On Pink's new single Who Knew, she has a line that strikes me as a perfect summation of her public persona. Who Knew is a melancholy song about the discovery that when someone says forever, it doesn't mean it's going to be forever. It's a thoughtful song with no anger and even some fondness for her ex.
The line that struck me is:
If someone said three years from now
You'd be long gone
I'd stand up and punch them out
'Cause they're all wrong
It's an interesting comment, because in a song about loss and heartache she talks about beating someone up (although not my favorite Pink line, which is actually "What happened to the dreams of a girl president
She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent"). That is Pink's persona, an introspective tough girl.
This for me puts her neatly in between two of my favorite singers, Carly Simon and Janis Joplin, who for me have always represented the two poles of personal songs.
I've always felt an affinity for Carly Simon as a songwriter, because I feel her somewhat distanced approach to describing her emotions is similar to mine, even though I wrote comedy songs that no one ever hear and she wrote serious songs that were on the radio. Still, like me, Carly can stand outside and describe her feelings. No Secrets is the complaint of an intelligent, self aware woman thinking about the ramifications of honesty. That's the Way I Always Heard it Should Be is sad but keenly observed. Many of her early songs were sad, but there was always that sense of observation. It's interesting that he saddest, purest emotion she ever expressed in song was a description of her state of mind years earlier.
Janis Joplin, on the other hand, was always engulfed by her emotions. When she was in pain she was like an animal in a trap gnawing on its own foot. She was pure emotion, happy or sad or angry, and that was it. That rawness was what made her so emotionally powerful.
Pink, as I say, is somewhere in between. Like Carly Simon, she can get enough distance from her emotions to see what's going on, but while Carly seemed able to cooly step outside herself and observe, with Pink it is more like she is making a mad dash from her emotions while they nip at her heels, ready to swallow her up again. She runs looking backward, describing her fresh wounds, unable to glance forward to see the emotional disaster waiting up ahead.