Pink’s New Album ‘Hurts 2B Human’ Is an Emotional Tour de Force

Pink is a star of the absolute highest rank, a larger-than-life force in pop music, known equally for her spectacular performances full of aerial contortions, elaborate choreography, and pyrotechnics as the nineteen-year, genre-hopping music career that has earned her such distinctions as Billboard’s “Pop Songs Artist of the Decade” in the 2000s and the “Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award,” along with a heavy string of Grammys, Brit Awards, and plenty more. Pink’s latest album “Hurts 2B Human” continues the dramatic streak that characterized her last album “Beautiful Trauma,” with a collection of bold affirmations, reflective musings and strained love songs. Pink teamed up with a slew of acclaimed songwriters to flesh out a set of songs that hops wildy between styles, and with scant exceptions, shows her at her most awe-inspiring.   

Pink gets straight to business wIth “Hustle,” a contemporary spin on an age-old, basic blues, given the theatrical treatment. Replete with gospel-type choirs and horn blasts during the choruses, Pink warns, “Don’t hustle me,” and from the first chorus, her booming voice makes it clear what’s in store. Among the team of songwriters was Imagine Dragons’ Daniel Reynolds, although the song doesn’t scream of his band’s music. At any rate, it’s easy to see why it was chosen as a single. Next, “(Hey Why) Miss You Sometime” begins sounding like it could easily be a Travis Scott track. Pink has always been able to shift between styles fluidly, and after all, her original genre on her 200 debut “Can’t Take Me Home,” and a few subsequent albums was a fairly standard strain of hip-hop-informed R&B. Now, nearly two decade later, that genre is hardly recognizable, and she still owns it effortlessly. About midway, she’s soaring to glass-shattering heights.

The first single, “Walk Me Home” is an acoustic guitar-driven, sentimental number that swells to arena size. Come the anthemic chorus, it could, quite funnily, be a Mumford & Sons song. Lyrics like “Walk me home. Say you’ll stick with me tonight / There is so much wrong goin’ on outside.“ show a new vulnerability, and come packaged in a readymade singalong. It might be a slightly odd choice for a first single choice for Pink, but she sounds as home here as anywhere. “My Attic” strips things down, and at this point, it’s marked how everything has tapered down since the extravagant opener. Pink hums and caps her usual swells before they reach the stratosphere. She expresses as much emotion, perhaps even more, in this restrained enclave as she does bellowing to a stadium, as you can hear at moments when her voice slightly cracks.

“90 Days” is a duet with LA singer-songwriter Wrabel, and there could hardly be a better pairing. Their voices bend, swivel, and mesh in gorgeous harmonies, and when Pink howls away in a climactic ending, it’s all the more meaningful amid the sparse arrangement. Next comes the title track and most recent single, featuring the increasingly ubiquitous Khalid. The song derives much of its power from Khalid’s distinctive voice, rough-hewn pbut emotive. By contrast Pink is as proper of a singer as can be, and the juxtaposition of the two talents makes for a uniquely emotive effect, in spite of indescribably cliche lyrics like “But I’ve got you… and you’ve got me.”

Out of the blue comes “Can We Pretend,” launching into garish EDM, thanks to the inclusion of Jersey DJ Collective Cash Cash. The sudden change can be a bit jarring, although taken on its own, it’s just fine. And that’s how many will hear it, as it was another single. Among the four released so far, one get’s a true sense of Pink’s versatility, and it’s an impressive batch. One of the greatest part of this song is classic lines like, “Can we pretend / That you like my fake ass shoes,” which alone is enough to make it enjoyable. Next, “Courage to Change” is an Adele-style dramatic outpouring, seemingly designed for flailing one’s arms in a thunderstorm, and replete with the “Oh oh oh” chants that are now in every single song in the universe. The mobilizing refrain of “Have I the courage to change?” is a rallying cry, sure to strike a chord in massive crowds, and Pink’s performance here is downright chilling.

Come “Happy,” it’s only natural to be harboring doubts about whether these songs are all really sung by the same singer. A calm after the storm of “Courage,” it’s a mellow musing on happiness, with Pink somehow infusing more feeling into a hum than you’d expect from words. Next comes another jarring shift, like that between “90 Days” and “Can We Pretend.” Perhaps some interludes could aid these segues. This time, on “We Could Have It All,” Pink takes on an ‘80s backdrop, with New Wave instrumentation and a full-fledged rock chorus. It starts off fine enough, largely because of Pink’s irresistible intonation upon the phrase “have it,” but her voice shockingly sounds strained in the chorus, and it’s all unbecoming. It seems like Pink is, in a way, too good of a singer to pull off an angsty rock chorus. To make things worse, the lyrics aren’t much more inventive than those of “90 Days,” for instance, “Someday, someday, you and me.” One of the songwriters was none other than the ever-illustrious Beck, although it doesn’t seem to have counted for very much.

The experimentation continues with “Love Me Anyway,” which pairs Pink up with country star Chris Stapleton to mixed results. It’s a novelty to see Pink amid a country instrumental backdrop, and she blends in elegantly, although conspicuously lacking sufficient twang. She and Stapleton sound just right when they sing together, but when they switch back and forth, Stapleton’s voice seems too loud in the mix, and the pairing sounds laughable. The next track, fortunately, comes in a smooth segue. “Circle Game” is basically a remake of “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King,” although more poignant than that might suggest. It finds Pink, now a mother, reflecting on how fast the years have gone by. The understated arrangement allows Pink’s voice to take precedence, bringing the sentiment home.

By the point of the closing track, “The Last Song of Your Life,” we’re in an entirely different sphere from Pink’s usual pop even in all its disparate forms. She ruminates in a fractured voice, and when she erupts into the chorus, she sounds as strained as could be. However, unlike on “We Could Have It All,” she does it by design. It captures a depth of feeling fitting for the subject matter, as Pink wrenches, “If this is the last song of your life / I’m inviting you to get it right.” It makes one wonder, what would Pink’s last song be? After all, she shifts through such a range just on this record that it’s hard to tell. Taken as a whole, the foremost problem with “Hard 2B Human” is that it’s not the most cohesive record. Yet, bar one or two mishaps, it would all flow smoothly, even with all its stylistic leaps. Although the lyrics are often trite, they are also occasionally thought provoking, humorous, or otherwise enjoyable. And most important of all, it displays the peerless singing talent that is Pink in all her glory.  

Hurts 2B Human” is available April 26 on Apple Music.