Welcome to The Singles Bar, a review series focused on new single and song releases.
In the aftermath of a bloody white supremacist and Neo-Nazi rally over the weekend ⎯⎯ which ended in one of Trump’s most disturbing press conferences yet ⎯⎯ people are showing their true colors in stunning fashion. Silence is no longer an option, and not speaking up puts you on the wrong side of history. Pop/rock goddess P!nk is no stranger to wielding her superstar platform for the good of the people, the outcasts, the marginalized. With her new EDM-lite single “What About Us”( a co-write with Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac), a vast departure from her typically-aggressive, punk-ish lead singles, she lays it out plainly, honestly and urgently. “We are searchlights / We can see in the dark / We are rockets pointed up at the stars / We are billions of beautiful hearts / And you sold us down the river too far.”
We can still come back from this. It’s not too late. Then, the beat drops, and her piercing vocals cuts through the static. It’s pretty simple, really: it all comes down to accepting America’s storied past and regaining our humanity. “What about us? What about all the times you said you had the answers? What about us? What about all the broken happy ever afters? What about us? What about all the plans that ended in disaster? What about love? What about trust? What about us…?”
On the second verse, she throws up her hands in disgust, also observing her own former blindness. “We are problems that want to be solved / We are children that need to be loved / We were willin’, we came when you called / But man, you fooled us, enough is enough…,” she dispatches up into a funnel of piano, spectral synths and pelting heartthrobs. “Willin'” here seems to be a confession of following the establishment, rather than Trump, about whom P!nk has been unequivocally outspoken and railing against since the election. It’s not shocking a misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, “Christian” racist is president ⎯⎯ but it is devastating.
We can’t give up. We can’t let Hitler Junior win.
The severity and fervor crests on the bridge with a resolve to be woke AF. “Sticks and stones, they may break these bones / But then I’ll be ready, are you ready? / It’s the start of us, waking up come on,” she urges. “Are you ready? I’ll be ready / I don’t want control, I want to let go / Are you ready? I’ll be ready / ‘Cause now it’s time to let them know / We are ready, what about us?”
In the accompanying visual (out today), P!nk gathers people of color, badass women and an array of other undercut individuals, framing police brutality and the GOP in the spotlights. In much the same way as Beyonce’s “Formation” (praise Queen Bey), “What About Us” contains heavy, brutal and necessary imagery of the scope of systemic racism and sexism: cis white male control deprives so many of the freedom to simply exist. And enough is enough. The video opens on crackling audio of a riot spiraling out, a helicopter soaring high over the cityscape into back alleys and the outskirts of suburban America and an unnerving, mournful tone bleeds onto the camera. P!nk then utilizes her curious dance craft to exhibit the jarring entanglements of policy, basic civil rights and leaders who don’t know how to lead. The often erratic turmoil is not only splashed on the dancer’s faces but in the irregular and capricious movements, sometimes sharp and smooth, other times clumsily rough hewn. It’s as beautiful as it is tragic.
Previously, P!nk took aim at George W. Bush with “Dear Mr. President” (from her 2006 album I’m Not Dead), a folk, acoustic song featuring Indigo Girls on harmony. But “What About Us” feels far mightier, combative and empowering. Both are timely, however, and it is now or never to stand up for what is good and right. Are you ready?
Grade: 4 out of 5
Photo credit: Ryan Aylsworth