On the liner booklet's last page, Pink, attired in an elegant (!) black pantsuit, is somberly studying a giant hourglass in a barren landscape. No duh.
Everything about this good bad ol' pop Cinderella's fifth (!) album is tried, true, and tired — the mock–Courtney Love "I got my rock moves" opener, the life-is-a-funhouse title track (and circus booklet graphics), the bio-mining lyrics, the retention of bad good ol' Max Martin on the songwriting team.
So why, why, why does it hook and hold as well as anything since teen pop's untried youth? Is it Pink's convincing rendition of conviction, her voice a little more burred, but just as agile as ever? Is it her smarts in taking executive-production credit and a hand in most of the songwriting, ensuring a clever turn of phrase to boost the most routine melodies? Or is it that, after years of playing the persecuted superstar outsider, she's the only one left who really believes in this music, teen pop's only stalwart traditionalist? That might explain why, for the first time, the ballads are often better than the upbeat numbers.
Give Pink three spins and half a chance and by track five's killer New Order riff, you'll be singing "Please, Don't Leave Me" back at her.