Sober

19Apr09

(Kenny writing)

The reason Pink has for years seemed like a person, unlike Brittany or Amy W., is because she wants to go to rehab.  Not from some prissy moralistic point of view, but from the point of view that the party does end and you have to face yourself in the mirror when it does.  Pink gives one some hope that getting the party started and groundedness are not mutually exclusive.  Since this seems, so far as I can tell, to match the actual needs of actual listeners to pop radio like myself (not to mention actual people with jobs, actual people on earth, and actual people most generally), I have been among the group who think that she has made some of the most meaningful pop hits of the decade.  “Let’s Get This Party Started”, I’m open; “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” I’m with you; “Just Like A Pill,” absolutely, I know just what you mean.  I found “So What” was a little disheartening.

And then comes “Sober,” an answer song to “Rehab” though she would never think of it that way, and Pink’s greatest accomplishment.  Correct that:  her greatest accomplishment is to produce an excruciatingly long second plus of silence on KHOP every hour, the break that occurs at the beginning of the second verse when she sings, as I would want my daughter to, “I don’t want to be the girl who has to fill the silence,” and then everything stops.  Just stops.  Until, wouldn’t you know, she has to fill the silence, acknowledging that “the quiet scares me ’cause it screams the truth.”  By the time she sums up the main narrative, about the confusion that occurs when you get high and then the party ends, with “how do I feel this good and sober?” you figure, sobriety is not a given, but actually an achievement.  As it is for graduates of AA.  Unfortunately the graduate of AA believes s/he has a “disease” and will, essentially inevitably relapse.  Pink is the person who really used to abuse alcohol (or pills or whatever) and stopped because it was the right thing to do, not right because their minister or their society said it was but for their own improved mental health and ability to engage with those they love and work with.  And because they did it on their own terms they still feel fine about going out and getting blitzed sometimes.  And, no, getting blitzed doesn’t cause them to fall back into the old pattern.   

Of course this last describes me and roughly half my friends.  Who said maturity has no place on pop radio?

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2 Responses to “Sober”

  1. 1 schweitzito

    I don’t hear “Sober” (which, although an admirer of P!nk, I hadn’t heard of until Kenny’s post — I wish ipods had radios, I wish I thought getting a non-Apple mp3 player was a good alternative, I wish radio reception in Manhattan didn’t suck even when you’re not in the subway) as from the perspective of already being sober. I think “how do I feel this good sober” is a somewhat ungrammatical “how WILL I feel this good sober.” “How WOULD I…” Something like that. She feels the party’s over, but otherwise the lyrics leave either interpretation possible. She’s safe when she’s high. On the other hand, you can’t find “you that you once had” either — it’s the nature of life that life changes you, which is as fundamental a truth as that all life is struggle, and so it’s a struggle to stay sober forever starting now, and a struggle to get sober again, and a struggle to find a balance, and if maintaining that general balance has rarely (not never) been a problem for me regarding booze, and other recreational drugs just never interested me that much, my attempt to cure my addiction to carbohydrates five years ago was a short-term success and long-term futility. But getting (back) to P!nk (always loved that exclamat!on po!nt, better than Prince’s glyph) — she’s high and it feels great, and she’s worried how she’ll feel that good if she gives up the stuff.
    I don’t think it’s an answer song to “Rehab” because rehab is less about addiction/recovery than basic obedience, just like “Papa Don’t Preach” was less about the abortion issue than it was about basic obedience. They may refuse obedience against all reason (Amy clearly needs some help, and to get it now means dishonoring her most famous song, but that’s showbiz), but that’s what I hear them saying, and sometimes it just feels good to tell reason to go take a flying fuck. Even if you’ll regret it in the morning.
    Anyway, the real “Rehab” belongs to Stew, he late of the Passing Strange autobiomusical on Broadway. His third person junkie shifts from optimism to embarrassment to a self-sufficient combo of hedonism and cynicism, and I’d like to hear the sequel because I don’t believe it lasts, and neither does Stew, because he’s written plenty about how he doesn’t get high like he once did.

  2. 2 Kenny

    It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference whether the narrator is sober or not at the moment the song is sung. What matters is the expressed desire to be high and sober at the same time, which is quite unambiguous in the song. The song is expressed as desire, “I don’t want to be the girl who . . . ” In the real lives of Pink fans, and the world in general, it is experienced as need. This is why it’s so disgusting when people who themselves are generally sober, and who don’t need to be so much, laud “Rehab” as some kind of liberation.


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