Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Thoughts on "Raise Your Glass" by P!nk

Someone asked me to give my thoughts about P!nk and how she imbeds deconstruction into her lyrics and videos.  It's true, she often likes to make fun of herself, and one of the more obvious examples of this is her song "Raise Your Glass," which is basically a battle-cry for those who are beaten down and bullied.  Essentially she says, "We're all weirdos, so go ahead!  Embrace who you are, even if others don't like it."  And I believe she sees herself as one of these underdogs.  Thus, within that song, she allows listeners to see a more raw and naked version of the pop star that is P!nk, rather than the polished, self-assured "perfection" that we often see in today's popular music (the auto-tune, EDM, and the prim-pristine, magazine-worthy look of the female celebrity).   She does this by adding in spoken, humanizing commentary and by purposefully "messing up" her own lyrics.  At 2:06, she mutters a complaint about her empty glass, and it is seemingly presented as if we, as listeners, weren't supposed to hear it.  At 2:15, she throws in the words "I mean..." as if she's not positive that she's saying the exact right thing (all of this happening betwixt sung lines about being "too school for cool"). And then, at 2:29, the culminating and climactic moment of the song, she comes in 4 beats too early, utters an expletive under her breath, and then continues with the final renditions of the chorus, almost in triumph, even though she made the mistake.

The music video presents this vision of liberation from social norms almost immediately, where a larger woman grabs a corn dog and swats a cardboard-cutout of a stereotypically beautiful blonde.  Further images of feminism and glorifications of the outcast ensue.  P!nk portrays herself in a variety of ways, including Rosie the Riveter, a half-pipe skater, and -- during the moments when she lyrically presents herself as the most vulnerable -- she appears as a bespectacled, socially inept highschooler, checking her armpits, jumping up too early, and then dancing with a fellow nerd without a care.

I have always seen P!nk as an advocate for individuality and self-love. What I'm hearing her say is this: Not only does everyone make mistakes, but these mistakes should not only be accepted, but embraced.  I agree that she's playing with the idea of the "perfect" pop singer and the "perfect" pop song in "Raise Your Glass." She definitely is more subtle in "Raise Your Glass" than she is in her other famous empowerment ballad, "F**king Perfect."  Often, P!nk displays two very stark personalities directly next to each other to show that everyone has a Jekyll and a Hyde, a dark and a light. Everyone makes mistakes, but everyone also has potential to be great. I think there is some specific commentary here about celebrities and popular music ("Stupid Girl" also takes a crack at the life of pop fame, but again "Raise Your Glass" does it much more subtly). Thus, as if to defy the stereotype, she deconstructs. She allows for moments of weakness, rather than have a completely polished, generic pop song that supposedly no one can relate to.

Hand-in-hand with P!nk's "it's-okay-to-be-different" battle cry, there is another unspoken side of P!nk that she doesn't want us to see.  I feel like P!nk -- regardless of what she ideally wants to be -- is still an influential pop star who is very self-aware of her impact and therefore still has a lot of pride and takes herself very seriously. So when she purposefully makes these "mistakes" in this song, she's attempting to humanize herself and basically say, "If someone as awesome, rich, and famous as P!nk can do it, so can you!" And it is highly effective.  P!nk successfully falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the crazy, cares-thrown-to-the-wind nature of Lady Gaga and the highly polished anti-vulnerability of Britney Spears (although I think she shares more with Gaga than she does with Spears at this point in her career in the fact that she is rooting for the little guy and presenting a more rough-around-the-edges image of herself).  She's different, intelligent, and self-aware, but she is also accessible and in many ways incredibly sexy.  I believe that there are many people in this world who want to be like P!nk. Confident, strong, with just the right amount of weird.  She's been around the block, but she's learned from it all and now leads a happy life with some stories to tell.  For all the people out there who have made some sort of mistake, P!nk becomes a role model.  There is an obvious agenda in this song. She's creating a cult of egoism that I don't wholly appreciate or believe in. We can't overlook the fact that, while these "mistakes" sound like mistakes, they really aren't. They are all done on purpose. And just because P!nk can get out of a sticky relationship and continue on to stardom almost unscathed does not mean everyone can. P!nk has money, connections, and other resources to help her hide a lot of the consequences that have resulted from her alleged mistakes. Does that mean the consequences aren't there?  No.

 I feel worse about "F*cking Perfect" than I do about this song, but that might be just because what this song lacks in sincerity and genuineness is made up for by a SUPER catchy hook, a singable tune, and a very entertaining music video. (Of course those things can make a song of this nature even more dangerous, because people are drawn to these aspects and then are more likely to accept the lyrics and further idolize the song's creator.) Whether I like it or not, it's a very well-created piece that serves its purpose.

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