Yes, yes: I know. Please don’t look at me like that. It’s not prog. Allegedly. I blame Graham Norton. It’s all his fault. I only tuned in to his show to see Hugh Jackman, Judi Dench, Paul Rudd, Eugene Levy, Michael Douglas and Michael B. Jordan being interviewed. But the music slot at the end was P!nk singing the title track of her new album Trustfall and, well, to be honest, it was one of those jaw-dropping encounters which unexpectedly blew me away.
To be fair, part of it was being mesmerised by watching Yoann Bourgeois theatrically falling off stairs onto a trampoline and bouncing back up to various higher and lower positions where she was singing. Part of it, however, was the compelling lyrical honesty of the song, sung with arresting finesse, passion and pure captivating power. Together they formed the perfect performance piece which held me utterly enthralled. Hand on heart, I seriously did not know what to do with myself once the song ended.
Minutes later, the impact of that experience led me to purchase the album. I’m not a complete stranger to P!nk and whilst some of her songs are terrific earworms, at times I find her stage ‘persona’ can be something of a hindrance to fully enjoying the music. Yet listening to Trustfall that night, watching her sing – this was something different. It was direct, it was honest, the emotional embrace was unbearably beautiful. And in many ways, I guess this review is me grappling with what exactly that ‘something different’ is.
The more I listen to this album and the more I become immersed in the many layers it has to offer, the more I become convinced of its allegiance to a distinctly progressive spirit infusing the musical experience. Acting on the encouragement of her daughter, the album title itself is comprised of a series of one-word summaries: ‘Truth, Reflection, Uncertainty, Security, Terror, Faith, Acceptance / Audio city, Letting go, Love’. Taken individually as well as together, it captures the heart as well as the vitality of the album beautifully, embodying in all respects the experienced malaise of our times.
If there are three elements toward which I would draw your attention, it would be these. First, the stunning richness and the elegance of her vocal performance. P!nk’s vocal prowess has never been in doubt. In fact, it has become increasingly expressive with each successive album. In Trustfall, that prowess is delivered with power and potency through lyrics which channel a gamut of bewildering complex emotions. All the songs: not just two or three peppered across the album. All of the songs. There is no let-up, no respite. This is music straight from the heart.
The song titles themselves are the first indication of the musical territory across which we are being taken. Scanning the track list will certainly give you clues. For me, however, she is best when totally stripped back and alone with a piano. Yes, she has a voice which can prevail over a full band and beat accompaniment, but this album isn’t about noise; it’s about bringing a naked honesty (there’s that word again) to what we are listening to.
It is no accident then, that the album opens with When I Get There, written for her late father. It is painful listening and yet, strangely comforting if not warmly humorous at the same time. There is a tender vulnerability;
I hear a joke and know you would have told it better.”
This fondness is supplemented with smiling wistfulness and wishful comfort;
Where you sit with friends and talk about the weather?”
Into the blend she adds a sense of longing and sighing resignation;
Yeah, I know you’ll tell me when I get there.”
Frustration yet anticipation, certainty and uncertainty and the aching of love meet and mix;
Yeah I’ll make some mistakes and you’ll watch me as I live them
‘Til I’m through, ‘til I’m with you.”
For another example, take a look at Hate Me, which appears to be observations – perhaps even notes – from either a destructive relationship and/or the general culture of online hate;
Everything you fucked up, failed at
Broke or lost and it’s all my fault
But I know it’s not.”
There comes a point where there is nothing more that can be done to save yourself or the relationship;
I’m the villain you made me, made me
I’m the monster, you need me, need me
Or it’s all on you (oh no, here we go, welcome to the shit show).”
In the end, there is nothing but defiance;
Wanna light me up like an evil witch.”
The second element I would draw to your attention is the structure of the album and in particular, the chained loop of the song writing which gradually reveals itself. Critics have claimed the album lacks a cohesive sound and, as a result, doesn’t know what it wants to be. Such a crass observation is woefully mistaken. Trustfall knows exactly what it wants to be and the criticism fails to understand the flowing cyclical structure of what you are hearing. In an interview, P!nk is quoted as saying:
“The sequencing of this album was really important to me, in case someone does listen to it from start to finish. Because life is like this to me, it’s an emotional roller coaster and it’s a journey, and this album is that. […] But that’s not life. Life is messy and beautiful and messy again. […] It was three years in the making.”
If you take the time to listen carefully from start to finish, what becomes clear is that you can detect three distinct types of song which are carefully interwoven across the album.
There are songs which broadly fall under a general ‘synth-pop-rock’ banner. Trustfall‘s title track is certainly one of these. Never Gonna Not Dance Again is unashamedly fabulous with its energy and harmonies – definitely one of those songs which sound better toward the bottom of your third pint as you rise to dad-dance with impervious spontaneity on the dance floor. Likewise, Runaway is the classic example of a P!nk earworm and a lot of fun as it effortlessly transports you back to the ’80s electro dance scene.
There are songs which broadly fall under the general ‘ballads’ category. When I Get There is P!nk alone with a piano, nowhere to hide, everything exposed. Lost Cause may reveal the frailties and even the betrayals of being in a relationship but it is also call never to abandon hope and give up:
Tell me I’m a stranger you don’t wanna see again
But don’t tell me I’m a lost cause.”
There are songs which broadly fall under a general country/folk banner and which, interestingly, tend to be reserved for collaborations with others. Long Way to Go is a lovely, dusky duet with The Lumineers. Kids in Love is melancholic nostalgia writ large featuring First Aid Kit. Last Call pleads for ‘one last dance’ before the world ends, at the end of which we raise a glass “to the fears and happy tears / What would I do without you?” Closing track Just Say I’m Sorry, with Chris Stapleton, is an ode to forgiveness; saying sorry isn’t the hardest thing to do if love is still alive and well.
Interspersed with these you have a sprinkling of typical anthemic P!nk punkish vibes: Turbulence is a delicious slice of old-time melodic rock, whilst Hate Me is a full out punk-leaning explosion of anger and resentment, packed with frothy observations.
The third element to which I would point your attention follows from this: the structure flows from the feelings, the musings, the bewilderment of a person who is wrestling with deeply existential, intensely personal and sometimes incredibly raw lived experiences. Indeed, in many ways I don’t think this is an album primarily intended for public consumption. That’s where it has ended up. But I think the origins of why it exists lie solely with a prolonged grappling with hope, hurt, love and despair encountered along life’s way. That would explain the unmistakable energy, the trademark effervescence, which is present even in the quietest, most delicate moments.
So, I freely admit: it’s not prog. But it is doing distinctly proggy things – and doing them extremely well whilst being expressed through different sets of musical genres and lenses. It’s an album of profound introspection, someone becoming aware of the passage of time, the reflections on life this invariably triggers, whispered moments existing alongside the angst of strong emotions, powerful intersections of loss and hurt. Yes, there is sorrow, but it definitely isn’t a case of feeling sorry for yourself. This is the sorrow of true remembrance and lesson in how to remember.
The message embraces positivity, encourages embracing the past, letting go of the scars and wounds which hold us back, and having the momentum to push forward and move on. We carry the things we love in our hearts. Never forgotten, always there, deep down in the place where things matter most. That is why this album speaks so powerfully to me and that is the something more I continue to uncover each and every time I listen to it.
Give it a go. Put aside preconceptions and prejudices. Listen with an open mind and more importantly, with an open heart. I guarantee it will surprise you.
01. When I Get There (3:20)
02. Trustfall (3:57)
03. Turbulence (3:26)
04. Long Way to Go [featuring The Lumineers] (3:09)
05. Kids in Love [featuring First Aid Kit] (2:47)
06. Never Gonna Not Dance Again (3:44)
07. Runaway (2:42)
08. Last Call (4:03)
09. Hate Me (3:20)
10. Lost Cause (3:38)
11. Feel Something (3:04)
12. Our Song (2:54)
13. Just Say I’m Sorry [featuring Chris Stapleton] (3:33)
Total Time – 43:37
Way too many to list here…
Label: Sony Music / RCA
Format: Vinyl, CD, Digital
Date of Release: 17th February 2023