Spin Control


April 2, 2006



Pink, "I'm Not Dead" (LaFace) *1/2

I'm not ashamed to admit I had high hopes for the fourth album from the former Alecia Moore. Pink is not only the anti-Britney of the pop world -- an ardent feminist with grrrl power as well as sex appeal to spare -- she's basically the genre's answer to Courtney Love: always outrageous, unapologetically outspoken and consistently entertaining. (And, despite her recent revelations about heroin use, she has thankfully avoided La Love's penchant for self-destructive insanity.)

"Stupid Girls," the first single from this disc and the subject of a gleefully snotty, take-no-prisoners, Britney-, Paris- and Lindsay-skewering video, seemed to justify my expectations. But alas, there isn't another moment as humorous, a melody as catchy or a groove as motivating anywhere else on this overly long 14-track disc.

The problem is Pink is taking herself way too seriously, trying to morph into Michael Stipe, Eddie Vedder or (shudder to think) Bono, and crossing that dreaded line from punk to preacher. You can applaud her courage for taking on the Bush administration in "Dear Mr. President," and her musical adventurousness in pairing with the Indigo Girls. But when the best criticism she can offer the leader of the Free World is, "You don't know nothing about hard work! / How do you sleep at night?," and the tune turns out to be sleepier than anything Amy or Emily would ever release, it's all just a blown opportunity.

So goes with tune after tune on this ponderous mess, whether Pink is lecturing us on the evils of materialism over the sleepy groove of "I Got Money Now," trying to channel her heroine Janis Joplin while borrowing a melody from Neil Young on "The One That Got Away" or crafting a ridiculously bombastic, overly orchestrated mini-rock opera in "Conversations With My 13-Year-Old Self," which plays like the very worst of another Pink (Floyd, that is). In the end, the ingredient most sorely missed is the one that Pink has always had in abundance: Fun. And without that, there really isn't much reason to care.


Prince, "3121" (Universal/Motown) ***1/2

While Prince's notorious feud with Warner Bros. -- you remember, the tiff that prompted him to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol and write "slave" on himself back in the mid-'90s -- is still cited as an example of unjust major-label meddling, there's no denying that the Purple One made better albums back when he yielded to occasional editing from the corporate types, or that following his output since has been a frustrating affair, with the artist dumping as much gold as garbage on his fans.

Though many reviewers are once again proclaiming that "3121" is the album where Prince recaptures former glories, they did the same for 2004's "Musicology." It wasn't true then, and it isn't true now -- not if we're making comparisons to indelible classics such as "Dirty Mind," "1999" and "Sign 'O the Times." But "3121" is mercifully devoid of some of his recent years' worst mistakes -- the heavy-handed preaching and the lightweight New Age noodling -- and it's good-time electro-funky in that much-missed, old-school Prince way.

In the context of celebratory house-party grooves such as the title track, "Lolita" and "Black Sweat," or the bedroom burner "Incense and Candles," the missteps are easier to stomach; instead of this being a Prince album with two or three good moments amid the shoulda-been-studio-rejects, there are only a few tunes you'll want to delete from your iPod, with the saccharine ballad "Te Amo Corazon" and the flighty toss-off "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed" chief among them. Consistency may never again be one of his strengths, but when Prince shouts out for a classic Maceo Parker sax solo in the midst of the James Brown-flavored raver "Get on the Boat," everything else is forgiven.