Review Summary: Nicki's sophomore effort plays more like two poorly conceived albums than one cohesive work.
On “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” Nicki tries to capitalize on the critical and commercial success of her hip-hop roots and her pop singles, respectively, by creating a half of the album that is distinctly Roman, and another half that is distinctly pop. But in the process of showing versatility, she stretches herself far too thin, actually creating two albums, jammed into one confusing work that clocks in at almost 70 minutes. Not only are there too many genres, the songs are poorly done as well.
The darker half of the album spans from tracks 1-9. On this half, Nicki uses her flamboyant male alter-ego Roman to show attitude. The lines show personality, and some of the production is surprisingly good. “Roman Holiday” sees Roman having an inner dialogue with his haters (or religious suppressors) with some brilliant, exorcist-themed production. The slight production of “Roman Reloaded” and “Beez In The Trap,” allows Roman to showcase the lines that allowed his rise to fame. “HOV Lane” is the standout though, Roman has no collaborators and he reminds everyone just why he's so amazing, dropping lines like “Every shoe is hot/When I'm out, I'm spotted/ They gon' frame the receipt if I sign the dotted.”
On the downside, some of the calls seem trite, especially in “I Am Your Leader” and “Come On A Cone” and their constant references to oral sex. The final, more R&B-influenced tracks are also poor. They all see Roman letting down his wall, but to a disappointing result. All of the verses of “Champion” are brilliantly dark and heartbreaking, and Minaj even pays homage to her late cousin, but the chorus seems too introspective for such an emotional song. “Right By My Side” is almost all singing, and Minaj's gets upstaged by Chris Brown's vocal capabilities. “Sex In The Lounge” isn't even Minaj's song, as she only gets the first verse, and it's boring, showing neither Roman or Minaj.
All of a sudden, the album makes a rocky transition into the second half of the album, the pop section. Had the R&B songs not been so boring, listeners might have been prepared for Nicki to kick in, but instead, “Starships” is immediately pumped out. As a RedOne production, the song is a fun 4/4 romp, and the raps show extreme personality. The track would have been a standout had the next 4 tracks, also produced by RedOne, not sounded exactly the same. Additionally, the auto tune makes Minaj's voice unrecognizable, and the rapping, if there is any, is either basic or nonsensical (“Hey, you, jump in this ride/It's real nice, and slippery inside”).
Minaj then starts to let her wall down, much like Roman does towards the end. However, she encounters the same problem as Roman does. In “Marilyn Monroe,” her limited vocal capabilities make her confessional seem fraudulent. The rest of the balladry encounters similar sonic, lyric and vocal problems. Finally, we have “Stupid Hoe.” After eight tracks of pop, the track couldn't have come at a better time, with Roman ripping you out of your seat for one final throwdown, with some disses that are better than people give the song credit for (“Who's gassin' this hoe, BP?”). Although the track is distinctly Roman, it finishes the album off on a more confusing note than it already had been.
Why mesh hardcore rap with light pop? Minaj tries to do so, but with the lack of transitions, the albums becomes incoherent. It's as if she chopped rap and pop right down the middle with an R&B knife and made two albums. As a result of trying to be "genre-breaking," Minaj bites off more than she can chew and she compromises the quality of her music. "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded" is like Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." It tries to do more than it can, and it ends up being a complete mess.