In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week: In anticipation of this weekend’s Grammy Awards, the five songs up for the 2014 Song Of The Year award.
Nearly two decades into her career, P!nk still seems like a renegade who’s party-crashed mainstream music. She’s the pop star with whom you want to close down a bar or do bad karaoke; that she’s also an arena-filling radio darling feels like a victory for weirdos everywhere. Perhaps that’s why P!nk’s more vulnerable songs aren’t the usual treacly fare. In fact, “Just Give Me A Reason”—a duet with fun.’s Nate Ruess, who also co-wrote the song—is a surprisingly nuanced look at two people questioning the stability of a relationship.
The song starts with P!nk feeling troubled after overhearing doubts murmured by her significant other while asleep. Ruess then offers reassurances that her “head is running wild again,” but then also slips in his own concerns (“You used to lie so close to me”). With these troubles out in the open, the duo spends the rest of the song figuring out whether to stay together or let a good thing go.
“Just Give Me A Reason” could easily become overblown (and overbearing), but the song smartly offers an unadorned sonic foundation, just pirouetting piano and some simple percussion. The chorus too is basic but effective: The pair sings the melody line together, intertwining their voices in appealing unison. This arrangement is a literal sign of solidarity that underscores the relationship is salvageable, that the pair is “not broken just bent / And we can learn to love again.” It’s a pragmatic but sentimental approach to moving forward past obstacles, making it one of the more realistic portrayals of relationship turbulence in recent times.