Sober (Pink song)
|Single by Pink|
|from the album Funhouse|
|B-side||"When We're Through"|
|Released||November 3, 2008|
|Pink singles chronology|
"Sober" is a song by the American singer-songwriter Pink, taken from her fifth studio album, Funhouse (2008). It was written by Pink and Kara DioGuardi, with additional writing by Nate "Danja" Hills and Marcella Araica, while production was done by Danja, Tony Kanal and Jimmy Harry. The song was released as the album's second single on October 31, 2008, firstly through digital download and later was added to U.S. radio stations on December 1, 2008. The power pop song talks about the quiet sense of comfort in being sober, with the singer claiming it was about the vices that we choose.
The song received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who commended the track for being a heartfelt track, with some praising its lyrical content. However, few critics dismissed the track, calling it "more of the same" from her previous music. Furthermore, the song received a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2010. Commercially, "Sober" attained success on the charts, reaching the top-ten in over thirteen countries, while reaching the top-twenty in the U.S., as well as the top of Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart. A music video for the track was directed by Jonas Akerlund and it finds Pink at a party with her doppelgänger.
Background and recording
In February 2008, Pink announced that she and her husband Carey Hart had separated, which led the singer to write songs for a new album. It was confirmed that she was working with many music producers such as Butch Walker, Billy Mann, Eg White and Danja. While working on the album, she penned a track called "Sober" with Kara DioGuardi, claiming it was "about the vices that we choose." She added, "I had this idea in my head, 'like how do I feel this good sober?' So I brought that idea to Danja and with this awesome girl Kara DioGuardi and we wrote this song, Sober. And it's a pretty telling song and then me and Tony Kanal and Jimmy Harry finished it, production-wise, threw some strings on it and made it a little bit darker and a little bit more rocky." Danja and Marcella Araica contributed to additional lyrics, with Danja, Kanal and Harry serving as the producers of the song. Araica, Harry and Jake Davis recorded the track at Sha Recording (Malibu, California), 3:20 Studios (Los Feliz, Los Angeles) and Henson Recording Studios (Virginia Beach, Virginia). Jimmy Harry was also responsible for guitars and keyboards, while Tony Kanal provided bass.
"Sober" was selected to be "Funhouse"'s second single, after the huge success of "So What". It received airplay before release in Australia on Today Network's stations and the Hot 30 Countdown and was the number one most added song on Australian radio. It was first released as a digital download on iTunes, on October 31, 2008, before being released to radio stations on December 1, 2008. While announced its release on her official website, Pink claimed, "It’s just a really, really personal beautiful song, one of my favorites.” While reviewing the single, Alex Fletcher wrote for Digital Spy that the song is "a dramatic U-turn from the brash and ballsy single 'So What', but reiterated that "it's a better representation of her 'Funhouse' album" than its lead single." Slant's Jonathan Keefe disagreed, calling it an "oddly-chosen second single."
Composition and lyrics
"Sober" is a power pop song, featuring heavy guitars and booming snare. It is written in the key of E minor (recorded in D♯ minor) and set at a moderately slow tempo of 91 beats per minute, following a chord progression of D♯5–B5–F♯. In the song, Pink's vocals span from the low-note of E♯3 to the high-note of D5. Lyrically, the song speaks about the quiet sense of comfort in being sober. Lucy Davies of BBC Music went further, writing that the song "discusses the blackouts resulting from drinking to avoid becoming those she sneers at." Chris William, writing for Entertainment Weekly, commented that the song finds Pink "questioning her need to be numbed by booze and noise." Mark Blankenship of New Now Next analyzed the song, writing that it is "about a woman who only loves herself when she’s drunk, who wishes she could like herself this much when she’s sober, but who can’t seem to pull herself out of her spiral. She later discussed the song's lyrics in an interview, stating:
I wrote a song called "Sober", which is actually really dark. I was at a party at my own house, I didn't want to be there, I didn't want anyone else there. And I had this line in my head saying, 'How do I feel this good sober?', it's not just about alcohol, it's about vices, we all have different ones. We try to get away from ourselves, and find our 'true selves' and then we do these things that take us so far from the truth, I guess that 'Sober' is 'How do I feel this good when it's just me, without anything to lean on?'.
The song received generally favorable reviews from music critics. Davey Boy of Sputnikmusic called the song "a highlight that immediately follows the opener," praising her vocals, writing that they "are at her heartfelt best on this strings-assisted cut, which is sure to be a grower." Jon Dolan of Blender enjoyed the track, commenting that it "conflates the pain of love and the love of booze so convincingly that the girls from 'Lady Marmalade' might want to regroup for an intervention." Susan Yudt of Common Sense Media praised the track for "channel[ing] the buzz of a love that's all-consuming, culminating in a breathtaking string quartet coda." Evan Sawdey wrote for PopMatters that "Pink launches into the surprisingly downtrodden, a song that once again spends time convincing herself that everything’s alright."
Andy Battaglia from The A.V. Club stated that 'Sober' is "a solemn song that slinks along at a slower speed, the better to bear out the grainy range of her voice." Spence D. of IGN called it a "syncopated rhythm driven ballad," while Joan Anderman wrote for Boston Globe that the song "finds the sweet spot between "American Idol" and the Red Hot Chili Peppers." Michael Cragg of musicOMH was more mixed, writing that 'Sober' and 'Please Don't Leave Me' are catchy future singles, but both tread the same I-hate-you-I-love-you path she's walked down a dozen times." In the same vein, Alex Fletcher of Digital Spy called it "not one of her most memorable singles, but [it] should find its way on to the nation's airwaves."
"Sober" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in its 2010 edition, but lost it to Beyoncé's "Halo". While listing the "Top 100 Pop Songs of 2008", Bill Lamb of About.com placed the song at number 72, writing that "Pink is likely to make more than a few parents happy with the sentiments of this song celebrating the value of partying sober. She is one of the most consistent artists in the pop mainstream today." "Sober" was also on Lamb's "Top 10 Best Pink Songs" list, being ranked at number 6, while Nadine Cheung of AOL Radio also listed her "Top 10 Songs", placing it at number 5. Jessica Letkemann of Billboard ranked "P!nk's 20 Biggest Billboard Hits", with "Sober" being the 15th, being praised for its "circular guitar riff and a big backbeat." In 2012, Mark Blankenship of New Now Next put the song at number-one on her best tracks, describing that "there are many reasons that 'Sober' is my jam. For one, the lyrics are dense and satisfying. It takes more than a superficial listen to catch the nuance [of the song]. Plus, this story gets told with a thrilling rock score [...]. The 'spinning round' bridge is quiet and lovely, while the chorus is all shouts and emotion. The verses are fully of theatrical pauses and inflections, and the ending just drips with power notes. It’s amazing."
"Sober" debuted at number 53 on the Billboard Hot 100 issue dated December 13, 2008. After falling to number 65, the song jumped to number 49. In its fourth week, the song cracked the top-forty, reaching number 34, while in its eighth week, it entered the top-twenty, reaching number 20. After weeks fluctuating on the charts, the song reached a peak of number 15 on the issue dated March 7, 2009.  In other Billboard component charts, "Sober" was even more successful, reaching number 3 on the Pop Songs chart, and topping the Adult Top 40 chart, becoming her third consecutive number-one there, with "Who Knew" and "So What" being the two prior. It was also the first time an artist scored three consecutive number ones on the Adult Top 40 in the chart's history, as well as the first time a female artist has achieved three number ones on the chart. As of May 2011, "Sober" has sold over 2,037,000 downloads in the United States, becoming the second million-selling song from the Funhouse album. Elsewhere, the song became a top-ten hit in over twelve countries.
"Sober" made its debut on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart, entering at number 16 and peaking at number 6 six weeks later. In 2009, the song was certified double platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 140,000 copies. In New Zealand, the song debuted at number 35 and peaked at number 7, on December 15, 2008. In the United Kingdom, the song entered at number 80 and eventually peaked at number 9. In Austria, "Sober" peaked at number 4, and remained at its peak position for five non-consecutive weeks, while in Netherlands, it charted higher, reaching number 2. In Canada, "Sober" debuted at number 66 and went on to peak at number 8.
The music video was directed by Jonas Akerlund and filmed in the last days of September in Stockholm, Sweden. It plays on a dream-like space between real and imagined over the course of a night. Pink hosts a party attended by a vamped up version of herself and the two quickly fall into bed, scratching and biting each other.
The video starts with views from the city and then a little TV is turned on in Pink's bedroom and Pink appears in white. The song starts, and Pink is shown in the bedroom lying on the bed alone, and a girl is shown walking out of the door of the room. As the first verse starts, Pink is shown sitting on a sofa in a party where her doppelgänger is drunk and flirting with different girls and guys. Pink's doppelgänger is shown in the bathroom, throwing up. Pink enters the bathroom and sits beside her doppelgänger who seemed disturbed and then walks out. Pink is now lying on the bed, her doppelgänger calls her up, but Pink doesn't answer her cell. As the chorus begins, Pink is shown singing on her bed in her bedroom and on the sofa in the party. And then pictures of a white room where Pink is dressed with white outfit and wearing a white pageboy wig are shown. The second verse is sung in the same location. As the chorus starts again, Pink is shown walking in the room where the party was held where everybody is blacked out and drunk, including her doppelgänger. As the song reaches its climax, the bridge kicks off and Pink is shown making out with her doppelgänger in bed. The scene was cut or replaced by almost all TV channels. Various scenes from the video are then shown and the video ends with one of the Pinks walking out of the door of the bedroom leaving the other Pink alone.
- Single CD
- "Sober" — 4:11
- "When We're Through" — 4:22
- Maxi CD
- "Sober" — 4:14
- "When We're Through" — 4:22
- "Sober" (Bimbo Jones Radio Edit) — 3:04
- "Sober" (Junior's Spinning Around Tribal Dub) — 9:00
Charts and certifications
|Brazil||October 31, 2008||Digital download||Sony Music|
|Australia||November 15, 2008||Digital download, CD single|
|U.S.||December 1, 2008||Mainstream radio||RCA Records|
|Germany||December 5, 2008||Digital download, CD single||Sony Music|
|UK||January 19, 2009||Digital download, CD single|
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