Song: ‘Who Knew’
US chart peak: 9
Release date: Originally released May 18, 2006 but re-released in June, 2007
Writers: Pink, Max Martin, Dr Luke
Producers: Max Martin, Dr Luke
Quintessential Max moment: The way the melody descends towards the end of the chorus
Video synopsis: Pink haunts a fairground wearing a child’s dress
As touched on in the blurb for wank banger ‘U + Ur Hand’, the wistful ‘Who Knew’ was actually released in America first (hence why it appears first on the chronological ‘Greatest Hits…So Far’ tracklisting). Having failed to set the charts alight – DESPITE ITS OBVIOUS BRILLIANCE – the label switched to ‘U + Ur Hand’, the success of which lead to ‘Who Knew’ being re-released (or just ‘re-serviced’ to US radio or whatever).
Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let the searing critique of ‘Who Knew’ begin: it’s really good, basically. Like, really. I listened to it a lot during a very emotionally unsettling period of my life and dear reader I cried every time. A pretty swirl of nostalgia, regret, death and hope (the song’s about Pink losing a friend to drug abuse), it’s anchored by a versatile vocal performance that rebounds between anger (“I took your words and I believed, in everything you said to me”), frustration (“I know better, ’cause you said forever and ever, who knew”) and pure sadness (the line “And I won’t forget you my friend, what happened?” in the string-drenched middle eight is like a gentle punch to the gut).
Musically it’s still rooted in the world Martin and Dr Luke were exploring in ‘Since U Been Gone’ and The Veronica’s excellent ‘4Ever’, especially with that opening guitar riff, but there’s a more pensive, almost wistful feel to it that hints at where Martin was going next (i.e. ‘Teenage Dream’ and later, Taylor Swift’s ‘Style’). Once again, Martin reflects the varied lyrical motifs in the song’s dynamics, gently ramping up the urgency as each verse and chorus hovers into view. Post middle-eight the strings that drifted around behind the guitars glide to the front, swirling around like an impending storm. It’s wonderfully overblown, like the perfect soundtrack to a pivotal scene in The OC.
Sometimes you can’t beat that type of emotional manipulation.