Pink, the new Madonna? Doesn't seem possible--certainly didn't in 2000, when "There U Go" introduced Philadelphia homegirl Alecia Moore as the latest in a long line of producer/svengali Dallas Austin's bad girls gone badder--but that's what the English press are saying we're saying, and you know how accurate their fortunetelling usually is. Still, there was something "Like a Virgin"-ish to that cover of "Lady Marmalade," wasn't there? A certain sassy je ne sais quoi, a willingness to toy with passive-aggressive sexuality, a neither-here-nor-there approach to genre--maybe Missundaztood, Pink's new one, is a deeper listen than its first single, the crack-cocaine-immediate "Get the Party Started," suggested. Current single "Don't Let Me Get Me" sort of backs that up, a bizarre pop-rock number with a weird title and wimpy guitar strumming and gigantic bass and a lyric about not fitting in that's oddly refreshing when it comes on the radio, the same way that "Cherish" used to come on and wipe all the hair-metal grime away.

Only Pink likes grime--"My socks are never clean," she boasts--and she's hung up on that priss Britney Spears, not the Jesus and Mary chain, just trying to find a place in the world where a crazy girl who wants a sane boyfriend can go a little mad and come home with her self-respect intact, sick to death of justifying her love in a material world. She's even found her Jellybean Benitez in erstwhile 4 Non Blonde Linda Perry, who's chanced into her career's second act as a freelance song doctor, co-writing much of Missundaztood in addition to beefing up new work from Christina Aguilera and Courtney Love, an experience that must be curiously like taking on Pink's ego and id in separate rooms. (Questionable taste, sure, but remember A League of Their Own?) Hard to tell how Wednesday's live show will impact this unlikely slide into credibility--ray of light or who's that girl? Either way, it's a crossroads with more to offer than boring ol' Britney's.

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Mikael Wood