Pink has always fancied herself a punk, but the only time it’s ever really successfully translated to her music is on 2003’s underappreciated Try This, and her almost religious adherence to formula since that album’s relative failure is the complete antithesis of what it means to be “punk.” Though The Truth About Love marks Pink’s first collaboration with producer Greg Kurstin, who’s at the helm for a sizeable chunk of the album, she hasn’t changed her tune much. All 4/4 stomp, raucous attitude, and pop-punk hooks, the album’s lead single, the catchy, cheekily titled “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” sounds like it popped off the same conveyor belt as the singer’s myriad Max Martin-assisted hits. With labelmate Christina Aguilera’s colossal flop Bionic likely still keeping RCA execs up at night, you can’t blame them for playing it safe, but the album’s second single, the midtempo “Try,” doesn’t push Pink forward either, and it’s marred by singsong lyrics like “Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame/Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned.”
Pink’s choice of guest artists doesn’t help matters. “Just Give Me a Reason,” a schmaltzy ballad featuring fun.‘s Nate Ruess, sounds like the modern equivalent of a Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb duet, and the fact that the song was co-written and produced by Jeff Bhasker, the man behind some of the best tracks on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Alicia Keys’s The Element of Freedom, makes it all the more disappointing. Kurstin’s buddy Lily Allen (now going by her birth name Lily Rose Cooper) goes virtually unnoticed on “True Love,” and while “Here Comes the Weekend,” featuring Eminem, is one of the more immediate songs on the album, the collaboration comes about a decade too late to feel truly subversive. (The lesser-known, out-and-proud Cazwell would make a far more interesting partner for Pink.)
More successful are opener “Are We All We Are,” a crunchy call to arms with an infectious hook that turns the title into a wordless chant, the retro title track, which reteams Pink with longtime collaborator Billy Mann, and “Where Did the Beat Go?,” another Mann co-production that, in a pleasant surprise, is reminiscent of Pink’s urban-leaning debut. Despite the album’s title, which sounds like a bad romantic comedy, and the fact that she’s now a mother, Pink thankfully hasn’t gone soft, and there are no real clunkers here, but the truth about The Truth About Love is that it’s competently, often frustratingly more of the same from an artist who still seems capable of much more.