I used to not have much time for Pink. When the former Alecia Moore first emerged in the late ’90s, she seemed like yet another pop starlet, but one with a contrived, “alternative edge”. Her music was cheesy, bland pop, but she had tattoos. Ooh, edgy! There are few things that annoy me more than manufactured alternativeness (see Lavigne, Avril). But over the last decade, I’ve grown to kind of like her. Sure, her music was much blander than her supposedly rebellious image suggested, but Pink herself seemed kind of funny and cool; she didn’t take herself too seriously and some of her singles weren’t half bad, in a cheesy way. And her ridiculously catchy new single, ‘So What’, and its accompanying video, makes her like her even more.
Pink recently broke up with her husband Carey Hart, and the song – and video – are all about the breakup. It’s kind of an awesome break-up song, the perfect mixture of triumphant “screw you, I’m brilliant!” and angry “waaaaaah, I feel so sad and bitter!” But what really makes the video extraordinary is the fact that the tattooed bloke Pink sings to throughout the video is the man she’s actually singing about – her ex. Despite the rage and bitterness of the song, it seems like the couple have managed to deal with their breakup and stay friends. Which I find strangely touching. Want to see for yourself?
Anyway, it’s been a while, thank heavens, since I’ve needed the services of a break-up song. But I did spend the entire summer of 1996 listening to ‘Halah’ by Mazzy Star (anything by Mazzy Star, really), ‘You Will Miss Me When I Burn’ and ‘(Thou Without) Partner’ by Palace Brothers, ‘Everybody Has Been Burned’ and ‘I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better’ by the Byrds, ‘Oh, Lonesome Me’ by Neil Young and ‘That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’ by Leonard Cohen. When I felt particularly angry I listened to PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid of Me’. I also smoked loads of Consulate cigarettes and wrote angsty letters to my friends who were enjoying themselves in foreign parts while I was stuck at home in pre-boom Dublin, my summer plans scuppered by the fact my ex had broken up with me the day after I finished my exams. My best friend had been dumped by her boyfriend as well, and we spent our days listening to the music above and feeling sorry for ourselves. It was a fun summer, as you can imagine.The next breakup, a few years later, was one of those slow, dragging out ones and saw me just listening miserably to music that reminded me of the good old days, so there was more ironically jaunty Arthur Lee and less Will Oldham.
But although in retrospect that list of ridiculously angsty songs seems slightly embarrassing, at the time listening to music that really seemed to reflect how I was feeling made a huge difference. Some of the more optimistic songs gave me (slightly ill-advised, as it happened) hope that things would out with me and my ex, some of them gave me hope that I would get over it (I did, obviously) some of them reflected my miserable bitter rage, but all of them made me feel better. They made me feel less alone. Which is one of the best things art can do.
So now I’ve confessed, to both smoking Consolate in my youth and sobbing along to Neil Young warbling about everyone else was out there having fun while he was a fool for staying home and having none, what tunes have you turned to for consolation in your hour of need?