Song: ‘So What’
US chart peak: 1
Release date: August 11, 2008
Writers: Pink, Max Martin, Shellback
Producers: Max Martin
Quintessential Max moment: The second half of the chorus
Video synopsis: A perfectly fine thanks for asking Pink being a ‘rock star’
Which side of Pink do you prefer? The tongue-in-cheek, knowingly bratty Pink or the bruised and broken Pink? 2008’s ‘Funhouse’ album, the first since her career rebirth with ‘I’m Not Dead’, and inspired by her temporary split from husband Corey Taylor, saw Max work on four songs, including two singles that showcase both sides of that conundrum. The album’s third single ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’ is one of my favourite Pink singles, all self-laceration and pretty melodies. Unfortunately it didn’t make the US Top Ten, peaking at number 17, so won’t be on this here website. Apols. The album’s lead single ‘So What’, however, is one of Pink’s biggest hits, becoming her first solo US chart-topper and selling over four million copies. It also definitely, almost crushingly falls into the first category when it comes to Pink’s ‘oeuvre’.
Subtly in pop is all very well but sometimes you just need to know where you are from the get go and Pink doesn’t really do subtly does she? Even her slower songs don’t always leave you wondering how Pink’s feeling about things. ‘So What’ spells everything out in bright bold letters. For example, the song, inspired by her splitting with her husband, opens with “I guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went”. Ambiguity be damned! Obviously ‘So What’ isn’t necessarily meant to be over-analysed. “Honestly I’m the first to make fun of myself,” she mused to CNN. “When you call the joke before anyone else can it kind of takes the steam out of it.” In fact the entire song was started as a bit of joke, with Pink inspired by Max playing her a “fun beat” in the studio and the lyrics coming from there. “I was actually kidding when I said “I guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went.” And it just got more and more wrong. The more lines we wrote, the wronger it was. And we kept it because I don’t really care.”
As with all Pink songs, even the bratty bangers, there’s a hint of sadness that underpins the bolshiness. In the chorus, after all the “I’m a rock star” posturing, the “I’m alright, I’m just fine” lines feel like she’s convincing herself rather than her ex. As if to highlight this fact, Max – who’s the song’s sole producer, a rare treat post Britney and BSB – shifts the chorus up a gear, the stomping beat and that guitar riff (apparently concocted by Shellback) joined by a stuttering synth motif that adds some dramatic tension to proceedings.
Basically, as with so many Max creations, ‘So What’ is the exact song Pink needed at this point in her career. Having revived her chart credentials after ‘Try This’’s derailed things slightly, ‘So What’ is the shouty, instantly catchy stadium-sized anthem that cemented her status as pop’s emotion-lead, heart-on-my-sleeve independent woman with a bruised heart.