Pink on super-producer Max Martin: 'We never wanted to work together' and 'argue a lot'

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A version of this story originally appeared in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now and available here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Pink returned Friday with her first solo album in five years: the uplifting, anthem-filled Beautiful Trauma, featuring collaborations with Eminem and producers Max Martin and Jack Antonoff.

Below, the outspoken pop star, 38, dishes to EW on singing with a message, begging former collaborator Eminem to team-up again, and why she never wanted to work with Martin.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The album’s lead single, “What About Us,” has an urgent message about feeling left behind by our leaders. Is that why you released it first?
PINK: I needed to make that. I am an engaged person. I am very political — I’m from a military family. I’ve always been this way. I believe in equality and inclusiveness and diversity and kindness and just generally not being a total douchebag. But my whole day is not CNN. My day is filled with a lot of beautiful s— and a lot of long-term marriage [stuff with husband Carey Hart]. Life is still being lived.

You’ve always made music with a message — you put out “Dear Mr. President” in 2006.
I’ve realized that if I’m uncomfortably honest, then this is going to mean something to somebody. I wanted to be a social worker before all of this, and that made me realize the rest of this is bulls—. I’m never going to win a popularity contest and be the prettiest — why start now?

You’ve worked with hitmaker Max Martin (Katy Perry, Taylor Swift) since 2006. What’s your creative relationship like?
We argue a lot. We never wanted to work together. [Laughs] That was one of the label’s decisions. I brought three bottles of wine and said, “You don’t want to be here, and you can be damn sure I don’t want to be here. We’re going to drink this first bottle before we even talk.” We ended up talking about music, and the more Max talks about music, the more you’re like, ‘Holy s—, this guy is a closet punk rocker!’ And he’s a good dude. You notice I don’t work with Dr. Luke anymore.

Eminem, who was on your last album, is featured on the highlight “Revenge.” Were you planning for another duet?
No, I sneak-attacked him. Max and I started making the song, and I wrote this rap. We were drinking a lot of wine, and then I went home and I thought more wine would be a good idea. Then I emailed [Eminem] — this is why they call it liquid courage — and said, “You know I love you. I like that you work with a lot of the same people, like Rihanna. She’s hotter than me, but I’m funnier. So I’m going for a rap Grammy, and I’d like to take you along with me.” It was this long email, and he wrote back right away and just said “Okay.” [Laughs]

You and Carey have two kids: daughter Willow, 6, and son Jameson, 9 months. Is Willow aware of your day job?
She’s trying to figure out what being famous means. I keep telling her it means nothing unless you’re doing good things. She said the other day, “Why am I so lucky that I get to have you as a mom?” I’m like, “Oh my God!” And she’s like, “No, not because you’re a good mom, because you’re famous and everybody wants to be famous.” [Laughs] It was almost a nice moment!

Your VMAs acceptance speech, where you talked about Willow’s self-image struggles, went viral in August. What was the fan response like?
There’ve been so many tears! This woman wrote me on Twitter, “My daughter likes to shop in the boys section in Target and girls at school have been really hard on her. The last couple of weeks she’s been thinking about trying to change. So we were going to get her makeup and some girly-girl skirts and now, after your speech, she asked me if I would take her back to where she likes to shop.” I have tears in my eyes right now.

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