Round about the time this single came out, I used to wonder what was the point of Pink. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that I used to wonder as to just who she was appealing to. Her outré behaviour and sexually aggressive image caught the eye for sure, but it stood at odds with her comparatively safe dance/rock output which in turn was too conservative and 'uncool' for the rock chic alt crowd who got down with Alanis, Gwen and Courtney (particularly as she's already shown she was willing to flaunt her sexuality in all the 'wrong' ways on 'Lady Marmalade') but too raucous for a prissy teen crowd seduced by early Britney and Christina. In hindsight I can regard her as something of a dry run for Lady Gaga (who trumps her on every level), because underneath it all Pink's various 'parts' never added up to much we haven't seen before.
Take 'Just Like A Pill' - that DIY new wave/no wave cover suggests some Lydia Lunch type subversion lurking within, but nothing of the sort. In fact, although 'Just Like A Pill' does have roots in the American music scene of the late seventies/eighties, it's less the underground than the defiantly overground AOR drive time staples that Pat Benatar or Heart were cranking out over on FM radio. Yes, Pink scowls and sneers out the implied drug references ("This must be a bad trip, all of the other pills, they were different") that equate a bad relationship with addiction in a way that dares to be daring, but at its core there's a safety net of conservative predictability that no amount of dyed hair or cropped tops are going to dispel.
Because although it would love to beg to differ, 'Just Like A Pill' never puts a foot off piste into anything leftfield and for me the biggest giveaway of its wannabe edge is the repeated "I said I tried to call the nurse again but she's being a little bitch" line. Pink snarls it out in a way that suggests she's saying something far, far worse, but its attempt at a punky shock is contrived to the point of grating to these ears, a whiff of danger that's only going to scandalise the same white, puritan, middle class America who went into meltdown over Janet Jackson's 2004 breast bearing Superbowl 'incident'.* Which kind of answer my own opening question I guess; 'Just Like A Pill' is going to appeal to rebellious teens with parents of low tolerance threshold who want to rock the boat and assert their right to be different but not that different. Because for all its aggressive front and defiance, 'Just Like A Pill' boils down to Pink as a helpless and needy woman as much dominated by her hormones and clearly unsuitable partner as any of the babes who populated Take That's output. And it leaves me cold I'm afraid.
* There was a censored version of the song that changed 'bitch' to 'witch'. Oh well, job done I guess.