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
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.
"3121" (Universal/Motown) ***1/2
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.
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.