Review Summary: The "bad bitch" part of Nicki Minaj must have been out to lunch for the recording of her album Pink Friday.
On “Roman’s Revenge,” a song off Nicki Minaj’s new album Pink Friday, she is a self-proclaimed “bad bitch,” but apparently that bad bitch was out to lunch during the majority of the recording of Pink Friday. The finished product is far more vanilla than anyone even vaguely familiar with her punchy, raunchy pun-filled rap style would have expected.
At her best, as on “Roman’s Revenge” Nicki’s style is unique: spitting at a hectic pace and changing up tempo that makes the listener uneasy. In the process, she busts out harsh criticisms and witticisms at breakneck speed while still seeming collected and in control. Rather than giving her audience a hearty meal of these disconcertingly frenetic and simultaneously catchy rhymes like the taste she provided on her verse for “Monster” from Kanye West’s latest album, she instead chooses to clog her album with boring pop drivel. These songs are comparable to the non-hit cast aside filler songs on a Rihanna album. Ever heard “Girl Like Me” by Rihanna? Yeah, with good reason. But apparently Nicki wanted to pay homage to uninteresting songs with this album.
What’s worse than the disappointing dearth of solid rapping is the plethora of whiny singing on the album. It’s not so much that she has an unbearable voice-one can put aside the undeniable screeching quality to it if awesome rhymes are flowing out-but when she’s singing, it’s a bit too pitchy and more than anything boringly flavorless to be acceptable in the amounts present. When she means to plead her lover to save her on the creatively titled “Save Me” she is clearly too inexperienced vocally to use her voice as a tool to convey any moving emotion. This gives the song an unsatisfying, insincere disconnect between the passionate words she’s saying and the lackluster delivery of them. A nonchalant delivery of emotional anguish works for artists like Kid Cudi, but in Nicki’s “Right Thru Me” she just sounds a little silly with lyrics such as “You see right through me, how do you do that s***?”
The major downfall of the album is how many different directions she is trying to take herself as an artist. Nicki is attempting in one album to have the levels, appeal, emotions, and unique style Kanye has had on his last three combined.
…And she’s trying to channel the bad-ass sexomaniac edge of Missy Elliot, clear on “Blow Ya Mind” which riffs (or rips) off Elliot’s uber-recognizable snake-charmeresque melody on “Get Ur Freak On.”
Oh, and with outlandish costumes and hair, add the freak flag appeal of Gaga to her wishlist. Interestingly she seems to have decided just how weird is too weird and never goes too far. So apparently she wants her fans to think she’s only a little bit of a “motha***in’ monster.”
On one of the best tracks on the album, “Girls Fall Like Dominos” her rhythm is slicker and the use of The Big Pink’s hit song “Dominos” makes for a standout backdrop for her rhymes. The great sound of the song helps to cover the unexplainably awkward name-dropping in the song but even here she has the agenda of trying to grab the attention of non-rap fans.
She tries to pull all this off by confusingly presenting herself as a mash-up of Nicki, Barbie, Roman and Martha; four…five (she added Rosa, a couple weeks ago). These are alter-egos that make up the superstar we’ve been presented with. But rather than the intriguing incite that an alter-ego such as Shady provides for Eminem, her egos confuse listeners. They seem to be less genuine artistic creations and more tailor made concoctions served to the public on a platter by a host of agents, designers and dressers who looked at what the public seems to enjoy and decided to produce Franken-Nicki.
One song that works on the album is “Check It Out.” It is undeniably made to be a pop hit, evidenced by: the presence of will.i.am on the track, the hypnotizing repetition of the three words of the title without purpose, and the unexplainable, unnecessary use of Asians in the video. But this is one of the only songs on the album where she accepts a pop fate, goes with it whole-heartedly, and thus her one minute rap segment can only be described as sick. It’s a perfect mix of fun, funny, and snippy with words like “Competition, why yes I would love some…exclamation- just for emphasis, and I don’t sympathize cause you a simple bitch.”
Some of the songs on Pink Friday that seem solid enough trail into boring pitfalls upon further inspection. Yes Nicki, we get it. You have lots of money. You get lots of sex from the genders of your choosing. You know famous people. But where’s the beef? The majority of rappers include some of these subjects in their pieces, but the good ones use them as segues into what the song is actually going to be about. For Nicki, knowing Lindsay Lohan and Angelina Jolie becomes the focus of many songs on the album.
Even raps that could be salvaged, like parts of “Fly” where her or Rihanna or Roman or Rosa or whoever aren’t singing, are backed with off-putting over-synthesized, cotton candy keyboard melodies, primed for pop songs but which sadly lessen the value or seriousness of her raps.
Pink Friday should not be seen as an album that proves that Nicki Minaj hype is overblown and unjustified. It is clear from the work she’s done with other artists she’s a talented rapper. She stands tall beside legends of the hip-hop world, sometimes managing to outdo them. Instead, this album proves that before her next album, Nicki has to figure out how to get the magic of the verses she does for other rappers into her own work. A good start might be rapping as one person.