Since Pink burst onto the music landscape five years ago with her smash single ''Get the Party Started," the punk-haired pop diva born Alecia Moore has toyed with other shades as well: love-ballad blue, Grammy gold, and -- thanks to2 million records sold -- platinum.
''I'm Not Dead" (LaFace/Zomba), out today, extends the singer's streak of mass-market, occasionally surprising R&B-flavored fare whose lyrical message often packs more punch than the generic grooves and ultra-polished production that mark her work. The disc's first single, ''Stupid Girls," is hands down the catchiest, strongest, and -- along with the anti-Bush salvo ''Dear Mr. President" -- most politically charged cut here.
''Stupid Girls" is a dance-floor-savvy slice of feminist consciousness that wonders aloud, ''Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?" and mocks, in no particular order, Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears in spirit if not name. (The video depicting bulimics with ballooning cleavage and a bleached-blond Pink up to her cowboy boots in carwash suds, toting a tiny Chihuahua, makes her targets clear). There are other insolent anthems to liberation and independence -- ''Cuz I Can"; the sneering kiss-off ''U + Ur Hand" (a righteously jabbed finger at meat-market knuckleheads) -- as well as tracks that confront the costs of self-protection: ''Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)," ''Runaway," ''I Got Money Now."
Perhaps the most emotionally forthright track of Pink's career so far (co-written with her producer, Billy Mann) is ''Dear Mr. President," an open letter to George W. Bush that takes Dubya to task for his stances on abortion, gay rights, homelessness, and the Iraq war. Pink sounds peeved enough on her own, but background vocals by the Indigo Girls add extra lefty cred. An unlisted track, ''I Have Seen the Rain," written by Pink's Vietnam vet father, Jim Moore, and performed as a folk-style duet, is a poignant moment.
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These tracks almost make up for the ham-handed ballads (''Nobody Knows") and arena-rock bombast (''Long Way to Happy") that lard the disc. Despite what appears to be a genuine independent streak that gives Pink several notches more credibility than manufactured ''free spirits" such as Christina, Avril, and Lindsay, an assembly-line approach to arrangements and boilerplate production values force her into the middle of the road even when she wants to take an adventurous detour.