Try This (Arista)
From Britney’s sapphic sham to Ashton Kutcher’s preening prankishness, thin, nearly transparent anti-Establishment posing rules pop culture in 2003. Pink is the perfect manifestation of this flimsiest of moments in pop-culture history: She excites fans (and a surprising number of critics) because she made the transition from an imitator of bands like TLC to “serious” songwriter. This narrative might be plausible (on her last album, Missundaztood, Pink complained about music-industry execs who compared her to “damn Britney Spears”). But striving toward seriousness, especially the sort of sentimental, confessional songs of Missundaztood and now Try This, is lamentable, not laudable. Assisted again by producer Linda Perry, Pink pitches a brand of seriousness that is pure Lifetime-TV mawkishness (e.g., tales of drug addiction in “Save My Life”). The songs are expressed with a sensibility so literal they feel like singer-songwriter semaphore (the declarations of toughness on “Trouble” are as risible as Michael Jackson’s on “Bad”). Try This is more evidence of how thin the Punk’d culture of posturing is.
Mix CDs are usually predictable, preprogrammed affairs, but French D.J. collective K.I.M. elevates the format to lunatic, near-Situationist heights (it’s probably no coincidence that K.I.M. is based in Paris). Miyage boasts the most inspired mix-CD track selection in recent memory: gonzo hip-hop (“Gypsy Chimp” by Wevie Stonder), French pop (Edith Piaf’s “Jezebel”), gospel (Joubert Singers’s “Stand on the Word”), and, most memorably, an electro cover of the Smiths’ “Meat Is Murder.” Dull words of critical acclaim like eclectic don’t begin to do justice to this schizoid session: At the end of “Jezebel,” Piaf’s vocal is pulled far from the mix, as though she were disappearing into her own music. It’s a trick worthy of studio masters like Lee “Scratch” Perry, and the fact that it’s Piaf makes it all the more miraculous. Somewhere, Guy Debord is smiling.