Pink

Pink wants everyone to know that she isn't Britney Spears. She'll yell it from the rooftops. She'll tattoo it on her washboard midriff. She'll hold a high school principal hostage just so she can scream it over the intercom during morning announcements. She'll even sing it. Her latest album, M!ssundaztood, is a big fuck-you to anyone who thinks she remotely resembles the exuberant Top 40 table dancer.

But a close listen reveals that M!ssundaztood is less an announcement of unBritneyness than the musical manifesto of a woman who wants to topple Britney from her throne atop pop. If the British tabloids are to be believed, she's going to start by robbing the pop princess of her prince charming: Pink allegedly said that she wouldn't mind a roll in the hay with Justin Timberlake, and that a miffed Britney recently checked out of her hotel early when she heard Pink was also a guest.

It's clear the Philly-born, pale-skinned hoodrat born Alecia Moore has decided to become what industry folks like L.A. Reid and Babyface have always wanted her to be. While Pink's lyrics on M!ssundaztood stake out the deeper, darker, more personal terrain one expects from the classic "radical departure" second album, what sets Pink apart is that her departure is much more musically mainstream than her debut.

Don't fret. She's still the same brassy, bossy badass you fell in love with and slightly feared on her debut, but gone are the smothering, synthed-up R&B productions that made her sound like one of Destiny's Toddlers. With the help of producers Dallas Austin and former 4 Non Blondes front woman Linda Perry, Pink is fast becoming the unshackled, ball-busting pop queen Sophie B. Hawkins never quite grew into.

Britney can rest assured that Pink isn't biting her style, but she'd better not sleep too deeply. Pink is gaining on her in her own way, and she may just try to take her out -- Tonya Harding-style!

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey