The most unusual things about the R & B toughie behind 1999’s guybashing smash “There You Go” were her name (Pink), hair color (pink) and skin tone (white). Three years later, she continues to be so unusual: With her B-52’s-flavored single, “Get the Party Started,” Pink has pulled off one of the most radical R & B to-rock transformations since Prince abandoned disco for a Dirty Mind twenty-two-years ago. Her second album, Missundaztood, is even more daring: a singer songwriter collaboration with TLC producer Dallas Austin and former 4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry. The Philadelphia-raised twenty-two-years-old smoked and coughed her way through a recent bout with bronchitis to discuss the mental health issues raised by her latest single, “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” and other topics of general dysfunction.
Has that “damn Britney Spears” responded to you name-dropping her in “Don’t Let Me Get Me”?
I read that her favorite album is Missundaztood. I think she understands that I’m going after the machine, not necessarily her. She’s very sweet to me. Either she’s completely terrified, or she just gets it.
Is your self-esteem as bad as this album suggests?
I’m pretty confident and, at the same time, I’m pretty insecure. I’m like a walking conflict.
Do you truly believe you’re not attractive?
I do good makeup
You’ve got this lyrical motif about guys making you sick. What’s up?
Not all guys, just the ones I seem to attract. I was in this stupid relationship, and it was full of disrespect and cheating and lying. Sometimes you guys do make me sick! But girls make me sick just as much.
In “18 Wheeler,” you say that you’re not the kind of girl to just lie there and let a guy come first. What kind of girl are you?
I know what I want. And I’m not giving out any favors. I gotta get mine. That’s the kind of girl I am.
How does your family deal with their little girl singing, “Mama was a lunatic”?
[Squeals in embarrassment] Me and my mom have always had a candy-coated, selective-memory relationship. I love her and she knows that. [Sighs] But she is a lunatic, and she knows that, too.
Have you ever been in therapy?
Yeah, my mom tried to get me to talk to someone when I was fourteen to erase all the stuff she put on me. It didn’t work. The therapist would ask me about my day, and I’d tell her that at lunch I had a vision of breaking a bottle over someone’s head. After the fifth session, she told my mother there was nothing she could do.
Did L.A. Reid, the head of your record label, really tell you that all you have to change is everything you are?
In so many words. It’s been fun fighting with him over the past six years because I always win [chuckles mischievously]. I originally signed in ’96 with a group, and we were singing these pop songs that were, I don’t know, unseasoned. One of the girls went on to sing gospel for a Christian record label, and the other one works at Starbucks.
What did Reid want you to change?
My outspokenness and my eating manners. I’d gone to my first industry dinner, where they pay $8,000 a plate. The next day I got a call from the label asking me to take etiquette classes. They tried to convince me that it’s better to know the rules and then break them. I said, “If I know them and break them, I’ll just have a guilt trip.”
How did the “Most Girls” singer with the bling-bling and the ching-ching hook up with Linda Perry, former leader of hard-rockin’ 4Nov Blondes?
I found her number in a makeup artist’s book, and I left her a ten-minute message about how much I loved her and how she owes me because I got arrested singing her music out of my window at 3:30 in the morning, and how I’m gonna stalk her if she doesn’t return my call. She called back five minutes later and said, “You’re fuckin’ crazy – you should come over.” So I jumped in my truck. When I got there, we sat and looked at each other for a while and didn’t know what to do. Then she went to the piano, I picked up a microphone, and “Eventually” [on Missundaztood] was written five minutes later. That’s how the next month and a half went. I just didn’t leave. I camped out on her furry rug. We had a goal of writing twenty-five songs. We got to twenty. She became a really, really good friend, and I treasure her. You don’t meet a lot of people in L.A. who are so raw and honest.
What do you want to do next?
I’d like people who never thought they’d listen to a Pink album to be enlightened about how an artist can take control of her life, do what she wants, and fuckin’ break the mold and be successful.
The music industry seems more segregated than ever.
Yeah, it’s sickening – the same as it is in life. I’ve been at the homes of friends who are black and been kicked out of their house by their grandmother. I’ll walk into a black radio station and know, just from the vibe in the room, that they don’t want me there. It’s something that’s always affected me, and I hate it. I hate the lines that are drawn between people. I hate what society has taught us. I hate history. I didn’t do it, but I can do my little part to change things.
What will the singer of “Dear Diary” write in her diary today?
That I hope I didn’t sound like a complete asshole.