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Throwback Thursday: P!nk, ‘Who Knew’

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly series showcasing an album, single, music video or performance of a bygone era and its personal and/or cultural significance.

If you would have told me 10 years ago how many people I would lose, I would have punched you out. My father. My cousin. My uncle. My grandparents. Toni Logan. Jose Rodriguez. Andrew Byfield. Devarati Ghosh. James Sawyer Jr. And the list goes on and on and on. Death happens ⎯⎯ and there’s no way you can ever be ready for it. The moment I remember the most these days is watching the color fade from my father’s face. It was the first and (hopefully) last time I watched someone die.

My father could be a dick. Growing up, he was needlessly violent with a temper which flared up on the turn of a dime. I can’t even tell you how many times I watched him beat my sister or have a bloody shouting match with my stepmother. But on his good days (like taking my sister and I to Virginia Beach), he taught me to live fearlessly. I might still struggle with severe depression and anxiety, but on my good days, I feel like I can conquer the world. In his final hours, I forgave him for all the bullshit and asked for forgiveness for my own part in our toxic, complicated, damaged relationship.

“When someone said count your blessings now, for they’re long gone, I guess I just didn’t know how. I was all wrong,” pop-rocker P!nk, who releases her comeback single “What About Us” this week, cries on her 2006 classic “Who Knew.” The emotionally-draining hit, from her album I’m Not Dead, reflects on a close friend she lost to drug addiction. “I know better ’cause you said forever,” she laments. Reportedly, the singer discovered a male friend had overdosed when she was just 14. She remains pretty tight-lipped on some of the details of her troubled youth, but she pours that pain and sorrow into her music. Pounding drums and alarmingly-cinematic guitar and violin flavor one of her most wistful singles. “I won’t forget you my friend. What happened?” she asks, turning to the heavens for some kind of palatable answer. “Time makes it harder. I wish I could remember…”

The song would go on to hit the summit of the Top 40 radio charts and break the Top 10 on the Hot 100. It is now platinum.

In the visual, she details the story of two lovers: the highs, the lows and the bottoming out. The story presented is a romantic one, but the lyrics are vague and universal to squelch the emptiness clawing holes in your heart. I might never quite understand why I lose the people I do while I’m still standing, but music proves to be the comfort I always need. Who knew.

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Jason Scott

Editor-in-Chief of the Badlands, spinning those B-Sides. Love Parks & Rec. Addicted to high-priced coffee drinks, alt-country and synth-pop, and never know when to quit. Got a cat named Jake--and she doesn't like you very much.