Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants. Do I have to…?
I typically don’t mind P!nk (from here out “Pink”, because I’m not going to remember the exclamation point every time); she’s been part of some three or four Radio Rants now, and I still don’t groan when I see her name on a single, which is more than I can say for others. She’s generally fun to listen to, and brings more personality to her songs than most. Hell, she was able to weather most of the 00s without becoming a Stepford smiler barely interested in her career or a wash-up that can’t find a way to stay musically relevant; even her post greatest-hits album The Truth About Love has been well-received with hits of its own.
And, sadly, one of those hits is “Just Give Me a Reason”. I’m late to the party on this one, which went to the top of the charts while I was on leave from blogging. I’m not going to say that this song was the reason that I stopped, but it certainly didn’t inspire me to share my thoughts on it. What am I supposed to say here? It’s is the B-/C+ of songwriting: the production is sleepy, the vocals are stiff, the hook barely exists, and the lyrics are dispassionate. It isn’t so much bad as much as it is painfully boring.
Alright, let’s crunch the facts on this one. Pink and Ruess, along with producer Jeff Bhasker, got the writing credit here, so we’re working without any mercenary songwriters or producers. Bhasker’s most relevant set of credentials come from producing Ruess’ band fun.’s Some Nights. His overblown, “everything’s an anthem” sound brought some pomp and size to that band’s crowd-friendly eccentricity, but the programmed drum and piano combo in “Just Give Me a Reason” plods along without excitement, and the vocals sound too soft somehow.
One of the more unsettling parts of “Just Give Me a Reason” is how tame Pink sounds. She’s barely paying attention on this song, and I’m not just saying that because she doesn’t rasp and wail, but her voice is too stately and stiff. There’s no presence here that she’s had in her other ballads. Human squakbox Nate Ruess sounds a little awkward here as well, like he’s not used to singing this American Idol straight. On a more lively song, these two might have more chemistry than a nice harmony here and there, but on something this formal, they sound like a bad blind date that keeps finding nothing in common.
This just doesn’t sound like a number one hit. I’ve been doing Radio Rants for awhile now, and every now and then, I’ve noticed that we’ll get sort of a filler number one hit: a workmanlike song by a long established artist that gets to number one through pre-established fame, and lack of another option at the moment. These songs tend to linger in the top ten going both up and down until cresting at number one for one to three weeks until the next smash is fully ready. Like, you guys remember that one Pitbull single “Give Me Everything”? That was no. 1 for the week it took “Party Rock Anthem” to build enough steam after “Rolling in the Deep” finally burnt itself out. “Just Give Me a Reason” feels like it was a space filler between “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us”; it’s not a bad song, but if Pink’s name wasn’t attached to it, I doubt it would have crested this high.
Yeah, I’m not attached to this one. The meaning to the song, fixing broken relationships, is a different and refreshing idea to the pop charts, but there’s not enough in the execution to make “Just Give Me a Reason” anything but a dull hit that won’t be remembered a year from now. It doesn’t even sound like a proper montage song, it’s more like something they’d play halfway through the credits just to get everyone out. Just give me a reason to care.