Pink's 'Missundaztood' : In Her Own Words — Looking Back at the Watershed Album on Its 20th Anniversary

On her trial-by-fire second album, Pink fought her label to change her musical direction and deliver an album that was "more me" — a gamble that paid off and set the course of her trailblazing career

Photo: George De Sota/Getty Images

Before Pink could tell her fans "So what? I'm still a rock star," she had to actually become one — and that's exactly what she did with her sophomore album, Missundaztood, released on Nov. 20, 2001.

Second albums are notoriously make-or-break for artists, and Pink had a lot to live up to — and a lot of herself to reveal.

In the 20 years since Missundaztood's release, Pink has solidified her niche in the music industry as a prolific creator of "autobiographical songs filled with attitude" (as Digital Spy put it), but in the lead-up to her second album, the singer was known more for R&B-infused jams like "There You Go." She was also hot off the juggernaut success of the "Lady Marmalade" cover Missy Elliott produced featuring megastars of the moment Christina Aguilera, Mya and Lil' Kim.

Pink - MissundaztoodArista Records
Arista Records

As Missundaztood hits a milestone anniversary, we're looking back at what the eventual Emmy and Grammy winner, now 42, has said about what the album meant to her. It wasn't just an exercise in authentic artistry, it was in many ways an exorcism of past traumas and a way to show her fans — and record executives — that she was more than willing to fight and and flex way her way to fame.

The Lead Single: "Get the Party Started"

While Pink's first single found her in a comfortable place — the dance floor (she was 22 after all) — the person she sought out as a collaborator gave a hint her direction as an artist was changing.

Pink had been a fan of 4 Non Blondes' Linda Perry since she'd been singing their hit "What's Up?" as a teen, but that came as a surprise to Perry.

"I saw what she looked like — she was a bling-bling girl — and I said, 'I think you have the wrong Linda Perry,'" she told Rolling Stone in 2019.

Perry had stepped away from the microphone and into the production booth. Though she originally wrote "Get the Party Started" for Madonna (and she would go on to write 2002's chart-topper "Beautiful" for Aguilera), the Material Girl turned down the song

But when Pink convinced Perry to work with her, the girls' night out-ready bop was a natural fit. For Pink, though, the song's appeal was subtler: "The funnest part for me about going out is what happens before it," she told MTV in 2001. "The getting ready, the calling your friends, the getting in the car, what happens in the gas station. That's usually more fun than the club turns out to be."

Perry, now 56, told Rolling Stone in 2019 that she could sense that Pink's career was at a turning point when they worked together, ultimately producing half the songs on Missundazstood, including the title track and "Dear Diary."

"We were sitting one day and I said, 'This album's going to be huge,'" she recalled. "She laughed at me. But I was like, 'It's going to be a groundbreaking record and change things for you.' She didn't believe me. But we completely changed her format and it worked."

"Don't Let Me Get Me": About That Britney Line...

Despite the success of 2000's Can't Take Me Home, "I was getting claustrophobic being in that box. You know, pop's bad girl, the anti-Britney [Spears], the pink-haired freak and white black girl," Pink told ABC News in 2003.

At its core, "Don't Let Me Get Me" is about her own struggle with self-image and her habit of pushing back against authority ("I'm a hazard to my health," she acknowledges in the hook) — but it wouldn't be the Pink we've come to know without lyrics marked by defiance and, yes, a little drama. Namely, she put producer L.A. Reid on blast and ignited a mini-feud by name-checking Spears:

L.A. told me, "You'll be a pop star,
All you have to change is everything you are."
Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears
She's so pretty, that just ain't me.

While filming MTV's Making the Video in February 2002, Pink clarified, "I'm not dissing Britney Spears in this song, I'm actually giving her a compliment. ... It's more about the record company than it is about Britney Spears."

Even so, Spears admitted to Rolling Stone that October that "the whole thing hurt my feelings." (Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that Pink was not invited to Spears' 2004 wedding to Kevin Federline, who had been one of Pink's backup dancers and even appeared in the "Get the Party Started" video before he met the "...Baby One More Time" singer.)

And after 10 years of performing the track, Pink laughed as she told the Los Angeles Times in 2012, "I wish I could burn that song and never sing it again."

In 2021, when she looked back on media-spurred rivalries with Spears and Aguilera, Pink told PEOPLE: "I think we navigated through it as good as a 20-year-old girl can. Now I think it's totally different. Girls supporting girls is rad — I love to watch it."

"Just Like a Pill": Digging Deeper, Going Darker

Pink's growing hard-rock edge was put on display in full force in "Just Like a Pill," an exploration of her struggles with drug abuse as a young teenager.

Collaborating with producer Dallas Austin was simple, she told the L.A. Times: "[I thought about] when I used to be on drugs, I should write a song about it. When you're young, you think your ideas are so clever. I loved the video, I . . . loved it. Still one of my favorites. I dyed my hair black. My hair has to match my heart — so dramatic."

She told Rolling Stone in April 2002, "I'd like people who never thought they'd listen to a Pink album to be enlightened about how an artist can take control of her life, do what she wants, and f---in' break the mold and be successful."

More than any of Pink's songs before it, "Just Like a Pill" showed that no topic was off-limits, and this unapologetic openness would come to define her career in years to come.

"I write about the stuff I'm insecure about and the pain I'm feeling and how messy it is to manage a relationship and how f---king hard it is to relate to another human being," she told Variety in 2019.

Reid told VH1 in 2003, "The thing about Missundazstood is that, lyrically, it's a brilliant record. She wrote most, if not all, of the lyrics on the record."

He continued, "I think she does prove a point here. You can be a pop star and have a brain, and have some creativity, and have some depth, and have some feelings, and not be afraid to bare those feelings."

"Family Portrait": A Brutal Breakthrough

Pink told Making the Video in 2002, "To me, any truth is good whether it hurts or not" — and she put that belief to the test with "Family Portrait."

The song started as a poem she wrote as a 9-year-old to process her parents' divorce, she told VH1's Storytellers in 2012.

And she shared with ABC News in 2003 that "I went into the studio and I didn't know what I was going to sing and 20 minutes later I was crying and didn't really remember what I did."

The next year, she admitted to Entertainment Weekly that, when it came time to put out the single, "That was a song I was a little paranoid about. That's why the video was the way it was. It was a little girl singing instead of me, because it's too much for me. That little girl was me. That's how I was when I was 7 years old. Except I wasn't as cute."

RELATED VIDEO: P!NK on Working on Her 15-Year Marriage to Carey Hart: 'You Have to End Up Fixing Yourself'

Of course, the candor did come at a price: "My mom cried for four days when she heard it. I've seen my dad cry three times and that was one of them; that was awful," she told EW in 2012. "That was a song I wrote for me, and I didn't realize how much it was going to hurt them."

Pink said on Storytellers that "Family Portrait" ultimately became "one of the most important songs I ever wrote for myself and for my family."

And though it created friction, she believes the honesty helped her family be more upfront about their problems — a practice she's embraced in her own (sometimes messy) family life with husband Carey Hart (whom she married in 2006) and their children, Willow and Jameson.

Pink remained close to her dad, Jim Moore — whom she called "my first rockstar" — until his death from prostate cancer earlier this year.

Pink. Andrew Macpherson

In October 2001, as she looked ahead to what would ultimately become a career-shaping album, Pink told MTV, "It's very different from [Can't Take Me Home]. It's a lot more versatile, it's a lot less contrived, it's a lot more me."

The album was ultimately well-received, with a critic from the Baltimore Sun writing, "On Missundaztood, Pink gunned her engines in a totally different direction, recording rock-and blues-tinged pop. It's as if Beyoncé Knowles ripped off a mask and announced: 'Guess what? I am actually Gwen Stefani.'"

But it was an evolution she had to battle for: "[L.A. Reid and I] fought," she revealed to Rolling Stone Australia in 2017. "He was like, 'You can't abandon your fans.' And I said, 'I want to take them with me', and he said, 'Fine, I'm going to give you the opportunity to fail.'"

Missundaztood went on to receive two Grammy nominations, become the 10th highest-selling album of 2002 and ultimately sell 15 million copies worldwide.

Related Articles