P!nk got in touch with her inner Tipper Gore—the woman most responsible for getting parental advisory stickers slapped on music albums—after this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Even though the singer (real name: Alecia Beth Moore) is hardly a stranger to racy, enveloping-pushing songs and videos herself, P!nk didn’t think much at all of this year’s televised shenanigans. So much so that you might have confused her snarling observations for the kind of commentary generally delivered by concerned social conservatives.
On her Instagram account, P!nk said, “I felt embarrassed and sad. And old. We’re getting old. But in all seriousness; I felt sad because music is supposed to inspire. It saved my life. This trash won’t save any kids life. In a world that is even scarier and with lives still worth saving, who will stand up and have soul? Disenfranchised to say the least. Let down by my industry and peers.”
She went on to say that apart from performances by Macklemore, Justin Bieber, the Weeknd and Tori Kelly, “the rest was gross and embarrassing and hard for this aging pop star to believe.” As for the marijuana use shown during the broadcast, she added, “I’m convinced MTV just bought up all dispensaries before airing this show.”
P!nk’s taking heat for throwing some of her peers under the bus. After all, “haters” are rarely popular in pop culture. But I think P!nk makes some statements here worth unpacking in more depth.
At the core of P!nk’s comments is an idealistic conception of what popular music is capable of. Namely, that it can lift people out of difficult places and give them hope to carry on, even in—or perhaps especially in—tough times. And she describes that power in salvific terms: “It saved my life.”
I understand what P!nk is saying here. Growing up—and especially during my turbulent adolescence—music was where I retreated to process my emotions. Both the sounds and the words of my favorite bands and songs provided a cathartic outlet for everything that was pent up inside me. That experience is one of the reasons I believe that music is still—even in tech-drenched 2015—one of the most powerful, personal media influences shaping kids’ lives and worldviews today.
I might not go so far as saying that music saved my life, as P!nk does, but I get what she’s talking about here. The music we love taps into something deep inside of us, giving voice and focus and external expression to thoughts and feelings we can’t always articulate very well—especially when we’re young.
Looking back, I can see that some of the music I gravitated toward may also have reinforced some negative ideas about myself—especially my feeling that I was an outsider. But it was a powerful influence in my life nonetheless. And at times, it did inspire me when I felt scared and alone.
I think that’s what P!nk’s talking about here. She recognizes that so much of what’s trending these days in popular music is so devoid of deeper meaning and message that it lacks positive power to save or inspire anyone. Too often, it’s just a brazen, narcissistic spectacle that simply screams, “Look at me!” just as Miley Cyrus’s jaw-dropping outfits did throughout the broadcast.
While similar concerns have ironically been lobbed in P!nk’s direction during her career—sometimes on this very website—I believe the singer is absolutely right to call out such stuff for being emotionally and spiritually void of inspiring content.