Saturday, November 14, 2009

Need a second to breathe

If I'm remembering what I read correctly and if what I read was correct in the first place, "Whataya Want From Me," a song on Adam Lambert's upcoming album For Your Entertainment that was written by Max Martin, Shellback, and Pink, was originally scheduled to appear on Pink's Funhouse album--well, that much we know for sure. The rumor I read, though, was that the song was written about a relationship Pink had when she and her husband Carey Hart were separated and headed for a divorce. When she began to reconcile with Carey, Pink removed the song, then called "What Do You Want From Me," from the album at the last minute.

I'm not sure that the timeline for this story quite works out--Funhouse came out in October 2008 and I don't know of any Pink-Carey reunion stories that broke before January 2009 (though if you were trying to fix a rocky relationship, you certainly wouldn't be publicizing it early on in the process)--but I could imagine it being the case given the narrative of "Whataya Want From Me." As emotional context, that story works, but whether the song was written about another man, Carey, or from a theoretical perspective based on what Max thought would make for a good song doesn't matter in the end. Whatever the inspiration, "Whataya Want From Me" succeeds in being one of the most heart-tugging radio-ready pop songs I've heard this year, better than all the Max collaborations that did make it onto Funhouse besides "It's All Your Fault" (which "Whataya Want From Me" bears a bit of a resemblance to).

Is it wrong to call the sound of someone going through emotional turmoil musically delicious? That's what this song is for me, both lyrically and instrumentally a mix of hope and sadness that makes for emotional complication I can't get enough of. The sparse verses, with their crestfallen guitar riff (yes, a guitar riff can be crestfallen), set the mood, but it's in the gorgeous gently pop-rock chorus that the song really shines, with a melody that shows Max at his songwriting best. The subject matter--essentially "I'm really messed up right now, but please don't let that scare you off because I'm trying and I think we can make this work if you're willing to take it slow"--isn't incredibly uncommon, but thanks to some strong songwriting from all parties involved, "Whataya Want From Me" ends up being compelling, making "what do you want from me?" both a nervous query as to whether the narrator is setting him/herself up to get hurt again and a plea to understand what it will take to get his/her partner to stay. It's all the messed-up emotions of trying to form a relationship after a tough breakup balled into one beautiful little midtempo package.

Since "Don't Let Me Get Me" and "Just Like A Pill" (both co-written and produced by Dallas Austin), Pink has shown herself to perhaps be the American singer best capable of portraying the darker, complicated side of the emotional spectrum in perfect for radio but also emotionally affecting midtempo songs. That's in large part due to that just-raspy-enough voice of hers, but time has shown her to either be a great songwriter in her own right or a seriously fantastic muse for great songwriters. "Whataya Want From Me" would have been an excellent addition to the Pink canon, but Adam does it justice, might even make it better with a voice that tends to pierce through the musical background instead of get fuzzy around the edges to meld in with it. Maybe it's just the novelty of hearing his voice on one of these songs, but for me it feels as if he manages to get away with the repetitive nature of the second half of the chorus a little better than Pink might have. Pure speculation, though.

Anyway, the point: "Whataya Want From Me" is one of those songs that had me singing along at first listen and also never fails to make me feel something, even if what I'm feeling isn't perfectly clear cut. There's a certain kind of glory that can come from a pop song with a bit of pace to it and this pop-friendly a chorus forcing you to muck about in those kind of emotions, even if it is a simple kind of complexity, that comes when a song resonates musically and emotionally and those resonances enhance each other...and "Whataya Want From Me" has it.

Preorder Adam Lambert's debut album, For Your Entertainment, here (physical).

I couldn't properly work it into the post, but I needed to mention that the first verse can seem a little weak lyrically but the second verse makes up for it. "It's me...I'm a freak" may not translate to amazing on the screen, but sung, it never fails to get me.


CJC said...

ahhh, i have stopped playing this since i got it yesterday



Damian said...

I can't stop listening to it again and again also! It's pure Max Martin's gold! 1st amazing hit he had in 2009 was "2 All My Girls", 2nd - "Friday I'll be Over You" and now this one.

Paul said...

I don't think it's wrong per se to find emotional turmoil musically delicious! Some of the best music comes from that situation and it's the artists choice to put themselves out there. I can totally see Pink singing this, and therein lies a problem - now I have Pink in my head, although Adam does a jolly good job, it sounds like a Pink song now. I think if I hear it in the context of an Adam album I'll probably find it more adam-centric.

John said...

Good grief, would this just come out now?

There has to be a demo floating around somewhere of Pink singing this, right? Wouldn't this have been an amazing duet between the two of them?

Barnsey said...
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Barnsey said...

Think this is one of those songs that I would love regardless of who was singing it as it just an incredibly emotive song.

The more of Adam's music I hear, the more I am starting to look forward to the album and this song is no different although I would also LOVE a Pink demo of this to leak, can never have too many Pink tracks.


Yuяi said...

I think P!nk has some amazing material. It totally baffles me how she has not had more #1s in America. Looking overseas, P!nk has amassed quite a following. Her entire month in Australia touring is but one example of how massive she is everywhere but here. Go figure.

Mr. Will-W. said...

i gave adam's album a spin today. there are some gems on it i'll admit and yes, this song was one of the better ones for sure. P!nk will forever be one of those artists who is at her best when there is drama in her life.

Poster Girl said...

It really, really is.

Damian, all told, not a bad year for him! For personal taste, there are a few other songs I'd throw in that list. It's a shame that his best songs this year haven't really been hits (not that this one has had the chance to be yet).

Paul, that's a good way of framing it. I think the fact that it's not so distinctively "Adam" as a song means I'm glad it wasn't, say, the lead single from the album, but I'll gladly accept it in any form we can get it.

John, I'd LOVE to hear her demo and I'd love to hear the two of them on it together. I'm definitely going to the store on the day of release to pick this album up--well, unless it turns out the bonus tracks on some only-through-his-official-site version are so great I feel the need to have them on a physical copy, too.

"Emotive" is a good word for it.

Not that it's not deserved, but her popularity in Australia just seems staggering. She's frustrated me on this latest album by generally avoiding releasing all my favorite songs as singles, but in general, I agree with you--I can't believe she hasn't had more and higher hits. I was just glancing over at her Billboard record the other day and was shocked to see that "Don't Let Me Get Me" and "Just Like A Pill" didn't chart higher than #8 here; that's not a bad position, but she's just been such a reliable pop presence in quality and in musical culture that I would have thought they ended up higher.

Will, as it turns out after I wrote this post, I love the album, so even if you don't love it as much as I do, I'm glad there are at least a few songs you appreciate! It's probably unfortunately true in Pink's case--I hate to wish her more trouble, so maybe we can hope that she's just stored up enough experiences over the year that she can base future songs off of those.

Anonymous said...

This is really really good, i don't like Adam tho. Wish P!nk kept this for herself :-( silly woman

Mr. Will-W. said...

It's odd.. this track is actually getting played over here more than "FYE", I'm still not sold on the album. Trying... definitely give Allison Iraheta's album a listen. SOLID.

Poster Girl said...

It's such a good song that I kind of feel inclined to believe there must have been some sort of personal reason for its last minute removal from the album, even if it isn't necessarily this particular story. I'm on the other side of the Adam spectrum, though--love him ;)

I think they're ditching FYE and moving onto this song as quickly as possible, which I understand but wish didn't have to happen. Allison's album is definitely solid; though it doesn't get me as excited as Adam's does, there are a number of great songs on it and really not that many bad ones. I'm happy that she got to make an album of that quality...and sad it isn't selling very well.

Neokatis said...

I first heard the song when I saw the music video. I'd never really been interested in finding out who Adam was. I never had watched Idol, during the AMAs I don't even remember seeing him perform. But when I saw this video, it was as if the lyrics were in a way about me.