Divide and conquer is the game Nicki Minaj plays on her second album, splitting her time between brilliant hip hop and generic dance-pop while she (or perhaps it’s Roman) remains hell bent on complete world domination. In her own words, “Yo! I guess I went commercial”, a move that has alienated some of her original fan base but picked up millions of new fans in the process.
Of course, she later claims that she isn’t transitioning to pop: “’Nicki pop’/Only thing that’s pop is my endorsement op”. But I beg to differ. From ‘Starships’ onwards, it is blatant dance-pop. ‘Starships’ is pretty catchy but the chaotic synths ruin the song. Club banger, ‘Pound the Alarm’, sounds virtually the same as the aforementioned hit single and ‘Automatic’, sounds like some kid with a Mac who thought they could produce a pop song from a template.
Minaj does not have very strong vocals, so she relies on auto-tune for tracks like ‘Right By My Side’ (featuring Chris Brown). On ‘Marilyn Monroe’, I forgot I was even listening to Minaj as she attempts to show her vocal abilities. It’s clear her talents lie in MCing so it’s ironic that her bubblegum pop is bringing her success.
In the album’s first half, she’s in her rapping element as the mad scientist mixing witty lyrics, crazy delivery and larger than life personas over simple beats. In ‘Roman Holiday’ she says it best: “My flow’s the sickest/And I’m a lunatic/And this can’t be cured with no Elixir”. But she’s totally busted for recycling old raps in ‘Whip It’ with the second verse straight off ‘F*** U Silly’ from her mixtape days: “Is that my cue? I’m looking for some brain to boost my IQ/I’m like 5’2, my SAT scores was high too,” while the rest of the song sounds like Britney Spears.
‘Champion’ (featuring Nas, Drake and Young Jeezy) and ‘I Am Your Leader’ (featuring Rick Ross and Cam’ron) are standouts on the album and showcase the stellar line-up of featuring artists. ‘Va Va Voom’ was slated to be the lead single but was scrapped at the last second, which is a real shame as it is one of the better songs.
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is obviously an attempt to cater to everyone as she incorporates the fierce, street Queens girl in the more hardcore tracks and the sweet sugary Barbie doll in the dance-pop songs. The 19-track album was full of underwhelming fillers. I wish she had done more of her signature crazy raps; they would have been the cherry on top.
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