Hurts 2B Human
P!nk can rock out. She can rap. She can sing a gorgeous ballad while spinning on a trapeze. Somehow she boldly does it without compromising her distinctive point of view.
So maybe it should be no surprise that her eighth studio album is all over the musical map, as she collaborates with R&B star Khalid, rocker Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons and outlaw country savior Chis Stapleton, as well as "Chandelier"-swinger Sia and pop hitmaker Max Martin. But make no mistake, it's all P!nk.
"Can we pretend that we both like the president?" she asks, with a chuckle, in the EDM banger "Can We Pretend," her collaboration with Cash Cash that is one of the album's strongest contenders for a hit. Throughout the album, P!nk makes references to a tumultuous world, but rather than letting it get her down, she sings about moving through it with help. In "Walk Me Home," one of two songs she co-wrote with Scott Harris, she modernizes the unifying folk anthems of Mumford and Sons or The Lumineers to create a call for support. "Say you'll stay with me tonight," she sings in that full, powerful voice, "'cause there is so much wrong going on outside."
The poignant "Love Me Anyway," her collaboration with Stapleton, could stand as one of the year's best songs. Not only do their voices fit together beautifully, as P!nk uses the sweeter part of her register to balance Stapleton's gruffness, they build a stunning, memorable moment of vulnerability.
It's one more element that P!nk makes work on her terms, resulting in a genre-spanning triumph.
Hot tracks: "Walk Me Home," "Love Me Anyway," "Can We Pretend"
— GLENN GAMBOA
B Jade Bird
It takes a couple of songs for Jade Bird's self-titled debut album to reveal its raison d'etre. The low-key "Ruins" boasts a pleasant chorus, and "Lottery" underlines this British singer-songwriter's debt to Nashville, Tenn., even as it settles for the kind of corn that passes for cleverness in some country-pop hits. But Bird hits a nerve with "I Get No Joy," a live-in-the-moment declaration delivered with raspy ferocity.
When Bird gives cuteness and craftsmanship a swift kick in the shins, Jade Bird takes off. The 21-year-old singer carries a dash of Dolly Parton's trill, pledges allegiance to the let-it-all-hang-out '90s creations of Alanis Morissette and blurs the boundaries of soul, country and folk. As a songwriter, she sometimes succumbs to cliches — "Going Gone" sounds as tossed off as the lover she's discarding.
Yet most of the time she powers through even the slightest of songs and turns them into something more. There's not a great deal of nuance in "Uh Huh," a tale of an ex getting his comeuppance at the hands of a three-timing femme fatale, but there's no denying the snarl in Bird's vocal. On "Love Has All Been Done Before," she increases her discontent with romance as usual until she sounds as if she's shouting for survival.
With relatively strain-free production that sprinkles orchestral textures across folk-rock arrangements, Bird also shows an affinity for lifting the emotional temperature at lower volume levels, as in the spare near-whisper of "Does Anybody Know" or alone at the piano for the plaintive "If I Die."
A poetic expressiveness emerges on "Good at It," in which she uses a repeated question — "Is she good at it?" — to subtly shift the mood, by turns accusatory, resigned, bittersweet. On "17," a plea for forgiveness exudes dam-busting power without resorting to histrionics, the strongest hint yet of the type of transcendent artist she could become, no gimmicky songs required.
Hot tracks: "I Get No Joy," "Does Anybody Know," "Good at It"
— GREG KOT
Chicago Tribune (TNS)
• Mavis Staples, "Anytime." Mavis Staples turns 80 on July 10 and remains absolutely indomitable. "Anytime" is from We Get By, an album due Friday with songs written and produced by Ben Harper. "You can't shake me. It ain't no use in trying," she sings over little more than a basic beat and a lean guitar lick, and the husky confidence of her voice brooks no argument.
— JON PARELES
The New York Times
• Sheryl Crow and Johnny Cash, "Redemption Day." Sheryl Crow has remade, as a posthumous duet, a song she recorded on her 1996 album Sheryl Crow that was also chosen by Johnny Cash for his 2010 album, American VI: Ain't No Grave. It's a view of dire news events and heartless realpolitik — still sounding current decades later — transmuted into prayer. Now it's even darker. Stark piano chords and elegiac strings have replaced guitar picking; Crow's new vocal sets aside folky grain for aching purity, and in the final moments she and Cash trade the word "freedom" as if it will never truly arrive.
— JON PARELES
The New York Times
• Rajna Swaminathan, "Peregrination." Joined by a cast of standout young jazz musicians, percussionist Rajna Swaminathan — who plays the mridangam, a barrel-shaped drum native to southern India — has just released Of Agency and Abstraction, a debut album with its own fresh, interpretive take on the Carnatic music tradition. Much in the way of the Tirtha trio (with Swaminathan's mentor, pianist Vijay Iyer) and the Indo-Pak Coalition before her, Swaminathan lets jazz and Indian classical merge organically, through her writing and the skill sets of her improvising partners. On "Peregrination," prominently featuring Swaminathan's sister, violinist Anjna Swaminathan, that means mixing passages of slithering mystery with sections of bristling, complex rhythm.
— GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
The New York Times
Style on 05/07/2019
Print Headline: P!nk gets a little help from friends, as if she needs it