Pink: I would have loved to have been the new Ani DiFranco
Is geography destiny? Pink, the pop diva obsessed with daring to be different, would be wise to think so. In a recent chat with this critic timed to celebrate the release of her career-spanning compilation "Greatest Hits...So Far!" the powerful vocalist and ace acrobat remembered that as a teen fan she dreamed of following in some very singular footsteps.
"I wish!" she said in response to the question, could you have been more like Ani DiFranco? "That's why my first record (the R&B-influenced "Can't Take Me Home," released in 2000) was so hard for me to swallow. Yes, I was the only white girl [growing up] in Philly singing in an all-black gospel church -- so I can hang with the best of ‘em. But I also had a punk rock group. I sang opera. I played acoustic guitar with my dad at Vietnam vet benefits. And I loved Madonna. Love Ani DiFranco. PJ Harvey was one of my first records I ever bought."
Pink's youth learning hip hop moves from her African American friends in Philadelphia may have primed her to become a part of the same teen-idol class that included Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, instead of entering the purist world of 1990s indie rock. It was Atlanta, though, that really put her on that path. She moved there while still a kid as part of the short-lived girl group Choice and made her first solo steps under the guidance of the R&B-fusion trailblazer L.A. Reid.
"It was such a great time for Atlanta," Pink said of that late-1990s period when the city was home to innovators ranging from her own early influence TLC to the Dungeon Family (she remembers Cee Lo Green as one outstanding character from the scene) and the artists on Jermaine Dupri's So So Def label. "I had a fake ID, I thought my [here she inserts one of the expletives with which she cheerfully peppers her conversation] didn't stink. It was a fun time."
What if Pink had decided to head to Olympia, Wash., in the mid-1990s instead of going South? She might have given Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill a worthy rival. Or what if she'd taken DiFranco's independent path? We'll never know. As fate would have it, she's a rock star shaped by one of the most eclectic urban music scenes of the post-soul era. Pink's formative period may have produced her own favorite music, but it laid the groundwork for the wide-ranging sound she has now.
I'll have more from my chat with Pink, reflecting on more than a decade of adding flourescent color to the mainstream, in an upcoming feature. Be on the lookout for it. Meanwhile, Pink recently announced that she's expecting a child with husband Carey Hart.
-- Ann Powers
Photo: Pink. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press