Pink: The World's Most Underrated Superstar

Singer's ultra-personal songs and high-flying stage show set her apart from traditional pop stars, in Bigger Than the Sound.

A few weeks ago, as I sat in Radio City Music Hall watching Pink dangle upside down from a trapeze bar some 60 feet above my head, risking life and limb (and avoiding a wardrobe malfunction) while positively nailing the chorus of "Sober" — the smart, stunning song she co-wrote with "American Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi — I sort of realized something:

Pink is totally underrated.

Think about it. She is a fabulously fearless pop artist, as comfortable taking on George W. Bush as she is hanging like a bat from the rafters of Radio City. She is clever and funny and unflinching, willing to take her (oft volatile) personal life and turn it into grist for hit singles. She is a deceptively good singer, something she is rarely given credit for (check "Just Like a Pill" or "God Is a DJ" or the chorus of "Sober" for proof). She recorded a Beck song and wrote tunes with Rancid's Tim Armstrong. She has tons of tattoos and used to wear her hair like Wendy O. Williams from the Plasmatics. She has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide, landed countless Billboard hits, and her Funhouse tour is currently the ninth highest-grossing jaunt of the year.

And yet, if you were to make a list of the biggest pop stars, Pink probably wouldn't even crack the top five. This doesn't seem right to me, though I think I understand why it tends to happen. Unlike Britney or Gaga or Christina or Miley or Taylor, Pink is not a pure pop star. She's multifaceted, an amalgamation of many things and many eras, not easily categorized or digested.

To wit, Pink is kind of a rock star (remember when she was going to play Janis Joplin in a biopic?). She is kind of a party girl. She is kind of an R&B diva too (or, at least, she used to be). And she's created a particular niche in the pop universe that somehow manages to combine all those things. Her songs — particularly those on the Funhouse album (which, it should be noted, she originally wanted to call Heartbreak Is a Mother----er) — are angry, funny, pissy and rife with honesty. It isn't a perfect album, and it isn't supposed to be: It's a human one, about imperfect love and imperfect situations. At times, it's even downright depressing ("Please Don't Leave Me," "Crystal Ball"), which, considering it's supposed to be a pop album, is pretty ballsy. Not to mention impressive.

And given that Funhouse landed Pink her first-ever Billboard Hot 100 #1 ("So What") and has sold approximately 4.5 million copies worldwide, it means she's basically pulled off what many equally gifted pop singers (Kelly Clarkson, Lily Allen, etc.) have attempted but few have actually achieved: releasing a deeply personal, out-of-left-field album, without fear and with total conviction, and making it stick. So, please: Can someone give her the respect she's due?

To put it bluntly, Pink can out-sing almost anyone out there. She can out-crazy Gaga or Lily. She's the total pop-star package, everything you'd want in a singer/entertainer/icon. And still, she remains oddly off the radar. Such is the price of busting borders, I suppose.

And part of me thinks she'll forever remain that way — a cult superstar (or, you know, as "cult" as anyone who sells so many million albums can be), appreciated by those in the know, ignored by the mindless masses. But the other part of me — the optimistic part buried deep within — believes Pink is set up for the long haul. She's a career artist, unafraid to take risks and deal with the repercussions, and as such, she'll still be here long after her contemporaries have disappeared.

Then again, if she keeps dangling upside down, she might not make it that long. And, really, she shouldn't have to go to such lengths (or heights) to be loved. Though, now that I think of it, she wouldn't be Pink if she didn't.

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