On Thursday night, musician Ariel Pink went on Tucker Carlson’s show to talk about being “canceled” for attending Donald Trump’s rally prior to the insurrection at the Capitol last week. The six-minute interview revealed nothing new about Pink, née Rosenberg, who spent the duration in a put-on shocked disbelief that his actions had consequences. The interview came after Pink’s label, Mexican Summer, severed its relationship with him.
If you’re not that familiar with Pink beyond his music, it may strike you as odd that a guy who was not so long ago a music-blog darling—heralded for his admittedly solid chillwave interpretations, which tended to look back at the psychedelia of the 1960s and new wave of the 1980s—would find himself participating the kind of right-wing grievance that you usually see from boaters in MAGA hats. But Pink, now 42 years old, has always been this way, and it only took the harsh spotlight that comes with cozying up to Donald Trump to blow up his career.
As he was receiving accolades all over the place for his music in the last decade—”Round and Round” was Pitchfork’s song of the year in 2010, and his follow-up album, Mature Themes, was released to critical acclaim—Pink was also voicing his views, and though they preceded the rise of Trumpism, the ingredients were there for a full right-wing turn.
In a 2012 interview with The Wire, Pink went off on a tangent about what he considered “beta male revenge.” In short, he believed that those who society described as “beta” were superior because, and this is a real quote, “Beta males have got it figured out so that they don’t have to chase or rape their prey, so to speak.” That same year, he also went on the Pitchfork Weekly video series and shared his views on gay marriage: “I’m very old fashioned, very traditional in my values. I don’t understand what all this gay marriage stuff is about, it really pisses me off,” he said. “I don’t really even support marriage, per se.” He did later add in an aside: “I love gays, by the way.”
After years of being relegated to a blog curio following his peak in the early 2010s, Pink came back late last year spouting the right-wing party line on climate change: “I never rallied against climate science, but you really do have to wonder now if all of that stuff was bullshit. And in my opinion it probably is. Because literally everything the Democrats stand for, every single platform, is bullshit.” He also stated that he’s argued with his doctor father about the COVID-19 vaccine, saying it doesn’t stop people from catching the virus, only from displaying symptoms. He finished off that appearance by saying that the Democrats stole the 2020 election, a claim he bashfully walked back on Carlson’s show on Thursday.
One thing Pink did not mention on Tucker Carlson’s show, his first public appearance since he attended the rally last Tuesday, was that, on the same day, he had lost a court case against his ex-girlfriend, Charlotte Ercoli Coe, who Pink claimed was trying to blackmail him over her allegations of his physical and sexual abuse. Among Coe’s accusations are that Pink attacked her on stage at a 2017 San Francisco show, that he “bullied [her] into [having] unprotected sex with him,” and that he had shared naked photographs of her with fans. Pink denied all of the alleged abuse.
Though the timing of the court decision against Pink was coincidental to his attending Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, the broader picture of a man who has gone through life being “transgressive,” as Carlson put it, becomes clearer. Pink has made a career from being someone who says and does things that wouldn’t be expected from a guy who looks and plays music like him. It’s not a hard leap to go from being a guy who occasionally gives non-PC interview answers and does weird stuff on Adult Swim to decrying the cancel culture “mob,” which Pink claims has taken his livelihood now that he can’t release music with Mexican Summer.
What Pink provides is a clear image of a certain kid of “transgressive” Trump supporter, for whom getting into Trump has always been more of a personality quirk than a fervent political stance. It’s an aesthetic pose, meant to do little more than make a certain kind of person angry or alarmed. It’s also not out of character. Pink has based his career on triggering those who he considers soft: He once said that he appreciated being bullied because it made him thick-skinned, and one said in an LA Weekly profile that, “Anyone who is crying about police brutality or victimization as an adult needs to stop it and realize the privileges we have in this country.”
The irony is that this particular strain of Trump support also happens to be shot through with an intense desire for victimhood. As you can see in the interview, Pink is just exasperated that someone might not want to do business with him anymore because he’s the kind of asshole who would attend a Trump rally. “People are so mean,” he moans.
That Pink thought he could make a public show of supporting Trump, at this particular moment in time, and expect it to be chalked up as just another provocative, “consequence-free” career pivot tells you everything you need to know about what a boring, sad asshole he has always been.