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.