Pink - or P!nk, as the Abington-born singer who grew up Alecia Moore in Doylestown appropriately calls herself these days - is the most exclamatory of pop stars.
The Truth About Love (RCA)***, her sixth studio album, which comes out Tuesday, plays by its own rules, pushing dance-pop earworms against crunchy pop-rockers and happily throwing hip hop against the wall along with slick power ballads.
Truth wouldn't be a Pink album without more than its fair share of attention-seeking (and -getting) eyebrow raisers like "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)," the super-catchy first single, or "Slut Like You," in which the hard-bodied 33-year-old strikes a feminist blow by calling out hypocrites who would deny her the same sexual prerogatives that men take for granted.
Sometimes Pink's music hammers away too insistently with the force of her never-timid personality, but what makes her so likable is that while she doesn't take no mess, she also doesn't take herself too seriously. Couple that with a willingness (and the self-confidence) to try just about anything and an unabashed affection for pop hooks (and hooking up with similarly high wattage pop stars), and you wind up with a package that hits the sweet spot a high percentage of the time.
Nate Ruess of the band fun., Eminem, and British wordsmith Lily Allen all show up at one time or another on grabby songs that will be penetrating various radio formats in the months to come. Throughout, the often-profane platter remains focused on the star of the show, as she tries to root out what the four-letter word in the album title really means in often clever tunes that seemingly use her on-again-off-again (now back on) marriage to motocross rider Carey Hart as grist for the mill.
Among the most productive of the relationship strife songs is "True Love," a snappy, expletive-strewn tune in which Pink sings, "At the same time I want to hug you, I want to wrap my hands around your neck," and comes to the time-honored conclusion that the truth about love goes hand-in-hand with its four-letter opposite.
G.O.O.D. Music: Cruel Summer
(Island / Def Jam ***)
Cruel Summer is Kanye West's late-in-arriving posse album - it was originally scheduled for release last spring - showcasing the roster of his G.O.O.D. music label, from R. Kelly to Jay-Z and The-Dream, and plenty of other big names besides.
It's so loaded with talent, in fact, that it's a wonder it's not more of an unfocused mess than it is. Credit creative director West for holding it together by either making or overseeing all the mostly minimalist beats, and for bringing red-hot rappers like 2 Chainz, Chief Keef, and Pusha T. together with hook singers like Kelly, John Legend, Teyana Taylor, and Philadelphia's own Marsha Ambrosius.
Because so many of Cruel Summer's songs - such as the harder-than-hard trio of "Mercy," "New God Flow," and "Cold" (originally called "Theraflu" until the medicine's maker took legal action) - saw the light of day earlier this season, its actual release feels anticlimactic.
As with anything the never-to-be-underestimated West does, however, it has its share of newsworthy moments. In "To the World," he rhymes "Goldman Sachs" with "Mitt Romney don't pay no tax," in reference to the calls for the Republican presidential candidate to be more open about his financial records.
And in "Clique," he explains why Cruel Summer exists: So West can justifiably claim, "Ain't nobody fresher than my clique." The reason why, he'd be the first to tell you, is that the hip-hop moths are attracted to his flame, and as if to prove the point, he closes the song with a verse that easily tops those by Big Sean and Jay-Z that precede it.
In it, he boasts of his relationships with Kim Kardashian and former CIA Director George Tenet, characterizes Spike Lee as a schoolmarm, reveals his ambitions to build hotels in Las Vegas and live in a house next to Tom Cruise, and talks about how he thought about killing himself after his mother, Donda, died in 2007. All in one extended verse's work for Mr. West, who uses this album as an effective holding action until his next magnum opus is ready. - D.D.
(Warner Bros. ***1/2)
When he became a star in 1986, Dwight Yoakam was often perceived as a maverick making country cool again by turning to traditionalism. The Kentucky-born Los Angeleno was never a country purist, however. What has made him so compelling over the years is the way he incorporates elements of rock and pop into his music in a way that enriches it rather than waters it down like so much radio fare, and makes him sound like no one else.
The progressive traditionalist is at it again on the typically stylish 3 Pears, his first album in seven years. There's a hard-rocking take on the honky-tonk classic "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)," and the bonus tracks are excellent versions of the Johnny Cash hit "Ring of Fire" and the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." The rest are Yoakam originals, and they all deal with matters of the heart, so it's fitting that he consistently digs as deep as he ever has.
It starts with the ringing urgency of "Take Hold of My Hand" and goes on through the horn- and string-accented "Never Alright" and the confessional "Long Way to Go," delivered first in a rocking version and then as a piano-only ballad. That openhearted approach even underlines the Roger Miller-esque whimsy of "Waterfall," which for all its uncharacteristically fanciful imagery seems to sum up the album's theme: "My heart still believes that love . . . can be enough."
- Nick Cristiano
Corin Tucker Band
Kill My Blues
(Kill Rock Stars ***)
Considering that Corin Tucker stayed away from musicmaking for four years after Sleater-Kinney went on hiatus following the tour for 2005's brilliantly heavy The Woods, Kill My Blues seems a swift successor to 2010's 1000 Years. This time around, Tucker comes close to recapturing the balance of tension and abandon that marked her work in S-K with Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss (who are now in Wild Flag).
Kill My Blues mixes feminist calls-to-arms ("Groundhog Day," "Neskowin") with love songs both earnest ("Kill My Blues," "I Don't Wanna Go") and conflicted ("Outgoing Message," "Summer Jams"). The constant is Tucker's distinctive voice leaping from sassy swagger to commanding battle cry, and a powerful sense of punk-rock urgency, full of loud, buzz saw guitar interplay between Tucker and Seth Lorinczi.
- Steve Klinge
The Corin Tucker Band and Trophy Wife play Tuesday at 9:15 p.m. at Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. Tickets: $12. Information: 215-739-9684, www.johnnybrendas.com