Pink‘s New Flight Path: Pop’s Bionic Woman on Her Death-Defying Stadium Tour and ‘Trustfall’ Album

In a world of hyphenates, Pink all but dares us to come up with one to describe her place in the pop landscape, besides anything so earthbound as “singer-songwriter.” Maybe “gymnast-therapist” would do it — her appeal mixes literal feats of daring with songs of dysfunction and its hoped-for cessation. As she gets to the inevitable moment in any of her shows where she acrobatically flies over arenas in a harness while encouraging her audiences to get it together before it’s too late, it’s not always clear whether the work she’s doing should be subject to American Psychological Association or Federal Aviation Administration approval.

For now, the determinedly athletic Top 40 troubadour is grounded at her home just inland from Santa Barbara, enjoying some calm before the storm that will be her first headlining tour to touch down in some of the biggest stadiums in America. She’ll be touring behind the February release of her ninth studio album, “Trustfall.” The title is figurative, of course, but there is an element that will verge on the literal when she’ll be going out on wires high over the 50-yard line this summer.

The fact that she will be in huge open-air venues, with no roof to hang from, does not mean that she won’t be able to still look down on her audience. “The 360 flying that I do attaches itself to the back of the stadium, not the roof, so I can actually go farther and higher. And I don’t always love that,” she says. “Especially the higher part. “Especially the higher part, because when we did Wembley Stadium, I was like, ‘I don’t know about this.’ I mean, we’re having stuff built now and hoping it works. And every tour I do, the technology is advanced. I figure by the time I need that hip replacement, that’s gonna be advanced, also — it’s gonna be easy.”

She is not kidding about the hip replacement; hip surgery was just one of the things that had her on the operating table during the pandemic. She is freshly scarred but un­­daunted, as a Pink tour without aerialism is like a Pink album without multiple uses of the word “fuck.”

Right now, sipping coffee out of a cup labeled “World’s Best Boss” and tamping down the enthusiasm of her dog, Habanero Mountain Guy (a large rescue animal of indeterminate breeding, dubbed as such “because I let my 3-year-old name him”), Pink could be any suburban mom who just happens to have a platinum coif flattened from left to right across the top of her head. Her extreme chillness at the moment offers little indication of the intensity of her workouts, or even the psychological intensity that underlines her sometimes life-or-death lyrics.

“Having breaks is good for my voice. Not so good for the body,” she says after putting Habanero Mountain Guy outside to sniff the sea air. “Especially during COVID — I gained 36 pounds. All I did was make sourdough and then eat the sourdough. And then I had not just the hip surgery but double disc replacement in my neck. So now I’m the bionic woman. I’ve lost those 36 pounds, and I am stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. And I’m ready to go, and I’m ready to get the hell out of here. I’ve been home way too long.”

There are motivations, especially when you have Tina Turner’s manager, Roger Davies, as your own. Asked if she ever queried Davies about any secrets to Turner’s success in keeping the touring regime going as long as she did, Pink says it never occurred to her — she knows what she witnessed with her own two eyes.

“I saw Tina when she was 69 in Christian Louboutins, running ar­­ound the stage, full choreography, like a crazy person. And I thought to myself: Shit. So now I have no ex­cuse. I look at the greats and I wanna keep up. I want to keep pushing it and be better — a better human, a better mom, a better daughter, a better sister, a better performer, a better writer. And age works against you, right? But at 43, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. I could kick my 33-year-old ass.”

As for the specifics of moonlighting as a stuntwoman, she says, “Well, it’s always interesting the day the insurance company comes to yes or no your insurance. And every time they say yes, I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? They actually said yes?’” She shrugs. This may be the time when she’ll need to trust that the crew that keeps her aloft really does consider her World’s Best Boss.

• • •

The real test of Pink’s nerve is that she has en­­listed two of the most powerful female vocalists on the planet, Brandi Carlile and Pat Benatar, as her direct support acts for the “Summer Carnival” stadium tour (the North American part of which begins July 24 in Toronto and ends Oct. 9 in Phoenix, following a European leg in June). Pink and Car­lile go back — they wrote a still-unrecorded song together 15 years ago. “The first time I heard her sing, I was in my car and it was when her voice cracks during ‘The Story,’ and I had to pull my car over,” Pink remembers. She met Benatar at October’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, where Pink and Carlile were saluting Dolly Parton by singing “Coat of Many Colors” while Benatar and husband Neil Giraldo were getting their own honors. Pink figured, and had it confirmed, that Benatar had to be classically trained to be singing like that at 70. “I ran up to her that night and was like, ‘Can we be best friends?’”

Pink is properly self-analytical when it comes to the evolution of her own chops. “I grew up emulating other people — Janis Joplin, Mary J. Blige, Don McLean, Patsy Cline, whoever. And then when it was my turn, and I had the record deal and went in the studio, because the song hadn’t been sung before, I was lost in the sauce. I didn’t know who to sound like. So it took me a minute to figure out, well, who am I? I think ‘Stop Falling’ on the first record was that first moment where I started figuring out who I was.

“I feel like I’ve found three voices in 43 years,” she declares. “My first voice was opera, because I used to sing ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Les Miz’ — things like that. Then my second voice was R&B-ish, but I sounded like Alvin from Alvin and the Chipmunks. But I was also smoking, and I was steadily getting raspier and raspier, which is why Janis was an easy sell for me. I loved it, but then it started going too far. Billy Mann, my friend and songwriting partner, sat me down and said, ‘I think you’re at the point now where you have to ask yourself, “Am I a singer or a smoker?”’ Hmm. ‘Shoot. I think you’re right.’ So I quit.” This happened around 2010, when she was pregnant with her first child, Willow, now 12. “And then I found this grown-up voice that I have and got two octaves back. My voice has never been stronger. But I don’t have that rasp anymore, and I miss that — I wish I could have kept a little bit of it. But,” she adds with a shrug and a sip, “I chose life instead.”

Making the conscious choice to go on is a big theme of “Trustfall.” Not entirely ironically, it starts with a ballad about death and the afterlife, “When I Get There,” prompted somewhat by her father’s death in August 2021, as well as mortal thoughts that arose when both she and her son contracted bad cases of COVID. Starting the album off with a non-banger was as conscious a choice as everything Pink does.

“I feel like we’re all in this constant state of overwhelm, and so we put our feelings away just so that we can get through a day. I wanted to find a way back to the truth and the authentic feelings. So opening the album with that, instead of like, ‘Hey, let’s ease into each other,’ it’s like, ‘No, no. Sit down. I want to talk to you. We’re gonna clear all the bullshit away and have a conversation.’ That’s how I am as a person. If you ask me how I am, how much time do you have? So ‘When I Get There’ as an album-opener was my way of saying, ‘Let’s talk about real stuff.’””

It’s easy to get the sense that for many fans, it’s “me and Pink against the world” — whether that has to do with her support of the LGBTQ community or advocacy for older women or disaffected-youth friendliness. “A lot of my friends have teenagers — I do not yet, thank God — and they all have just debilitating anxiety.” She describes playing the new song “Turbulence,” which describes life in terms of an extended panic attack, for her daughter’s friends, “and, like, five of them were just sobbing.” The findings showing that more young people than ever describe themselves as dealing with crippling depression or anxiety disturbs her — “I don’t know where we’re going with this” — even if it’s not surprising to a woman who’s included the word “trauma” in album titles and written existentially brooding anthems like “What About Us.”

“But that’s why we have music and dancing,” she adds. “And that’s the other part of the record, with songs like ‘Never Gonna Not Dance Again’,” a Max Martin and Shellback-coproduced number that is the new album’s first single. “I’m a Virgo, I’m a mom, I’m a a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m a parent, I’ve been in a relationship for a long time, and I worry, worry, worry worry. I’m overthinking all the time. So there’s the worry and grief and longing and anger on the record, but there’s also, ‘I’ve had enough. Just turn it up to 11. Everyone shut up and dance.’ And instead of mixing those songs up, I could have done side A as a dance party, and side B as maybe you should get the sharp objects out of your kitchen. But that’s not life. Life is like, ‘Oh, I had a great morning, I had a shitty afternoon, now I’m ready for a drink, now I just wanna cuddle, and now I’m gonna have a cry.’ That’s a day in the life.”

She leans forward to deliver all of us existentially challenged grown-ups a pep talk, like she did with her daughter’s friends that day she played them “Turbulence.” “Just let it go, man,” Pink advises. “Just be a dolphin and let that go right off your back. We have to have joy too. We have to laugh. We have to love. We have to cuddle. We have to suck the marrow out of the bones of life, because we’re still here. The wildfires haven’t come yet.” Spoken like a true Santa Barbara-area resident, invoking the joy of sea mammals and the prospect of everything going up in flames all in the same breath.

• • •

Pink may be known for her feats of derring-do, but there’s no fearlessness like withstanding the slings and arrows of being a reasonably outspoken public figure. Twenty-three years into a career, does she have the satisfaction of thinking that, by now, people get her?

“I definitely don’t think a large far-right contingent gets me at all. and they don’t want to and they’re never going to, because I represent so many things that they hate. And I think people that only listen to the singles don’t get me, because there’s so much else. When I meet people, they’re like, ‘God, you’re not scary.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, don’t tell anyone. That’s my cover, man.’ But I’ve kind of stopped caring a little bit. I’m sad about people thinking that being an opinionated woman is a bad thing. I’m sad. That deeply saddens me. But I’ve stopped trying to explain it.” It’s not something she’s only ever experienced from afar. “I think it sticks with me because my husband told me, when we met, ‘he was like, “’I thought you were just like this angry man-eater.’ And I was like, ‘I am. But, I’m also this.'” Carey Hart got over it; not everyone did. “The things people say to me online, it’s insane,” she says.

The most personal song on the new record may be the harrowing ballad “Lost Cause,” sung from the point of view of a woman who just wants to be told she isn’t a piece of shit. Written by Stephen Wrabel, Sam de Jong and Sam Romans, it resonated with Pink because of a conversation she had with Hart. “He came to me a long time ago — at a good moment, when we weren’t arguing — and said, ‘Hey, when we argue and you say really mean things, it hurts me and I really need you to stop.’ I was blown away, like, ‘Whoa, what a beautiful thing to do, Carey, to bring that up at a time where everything’s going well.’ Time moves on and you both get mean after a while, and the world is mean,” she avows, attesting that charity needs to begin at home. 

“And,” she adds, further explicating the theme of “Lost Cause,” “I’m like, ‘You can call me a loser, but just don’t tell me I’m unredeemable.’ Everybody is redeemable. Unless they’re gone — unless they’re in the dirt. I don’t believe old dogs can’t learn new tricks.”

For Pink’s audience, anyway, her finding new ways to execute somersaults at 275 feet above the ground may serve as a metaphor, or inspiration, for all the new therapeutic tricks that can be picked up through self-reflection. It’s the stunts that make Pink an ultimate girl boss; it’s the sentiments that, for much of the crowd below, make her World’s Best Mom.