This stripped-back piano piece was written by Pink with Fun frontman Nate Ruess. The song is about the desire to hold on to a relationship even when it appears to be breaking down, and was inspired by a hypothetical argument over butter. Pink told music the streaming service Spotify: "Sometimes [one partner] can be like, 'The way you passed me the butter this morning, I kinda feel like we're going to be over in a month and we need to talk' and he's like, 'I just passed you the f---ing butter, what are you talking about?' and that's how I felt the song should go, 'We're growing apart, you don't spoon any more, like it's all over.'"
The song was produced by Jeff Bhasker, who had previously worked with Ruess on Fun.'s Some Nights album. However, it was the first time Pink had worked with the knob twiddler.
Pink duets with Ruess on the track, but she had to trick him into singing his part. She recalled to Spotify: "I was like, 'no, this is a story, this is a conversation this song' - it needs the other perspective whether it's a guy and a girl, or two girls or two guys. 'I came in and tried to convince him that this was how the conversation was going to go and it was interesting you know, he was like 'I'll just do the demo cos I don't know about duets' and I totally tricked him into doing it, and I am so glad I was able to. 'I think now he's very happy that he did it, I think it's a beautiful song and I'm really, really proud of it."
Running 4:03, this ballad is more subtle than most hit songs of the time, but it employs some clever songwriting techniques to help its appeal. The piano melody at the beginning changes when the verse starts, but comes back for the pre-chorus ("you've been talking in your sleep..."), so we've already been given a taste of it by the time the song gets going. This first pre-chorus is sung by Pink; the second one ("You've been havin' real bad dreams...") starts with Reuss but then Pink joins him, although the instrumentation is identical for both sections.
After the second chorus, there is a bridge, which is the climax to the intensity that has been building to this point. This is followed by a breakdown chorus with just vocals and drums, providing a break for the listener. A fourth chorus immediately follows, this time with all the instrumentation restored. Finally, the song ends with a :38 second outro - very long by hit song standards - concluding with the same piano melody that started the song.
This was Pink's fourth #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her previous three were:
2001 "Lady Marmalade
" (with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim and Mya).
2008 "So What
2010 "Raise Your Glass
The song's elevation to the peak position meant that Nate Ruess became the first male singer of a Rock band to collect a solo #1 since Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas sang on Santana's "Smooth
," in 1999.
The song replaced Bruno Mars' ballad "When I Was Your Man
" at the top of the Hot 100. It was the first occurrence of ballads following one another at the Hot 100 summit since Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love
" gave way to Rihanna's "Take A Bow
" in May 2008.
Pink's hookup with Jeff Bhasker came about through RCA co-president Peter Edge. The hit-making producer told Billboard magazine about the collaboration: "We just kind of did it in one day and got together and hammered it out... it just kind of magically came together, and almost in an improvisational way. I started playing some chords and Nate just started singing, and Alecia started typing down lyrics and we just kind of put the song together from there. It was an unusually collaborative and spontaneous song."
Nate Ruess told MTV News: "Writing the song was a whole different learning experience and was really fueled by the fact that Alecia [Pink's real name is Alecia Moore] is so strong and independent and so very much herself. At the end of the day it's so hard to argue against her because what she does it always so great."
Pink told Billboard magazine how she had to fight to get Nate Ruess on the song. "Nate wasn't sure that he wanted to be on a collaboration with a pop star," she explained. "Their label is an independent label, they weren't sure. And I just kept telling them—well, I kind of tricked him into doing it, because we wrote the first verse the first day and basically the chorus, and then I went home and I was looking over the lyrics and thinking about the song, and it was never supposed to be a collaboration. We were just collaborating as writing partners. But I was like, 'This song is a conversation between lovers.' And he had to do it because he's my favorite voice right now, aside from probably Adele."
"I went back in and wrote the second verse and I sort of pitched the song," Pink added. "And he was like, 'Yeah, I don't know how my band's going to feel about it.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I get it. I wouldn't want to be on a song with a pop star either. But you can't deny that it's a conversation—you just put the vocals down as the scratch vocal and I'll get Gotye to sing it.' And I knew that was a huge dig. And [so] he sang it and I knew, no matter what he said, no one was going to sing it better. It just took many, many months of convincing."
Ruess and Pink performed this song at the Grammy Awards in 2014, where it was nominated for Song Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (it lost to "Royals
" and "Get Lucky
"). Pink did an aerial acrobatic rendition of her song "Try
" before joining Ruess.