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Track Review

For any and all P!nk fans out there waiting for a straight-ahead upbeat, feel-good love song from the spunky singer, well, I'd like to give you permission to stop holding your breath now. It's something that just ain't gonna happen. "Just Give Me a Reason" is about as close to that kind of a song as one Alecia Beth Moore, aka P!nk, is liable to get.

And even it's not that close.

In 2008, P!nk and her motocross-racing husband endured a separation and flirted with divorce before reconciling two years later. "Just Give Me a Reason" sounds like a song that easily could have been written in the midst of that hard season, as it expresses the feelings of a woman who desperately wants a troubled relationship to work even as she wonders whether it's going to make the trip.

The song begins with fond recollections of how things were at the beginning. "Right from the start," P!nk sings, "You were a thief/You stole my heart." Then she adds, "I let you see the parts of me/That weren't all that pretty/And with every touch you fixed them." At least at first, then, P!nk found safety and healing in this relationship.

Now they're together, but things aren't going so well anymore. P!nk doesn't mention marriage, but she's clear about sharing a bed: "Now you've been talking in your sleep, uh-oh/Things you never say to me, uh-oh/Tell me that you've had enough/Of our love, our love."

But if there's one thing that's true about P!nk, it's that she's a fighter. She isn't willing to throw in the towel, and she's convinced the jagged edges in their relationship can still be smoothed. "Just give me a reason," she begs, "Just a little bit's enough/Just a second, we're not broken, just bent/And we can learn to love again."

Credit P!nk with doing something that's pretty countercultural these days: hanging in there to keep working on something that doesn't feel good right at this moment. And the fact that she actually managed to stay married in real life and seems to be in a better place these days testifies to the importance and power of such perseverance.

Singing the part of P!nk's estranged lover here is fun. frontman Nate Ruess, with whom she penned the tune. (And, indeed, "Just Give Me a Reason" sounds like it could easily have ended up on a .fun album, filled as it is with programmed, mid-tempo drum beats and soaring melodies that echo that band's hits " Some Nights" and " We Are Young.") "I'm sorry, I don't understand/Where all this is coming from," Ruess sings in a high tenor that nearly matches P!nk's passionate contralto. "I thought we were doing fine."

He then strives—if we take him at face value—to convince his anxiety-filled gal that things really aren't as bad as she thinks. "Your head is running wild again/My dear, we still have everything/You've been having real bad dreams, uh-oh." And he urges more intimacy as a soothing balm: "There's nothing more than empty sheets/Between our love, our love."

Note that lyrically, beds and sheets and such can serve as symbolic representations of a broken relationship. But in the video, they play a racier role. P!nk alternates between rolling around on a mattress alone (wearing skin-baring bedclothes) and remembering happier, more intimate times in which she and real-life husband Carey Hart kiss and caress (him shirtless, her again in skimpy lingerie).

We also see P!nk floating motionless underwater several times, stylistic images that suggest the specter of the couple's drowning relationship.

As is typical when I interact with P!nk, the combined effect of her song and its video leaves me feeling exasperated. Her willingness to hang in there through a rough spot in her marriage and come out the other side is laudable, as I've already said, especially in a culture where marriage is rapidly losing ground to mere cohabitation. And her willingness to sing about such subjects is great. But P!nk just can't resist the temptation to illustrate her song's ideals with a flesh-filled video … which just gives me a reason to be critical.

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February 26, 2013

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Adam R. Holz

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