PINK with JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE at the Air Canada Centre (40 Bay), Tuesday (January 30). $64.25-$124. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Dear Pink, can I call you Alecia? It feels more personal and more appropriate, since I'm offering girl-to-girl advice.
Alecia, baby, I've been impressed by your career choices of late. I'm Not Dead was a perfectly orchestrated bid to regain your pop idol status - all bouncy and hooky and shit, but with enough bitchy edge (love the Paris and Jessica disses in the Stupid Girls video). And dude, you managed to weave in all that, y'know, heavy stuff like the Bush-bashing in Dear Mr. President.
You're riding high right now, what with TV theme song royalties (Sunday Night Football's Waiting All Day For Sunday Night), special-edition Playstation and - clever girl - hitching your wagon to the JT juggernaut for this Dick In A B , er, FutureSex/LoveSounds tour.
I'd like to make sure you stay on top. Some friendly feedback: Alecia, turn yourself into this generation's Linda Perry.
I know you and Linda are already BFFs. Before the wholly Perry-penned Get The Party Started, you were a trendy but forgettable one-hit-wonder destined for a slot on The Surreal Life. Linda helped you (and your less interesting peer Christina Aguilera) parlay the harlot heat from that Lady Marmalade collabo into the spectacular Party-propelled triumph that was Missundaztood. Baby, you sold more albums internationally than any other female artist in 2002.
Here's the thing: it's fuckin' hard being a girl pop star. Trying to sustain a career for decades in an industry that wants to squish its women into a template based on conventional ideas about beauty, sexuality and seen-but-not-really-heard archetypes is brutal. Especially for a mouthy chick like you. (Nice try with the PETA thing, even if the organization is messed up and you're now loathed by Australians.)
Linda knows that better than anyone. You won't remember this, cuz we were, like, 13, when it happened, but Rolling Stone readers named her their best new female artist back in 93, after 4 Non Blondes scored their big hit (What's Up, which you covered the last time you played Toronto. It was rad). She was shit-hot, Alecia. But she hated playing the greasy rock biz game. She was an out dyke - even more horrifying, a tattooed butch - and after she stopped being a Non Blonde, her solo career careened into the toilet.
Our girl Linda went behind the scenes and became one of the most successful and prolific babes in rock by putting her words in other girls' mouths.
She set up a studio in California and started cranking out hit after hit after hit. Linda was responsible for Xtina's Stripped career makeover. She snagged a Grammy nom for Aguilera's Beautiful (originally intended as her own comeback hit). She propped Courtney Love up long enough to crank out America's Sweetheart for her. She wrote one of the only two not-horrible tracks on Gwen Stefani's solo debut. She was genius enough to sign foppish heartthrob James Blunt to her own label in the States. She has a list of pop hits longer than Pete Doherty's rap sheet.
She's done all this on her own terms, without hiding in the closet or folding in the face of career-manipulating suits. Even Canada's own rock dyke icon, Carole Pope, admitted (in print, no less) that she yearns to emulate Linda Perry's career.
Alecia, you made a tentative step in the right direction when you and Linda co-wrote that song for Faith Hill a couple of years back. I know you've already started to break away from Linda's mentoring hand (her fingerprints were nowhere to be found on I'm Not Dead), but if you start building your behind-the-scenes portfolio, you'll never need to worry about marrying some motocross dude to use as a heteronormative alibi for all those times you make out with girls. (I bet he likes to watch.)
You can write all the Dear Mr. Presidents you want and let other singers take the heat. You can relax into a super-lucrative legacy of helping create upstart artists in your likeness. All those "outcasts and girls with ambition" you sing about in Stupid Girls? You can make them stars.