23 years after her debut album, if there’s one thing you can say about P!nk, it’s that she has her demographics on lock. With physical sales projections that just kept on rising, she still puts up impressive numbers that have her fighting for the top of the album charts when many of her 2000s-era pop contemporaries can’t say the same. With her ninth album, TRUSTFALL, P!nk has given quite a few interviews about some of the deeper themes and tough life events that inspired the tracks on this album – but honestly, you’d never be able to tell. While her classic vocal delivery and prowess are still there, the decline of her punk ethos and infectious attitude that began with 2012’s The Truth About Love has continued to slide into a never-ending sea of tired chord progressions, drowsy acoustic minimalism, trend-chasing and faux-inspirational live-laugh-love-style platitudes. Despite the presence of proven hitmakers like Greg Kurstin and Fred Again.. and a relatively short runtime at 43 minutes, this is truly a chore to listen to all the way through. I found myself desperately searching for anything, on both a musical and lyrical front, that I haven’t heard a million times before.
For all the tracks here that feel like they were written by ChatGPT – that is, saying a lot without really saying anything at all – the opening track “When I Get There” is at least about something specific. Unfortunately, in this case, that specific event is the death of P!nk’s father. It’s always going to be touching hearing a song about a family member that passed on, and her delivery certainly aids in that department as she hits breathier segments and sounds like she’s struggling to get it all out. But when the orchestra flares up on the back end, a technique that usually gets me no matter how many times I hear it, nothing happens – and it’s because the lyrics about a bar up in heaven, where he might sit in his favourite seat and talk about the weather, could be ripped from just about any bro-country song. It’s truly odd that P!nk couldn’t come up with anything unique or specific to say about their relationship. Title track “TRUSTFALL” is heavily dated and overproduced, with a muted echo effect dulling the power of one of the most notably powerful vocalists in pop and a muddy mix with pulsating, rubbery synth parts crashing awkwardly into each other. Conducting the daring task of asking us to imagine a place that’s safe, where there’s no pain and everything’s good, the underlying melody isn’t even catchy, with some sudden and unearned jumps up to high notes. “Turbulence” moves the year they’re drawing dated techniques from past 2010 to around the 2015 range, with an overdone syncopated guitar riff straight from the Ed Sheeran catalogue. Grasping at lyrical straws about getting through a rough patch, it sounds like an AI was asked to create a song that plays when someone gets sent home on American Idol.
Speaking of dated, who shows up on the track “Long Way To Go” but the Lumineers. Frontman Wesley Schultz sounds like he’s drowning in Auto-Tune, but there’s still enough of his trademark rustic-sounding vocals in the mix to completely clash with P!nk’s when they sing together – it’s like the two rasp in slightly different ways, not complementing each other at all. Other than a sudden military drumline in a bridge without a smooth transition, most of the tracks just feel like they have the same chords and rhythm with different texture packs – now we get the same thing with muted synth keyboards. The presence of folk duo First Aid Kit on “Kids In Love” fares slightly better – the acoustic backdrop is their wheelhouse, and they always do some interesting things with their harmony choices. It sounds like P!nk let them write their own material as well, because they get a little more specific than P!nk’s “chasing the sun” and “having our fun” as they all reminisce on an old romantic partner after seeing them doing well. Single “Never Gonna Not Dance Again” closes out the album’s first half, and P!nk trying to deliver that wordy title goes over about as well as you’d expect, with some whiny inflections on all those Ns and a moment where she stumbles trying to speed through it in a brief silence. With some jubilant brass in the background mixed strangely quietly, it’s P!nk’s answer to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” with some talk about popping and locking and a “bruh” mixed in.
The lyrical moments on the previous track aren’t the only way that P!nk tries to keep up with what’s hip with the kids, as “Runaway” drops into an 80s-inspired synthpop groove. The fact that Greg Kurstin produced this track is truly surprising, as the crash into the chorus probably sent all of the levels on his soundboard into the red zone. The track at least feels a little more current, but the mixing issues and the lack of anything personality-driven on the lyrical front still dulls its impact. After “Last Call,” another boring acoustic pop track about drinking through the apocalypse with a central, breathy “a-ha-ha-ha” hook that haunts my nightmares, that problem is actually remedied by the track “Hate Me.” The best song on the project without any competition in a miles-long radius, P!nk confidently rejects the narratives of others painting her as the villain with a dynamic chorus that shows off her impressive range, backed up by chanted vocals that sound like a squad of cheerleaders egging her on to continue shutting down her haters with increasingly vitriolic language. It’s all reminiscent of the exciting alt-pop figure she once was, as blaring guitars in the back prove that the elder statesmen and women of pop-punk past still have the throne in its revitalized moment.
Many of the tracks that close out the project are some of the better ones from an instrumental standpoint, but P!nk’s lyrical contributions are at their laziest yet. “Lost Cause” and “Feel Something” both find her repeating the same line twice, something that stands out all the more on the former because it’s a slow and emotional piano ballad and she sings them with the same melody each time as well. “Our Song” is another emotional track, this time with the piano pounding away as P!nk is belting and being dramatic about forgetting the words to the couple’s song. It’s a great vocal performance, but it comes across as melodramatic and silly when she runs through lyrics like “watching this fall apart as we dance in the dark,” “where did we lose our touch, I needed you so damn much” and “why is everything hard.” Speaking of great singers, Chris Stapleton arrives on the closing track for his second duet with P!nk, and continues to ooze soul and passion even on an album devoid of it like this one. With some more complex twangy guitar parts in the back, P!nk fits decently into more of a country mode as the two come together asking someone to do the simple thing and admit they’re wrong to save a relationship.
She’s already taken the world by storm and racked up millions, so it’s unclear what the motivation is for P!nk to release so many similar albums in a row without anything to say on them. In any case, I’m still missing the energy that she used to bring to the table that peeks through in glimpses once every couple of years.
Favourite Tracks: Hate Me, Just Say I’m Sorry, Kids In Love
Least Favourite Track: Last Call