The Ones of the ’10s: P!nk’s “Just Give Me A Reason” (feat. Nate Ruess)

In The Ones of the ‘10s, I’m reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and working my way up into the present.

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P!nk- “Just Give Me A Reason” (feat. Nate Ruess)

HIT #1: April 27, 2013

STAYED AT #1: 3 weeks

It wasn’t supposed to be a collaboration. While working on her 2012 album, The Truth About Love, P!nk had hooked up with singer Nate Ruess to write some songs together. Ruess had just had his big breakthrough that year as the frontman for the indie rock band fun. with the #1 hit “We Are Young.” During their sessions, they along with fun. producer Jeff Bhasker began writing a song about a couple wanting to save a relationship from falling apart. They already had the first verse and chorus written when Pink looked them over and realized her song would be better as a duet between two differing perspectives. And being a big fan of Ruess and fun., P!nk asked him to sing with her on the song. 

It wasn’t an easy request. Ruess had concerns about what his band would think of him doing a duet with a major pop star and wasn’t keen on doing duets. Not feeling deterred, P!nk told him to sing for a demo that she would use to get Gotye to sing with her, the man who had knocked Ruess’ band from #1. But it was all a trick as Ruess’ singing track became the track that would make the song.

Upon its release in September 2012, The Truth About Love outdid previous P!nk albums by debuting at #1 on Billboard eventually going three times platinum. The album had already launched a couple of Top 10 hits but its real ace in the hole, one that topped charts in 21 countries and became P!nk’s biggest American hit, was a song where both P!nk and Nate Ruess sing about working out each other’s problems to save their relationship.

Looking back, it’s pretty remarkable that a song like “Just Give Me A Reason” was able to get big in 2013. On a star power level I get it, both Pink and Nate Ruess were known commodities at the time but this is essentially grown-up music about very grown-up things. Not the type of music you’d expect to be big in a year that’s already seen goofy hip-hop and viral novelties go to #1. Though Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” the previous #1 was a sparser ballad about a relationship that didn’t work out. Maybe after the success of “Somebody That I Used To Know,” people were just really into songs about couples going through shit in their relationships. I can only speculate.

In the lyrics, “Just Give Me A Reason” is essentially about a couple who haven’t been able to express themselves to each other presenting two very different viewpoints. P!nk doesn’t mince words in the opening, “Right from the start/You were a thief, you stole my heart.” She feels like this relationship isn’t working out but on the second verse Ruess comes in singing “I’m sorry I don’t understand where all of this is coming from/I thought that we were fine.” In his mind, their relationship was going well and that it’s all a bad dream. On the chorus, they both state that while they’re having troubles they can still mend it and be happy together, “We’re not broken, just bent/And we can learn to love again.” 

The song doesn’t start off right away as a duet. Ruess doesn’t come in til the second verse before harmonizing with P!nk for the rest of the song. From a performance standpoint, both P!nk and Ruess complement each other well and manage to pull off the conversation style tone of the lyrics. They sell the turmoil of a relationship sounding tired and somber but also hopeful for their future. Both of them really work hard here in their singing which is especially evident on the bridge where strings swell and both artists raise the intensity in their voices with each line before P!nk belts out at the end, “We’ll come clean!”

It’s a song that has a lot going for it and I wish I liked it more than I did. It’s got some good lyrics, good performances, and good production anchored by a nice piano melody and a drumbeat that sounds like a slowed-down version of what Bhasker did on “We Are Young.” But it’s the kind of down the middle adult-contempo pop that doesn’t leave much of an impression on me. I can certainly appreciate the song for what it is but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to listen to.

The music video for “Just Give Me A Reason” was directed by Diane Martel who puts three distinct storylines in the video. One features P!nk and Ruess singing together, another shows P!nk on a bed on an artificial marsh with an eye glowing teddy bear watching Ruess sing on a TV, and a third one showing P!nk and her husband, motocross racer Cory Hart, cuddled up with each other before diving into the water and making out at the end. It’s not a particularly buzzworthy video but it managed to win Best Collaboration at the 2013 MTV VMAs and currently has over a billion views on YouTube. 

For Ruess, the success of “Just Give Me A Reason” certainly added more success to an already busy year. Aside from his hits with fun., Ruess had also quickly developed himself as an industry songwriter where just before the P!nk song had his biggest hit as a songwriter with Kesha’s “Die Young” which peaked at #2 in late 2012. (It’s an 8.) All of this success didn’t last for long. His highest-charting hit since “Just Give Me A Reason” was later in 2013 as another feature on Eminem’s “Headlights” which peaked at #45. On his own, his highest-charting single, 2015’s “Nothing Without Love” only peaked at #77. The song came from his only solo album to date Grand Romantic which made the Top 10 but didn’t make much impact. Since then, he’s kept a relatively low profile but continues to net songwriting credits on recent releases by the likes of Halsey and Kesha. 

Before “Just Give Me A Reason,” Pink was still a chart presence more than two years after last hitting #1 with the empowering dance-pop jam “Raise Your Glass,” a single released from her 2010 greatest hits album Greatest Hits… So Far!!!. She came close with her “Raise Your Glass” follow-up, the similarly empowering but dull “F**kin’ Perfect” which peaked at #2. (It’s a 5.) Her first two singles from The Truth About Love had also made the Top 10 before “Just Give Me A Reason” became a hit with both being more uptempo electropop “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” and “Try.” (“Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” peaked at #5. It’s a 5. “Try” peaked at #9. It’s a 6.)

In the years since, P!nk has only made the Top 10 one other time and that was with 2016’s “Just Like Fire,” a soundtrack cut for the Tim Burton live-action Alice In Wonderland sequel Alice Through The Looking Glass. The film was a critical and commercial flop but the song was popular enough to peak at #10 despite it sucking. (It’s a 4.) She’s put out two more albums since with 2017’s Beautiful Trauma and 2019’s Hurts 2B Human as well as a collaborative folk album in 2014 under the name You+Me with City and Colour singer Dallas Green. She also remains a big live draw with her Beautiful Trauma tour ranking among some of the highest-grossing tours ever. 

These days, P!nk seems to have eased into an elder statesman role as shown by her receiving the Video Vanguard Award at the 2017 MTV VMAs. She’s also been taking a break from music over the last year to spend more time with her family but like most people she didn’t have the best 2020 being diagnosed with COVID-19, breaking her ankle, and getting a staph infection. I wish the best for her. Once it becomes safe to do so again, P!nk will certainly be back to packing arenas and stadiums and we should all try to see P!nk in concert.

GRADE: 6/10

BONUS BEATS: Here’s P!nk and Bastille frontman Dan Smith performing “Just Give Me A Reason” at the 2019 Brit Awards:

(As lead artists, Bastille’s highest-charting single is 2013’s “Pompeii,” which peaked at #5. It’s an 8. As guests, their highest-charting single is the 2018 Marshmello collab “Happier,” which peaked at #2. That one is a 6.)

BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here are Andrew Leeds and Alice Lee singing “Just Give Me A Reason” together on a 2020 episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: