale. Vacillating subtly between soulful and snotty, Pink’s voice speaks more to her conflicts as an artist than as the daughter and girlfriend who stomped through Missundaztood.
That Transplants record is twice as good as the new Rancid, and it doesn’t include one song about Brody—its most compelling lines are, “Tall cans in the air/lemme see ’em/fuck you!” Past her family problems, Pink simply turns her sass-mouth on celebrity itself. Over the kinky drums and sharp synth-and-guitar edges of hidden track “Hooker,” her sneer is so self-assured it’s almost sensuous: “You ain’t nuthin’ but a hooker/selling your fuckin’ soul.” Screw you, Heidi Fleiss! Life’s a beach on the slinky-surf party track “Tonight’s the Night.” Over a groove that could have been borrowed from Smash Mouth, Pink promises to “hit the town with brass knuckles”—”I hope I don’t end up in jail, but then again I don’t really care!” Fuck you, Scott Weiland!
If this makes Pink sound ungenerous, consider “Oh My God,” a slick and steamy sex ballad featuring no-talent electroslut Peaches. One-upping Prince and his Corvette without resorting to a boast, Pink breathes, “My little red engine says I think I can, I think I can”; in the heat of the moment, you might not puke when you hear Peaches rap, “make my meat slide/’cause we’re all pink inside.”
Peaches has a point, after all. Not about the meat—I don’t know what the hell that means. Pink, for all her middle fingers, never polarizes; her soft spots are played as strengths whether they’re between her legs or between her ears. That quintuple platinum record produced by a former Non Blonde should tell you that much. Assisted by soft crusty-punk Tim Armstrong, Try This is a rare leap of faith—a miracle of pop. Are you there, Larry? It’s me, Pink.