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At first glance, it appears Pink is trying to increase her chances of becoming a superstar by transforming herself into a cartoon. The artwork of her impressive new CD, Missundaztood, features the singer in a variety of action poses, including a snapshot of her receiving simulated cunnilingus from a teddy bear. Depending on your moral perspective, such antics are either disgusting or refreshing. Personally, I side with the latter. While her clean-cut peers bend over backward to ingratiate themselves, Pink actually has the audacity to alienate parents. In teen-pop circles, that's called "art."

Candid and self-contradictory, Missundaztood is the work of a truly messed-up individual. While she occasionally stoops to hip-hop bravado and girl-power anthems, Pink spends the overwhelming majority of the new album putting herself down. On "Dear Diary," the singer blames herself for her father's abandonment. The apparent product of a dysfunctional family, she sticks it to Mom and Dad on pumping tracks like "Family Portrait" and "My Vietnam." On the self-descriptive "Don't Let Me Get Me," the singer displays a classic case of insecurity. To wit: "So damn tired of being compared to Britney Spears/She's so pretty/That just ain't me." OK, so it ain't Bob Dylan, but neither is it the infantile fantasies we've come to expect from the pop vanguard.

Missundaztood is almost as surprising musically as it is lyrically. Though it starts out with the predictable pop textures, the album gradually mutates into insinuating techno-soul. On the gospel-styled "Misery," Pink performs a righteous duet with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, while "Eventually" successfully melds computerized R&B with smoky, supper-club blues.

Pink can't take all the credit. Many of the album's best songs -- including the remarkable single "Get the Party Started" -- are composed or cowritten by former 4 Non Blondes singer Linda Perry. Still, Pink should be commended for even attempting to transcend the status quo. In doing so, she may have invented an oxymoronic new genre: thinking person's teen-pop. Imagine that.

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Bruce Britt

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