P!nk acknowledges that parts of her new album, Trustfall, could be considered corny by today’s pop standards. Take lead single “Never Gonna Not Dance Again”: Produced by Max Martin and Shellback, the happy-go-lucky groove finds the pop superstar shrugging off problems large and small in favor of unabashed movement, and declaring, “One thing I’m never gonna do/ Is throw away my dancing shoes,” before the bright, splashy chorus kicks in.
“Never Gonna Not Dance Again” is marked by a dance-pop earnestness that’s seldom heard at the top of streaming charts or in viral hits these days. “I was like, ‘Well, it’s kind of my formula, isn’t it? That sounds like a P!nk song,’” she tells Billboard during a January Zoom conversation of the single, letting out a sigh at the idea of a retread. “And then by the end of it, I’m like, ‘I don’t care. I feel happy. I don’t care if it’s cheesy!’”
Trustfall, out Friday (Feb. 17) on RCA Records, could have been a darker affair — after all, the follow-up to 2019’s Hurts 2B Human was conceived during the pandemic, during which her son Jameson endured a scary battle with COVID-19 at the age of three in 2020, and her father succumbed to cancer in 2021. Yet P!nk’s ninth studio album confronts personal trauma with tempo: working with a wide array of collaborators, from longtime producer Greg Kurstin to ascendant dance artist Fred Again.. to Swedish folk-pop duo First Aid Kit, the best-selling pop star pushes the pace on Trustfall songs like “Runaway,” “Last Call” and the title track, while learning to appreciate the growth that periods of loss often present.
“I think it is one of the best records I’ve ever made,” says P!nk. “And I feel about it the way I felt about Missundaztood and I’m Not Dead and possibly The Truth About Love. And so I’m really excited and anxious.”
P!nk is also eager to dive into her upcoming Summer Carnival 2023 tour, where the longtime arena headliner will bring her cavalcade of pop hits to stadiums across North America, beginning July 24. Although P!nk says that she has found a sense of calm thanks to time at home with her family — husband Carey Hart, and children Willow and Jameson — she also can’t wait to perform in front of the biggest audiences of her career.
Ahead of the Trustfall release, P!nk discussed how the album came together, returning to the road and the way TikTok has (and hasn’t) changed her approach to pop. [Ed. note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.]
What moves Trustfall into that class of albums that you feel like are some of your best?
It took time, because COVID gave us all a little bit of time. It’s been three years, and for a little while, at least, there wasn’t a lot else going on. Normally I’m like, “Okay, turn on the faucet, let’s go” — like a race to the finish, how many songs can you write? And they’re all meaningful to me, it’s all my feelings. But this [album] felt like, “Yeah, I felt like that last year, but I don’t feel like that anymore. Now I feel like this.”
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 f–king journey, and this album is that. This album could have easily been, Side A is Roller Skate Time, and Side B is No Sharp Objects in the Kitchen Time! But that’s not life. Life is messy and beautiful and messy again.
It was so easy to name the record. I feel like getting out of bed, and getting dressed, and dropping your kids off at school, and being in a relationship, and parenting, and participating in elections — it requires a lot of trust. And most of the time, we feel like we’re falling backwards, and we don’t know where the ground is.
And so much has changed since your last record — which was less than four years ago, but the world has been upended in a lot of ways.
I think we’re all walking around with this sort of low-level trauma that we’re not even aware of. In the last three years, for all of us, this has been our generation’s “thing.” Growing up in a military family and having a dad tell you, “You’ve never been through s–t” — and I’m like, “Well, I have personally! It’s all relative, dad!” But then you’re like, “No, we really haven’t been through anything, as a whole.” And it feels like we have now, and are still, and we don’t know what’s coming next as a whole.
Plus, I lost my dad. And then a month later, I lost another person that was incredibly close to me. And then I’m raising little people, and celebrating my 17th anniversary — and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that, but neither did he. But yeah, it’s just life, man. Adulting is a lot.
What was that process like, in terms of experiencing that heaviness, reflecting on those themes and synthesizing into a handful of songs on this album?
Probably harder for the producer than it was for the writer. [Laughs.] Poor Greg Kurstin. When your writer walks in with the song “Hate Me” in their pocket, you know it’s gonna be an awkward day. God bless him — he’s been through so many of those days with me. I just walk in and start crying, because for me, I’m like an open wound walking around in the world. I’m so sensitive, and I can’t hide it. And so people just have to just watch me cry sometimes. Or I go on rants, too. That’s never good!
But I’ve always done that. “Family Portrait” was that for me. It was this really, terribly uncomfortable situation for my family, and [the song] was kind of like an outing. If you’re in my life, then you kind of signed a waiver that I get to write about it. Carey knows! So you just write what you feel. And that’s why I’m not writing like, happy love songs, because I’m useless when I’m happy.
When did these songs start coming together? Was it a burst of creativity, or over a prolonged period of time?
It was three years in the making. “Lost Cause” and “Never Gonna Not Dance Again” were the two album-starters. And “Never Gonna Not Dance Again” was my reaction to adrenal fatigue, cortisol, stress. It was like, “F–k this. If the world’s ending and we’re sliding sideways off our axis, I’m gonna get my roller skates. Let’s take a cocktail class online! What are we doing?” So those songs on the record were a reaction to, “I can’t care all the time. I also need to feel joy, and let that s–t run off my back.”
There’s a lyric in the song “Kids in Love” that goes, “If you don’t f–k up, then you’ll never learn,” and it really pops out.
I learn through experiential f–kery. I mean, that’s my whole life. I have to remember that as a parent, also. I have to remember that.
How you end up working with First Aid Kit on that song?
I’ve been a fan of theirs for so long. And then I went to the BRITs [in 2019], and they gave me this ridiculous award, and I got to sing with Dan [Smith] from Bastille. And we’re hanging out at the after-party, and these girls were there, and Dan introduced them — and I heard him wrong, so I didn’t know it was First Aid Kit. So I was thinking they were some band that I didn’t know about! I was like, “What kind of music do you make?” And they were nice about it. And I was like, “What’s the name of your band again?” They’re like, “First Aid Kit.” I was like, “Shut… the front… door. I’m your biggest fan.”
It was a full turnaround. It was like, P!nk didn’t know who the f–k they were, and then I was like, “No, you don’t understand! I’ve been listening to you forever! You’re from Sweden!” I was like, “Do you think like we can all start a band! Dan can be the singer, and I’ll learn drums!” So we started a band in our heads — me, First Aid Kit and Dan from Bastille. I think that’d be a cool band. But I just wanted to work with them, because they’re awesome. They’re my new Indigo Girls.
Pop music has also changed so much since your last album was released — TikTok is now enormous, and these years-old songs are being revived…
[P!nk visibly winces]
I definitely see that face you just made!
I’m sorry. I’m sorry!
Are you getting that a lot through your kids, the TikTok dances and challenges?
No, they don’t have phones. I won’t let them! I was asked to be on a TikTok two nights ago and I made them very upset when I said “No, thank you.” I mean, look, I don’t want to be a dinosaur. But I want to bring back Atari. [Laughs.] Play Frogger and ExciteBike.
Things have changed, and that’s not what I do. And I’m okay with that. The people that have been coming to my shows, we’ve grown up together. I’m a pop fan. I like The Beatles, I like doo-wop music, I like Broadway. I come from a different thing, and I’ve got to be true to me. I don’t get played on the radio that much anyway, so I’m not really going for that. When I’m making a record, I’m like, “Who am I? How do I feel? What do I need to exorcise?” And, “How’s this going to be [performed] live — what can I climb onto for this song? Or will I be able to say this without crying and humiliating myself?”
So yeah, I can’t do that. But that’s great, because there’s so many people that can!
The thing is, you do still get a good amount of radio play — “Never Gonna Not Dance Again” hit the top 10 of a few Billboard charts. And of course, you have tons of older hits that still get played on radio, and have been streamed millions of times. But I’m always interested in how veteran artists react to, and want to pay attention to, new technologies and platforms.
I don’t really know. With me, when you’re a certain age and a woman, they tell you that what you do doesn’t matter, really, anymore, so just do what you do. And I’ve kind of always felt like that — at 16, I felt like that. But I don’t write songs for other people. I’m very narcissistic when it comes to songwriting, in a very pure way. I write what needs to be written for me, and if somebody else can relate to it, then that’s awesome. We’re all having this human experience, and we’re not all that different.
And I love parts of it, too! Like, Billie Eilish — how do you even put a song out like that, and then it’s No. 1 on radio? Like, 10 years ago, that’s unheard of. These artists are pushing the envelope and we need them to push things forward. My daughter is obsessed with Olivia Rodrigo, and that’s awesome to me, because that girl fronts a full band and writes her own music and writes great songs, and I’m super here for that. I think it’s awesome. It’s just not going to be me.
You’re playing stadiums in a few months, and mentioned thinking about how these new songs are going to be played live. Where are you at in the process at this point?
It’s been a while, but we had a tour meeting the other night with all the key players, and it was sort of that first creative [meeting]: Thinking outside the box, what can we do, how can we top that, what’s physically possible more than once? Like, getting shot out of a cannon — that would be fun, but you can only do that once!
I walk away from meetings like that like, “Oh God, I forgot how much fun I’m about to have.” It puts years back on my life. It is so fun, what I get to do, and I love it so much. And I love that Jameson’s gonna remember it, because he’s gonna be old enough, and I love the people that I get to work with. And then I get new material — there’s nothing worse than going and playing a show, and it’s all the same. But you get new shit to work with, and you’re like, “Oh, I can do anything I want with this, literally! Can I fall from the ceiling and live?”
No ceilings on stadiums, though!
True. There’s that feeling where, “You put two Fenway Park [shows] on sale, for who? Billy Joel? Stevie Wonder? Oh, just me?” It’s very exciting, and I feel like it’s the longest fluke in history, too.