For the past seven months, I’ve been struggling to enjoy Pink’s latest CD.
I know, that sounds weird. One could even suggest that if it’s taking so long for an album to grow on me, it might be a good idea simply to give up on it.
But the thing is, I really loved her previous album, I’m Not Dead . That CD hooked me from the start, with killer songs such as Stupid Girls, Who Knew, Dear Mr. President, and most especially, Cuz I Can , a song that seemed to say so much, at the time, about my life and the direction it was taking. It was a hot shot of summer in the midst of winter, and every time I heard it, I found myself wishing I possessed more of Pink’s spirit of fuck-you defiance.
And then, there was the fact that I absolutely loved the first song off of Fun House , So What . The first time I heard it, it made me laugh out loud.
So when Corb bought my the CD for Christmas, I was excited to dive in and take a listen. I imagined myself downloading it onto my iPod, and playing it repeatedly at work, just as I had her previous CD. But to my surprise, I listened to it once, that first night, fell asleep after the fourth song, and then set it aside. For months.
Then, a few months ago, I started hearing Please Don’t Leave Me on the radio, and it really started growing on me. It didn’t sound like anything else out there—a song that wraps itself around a slim ribbon of a musical line hummed at the start, and carries it through to the end. Fascinating concept, with lyrics that only Pink could get away with—can you imagine a man (say, Chris Brown) singing this song? And yet, I’m positive that the words and feelings apply just as well to an abusive male as they do to an abusive female. We’re just not use to thinking of women in this way. Does it make it any better, though?
Then I saw the video, which cast as Pink as a Stephen King psychopath, and I loved the song even more.
So, I thought to myself, why not give the CD another chance?
What I discovered, this time around, was that I love the middle section of the CD— Please Don’t Leave Me, Bad Influence, and Funhouse . They make for a perfect trio of songs when you’re taking a shower.
And then, other songs started to grow on me. I started to like Crystal Ball , because it reminded me of the folk song on her previous CD, which she sang with her father. I also started to like Ave Mary A and I Don’t Believe You , and Corb’s favorite song, It’s All Your Fault .
Even so, there are still two or three songs that I’m rather indifferent about. Sober’s ...eh, it’s okay, I guess. One Foot Wrong is just...well, wrong.
I think the problem for me involves the song order. After So What and I Don’t Believe You , Pink inserted a few songs that leave me cold, and I just didn’t have the patience to stick it through to the songs that I really like. Had she moved Please Don’t Leave Me or Bad Attitude closer to the beginning, I think it would have carried me gotten me more involved with the CD, earlier. And of course, she is putting out these CDs just for me, right?
Just goes to show you: song order is important. Because it's all about me.
Chess: The Concert
Upon our return home from DW, there was a large package waiting for us in the mailbox. Now you know me, I’m all about the large packages, so I couldn’t wait to see what was inside.
Turned out, it was the concert version of Chess , featuring Josh Grobin and Idina Menzell. Corb had ordered it the night that it appeared on PBS, and it finally had been shipped, three weeks later.
Truth is, the concert version on TV was something of a mixed bag. I loved the large orchestra and the enormous chorus, which really served to lift this gorgeous music into the heavens. Unfortunately, however, the “names” in the show were horrible miscast. Josh Grobin is far too whispy to play a believable Russian ( a part that demands depth), and Idina Menzell has a variety of distracting facial tics that made watching her perform an absolute torture. As my friend Carey pointed out during the ongoing Facebook conversation taking place that night, it was like watching a horse trying to wipe peanut butter off from his lips.
Even worse, the two had no chemistry whatsoever. Plus, she’s a belter, and he likes to make everything sound pretty. And, neither one bothered trying to act, at all.
Overall, when the show ended, I was frustrated, more than anything: all that time and expense, and my dream of seeing a perfect game of Chess played still remained unfulfilled.
Despite my disappointment, I had higher hopes for the concert version on CD. I suspected that, freed of the visual flaws that had proven so distracting, this variation of Chess would prove a bit more satisfying. And thankfully, I’m pleased to report that this is in fact the case. Without having to look at her, Idina Menzel is fine as Florence, particularly Nobody’s On Nobody’s Side and I Know Him So Well . And while Josh Grobin is still the weakest link as the Russian, his version of Anthem is beautiful...although one need only compare the emphasis that the original singer placed on the phrase “let man's petty nation's tear themselves (beat) apart” at the end of the song to Grobin’s limp, inflectionless version to learn all you need to about what makes this Russian truly come to life.
Finally, the best parts of the video concert version are just as good on CD: that is, the parts of Molokov and Svetlana. Svetlana, especially. I’ve never heard of Kerry Ellis before, but after this performance, I’m a huge fan!
Turns out, Kerry Ellis played Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked , starting out as the temporary standby for Idina, and taking over when Idina Menzel left. In this case, I think the student clearly has bested the teacher.