Nicki Minaj is a fairly divisive figure these days. Between rap fans disappointed that she’s gone a bit pop, pop fans who think she’s trying to be Lady Gaga, and the general public who seem to think she’s just a bit of a publicity hungry moron, she can’t seem to do anything right. Which makes it even more spectacularly unfair that this album has come now, because frankly it’s my favourite of the year so far.
It doesn’t help matters that with each song she releases (and recently there have been MANY) you don’t know which Nicki is going to turn up. There’s the dance-pop diva of “Starships” or “Super Bass”, the R’n’B “LOOK AT ME I’M A REAL PERSON AFTER ALL” balladtress (I don’t think that that’s a word but it is now) of “Fly” or new song “Marilyn Monroe”, and then there’s the rapping, aggressive “I’m going to do a shit on your head” urban queen.
This album is almost cleanly split down the middle, urban Nicki on one side, mainstream Nicki on t’other. Frankly, I am not that enamoured with the rapping. I mean, it’s fine and everything, if you like that sort of thing, but let’s face it, I’m not that kind of guy. Still, there’s fun to be had. “Roman Holiday” isn’t the fucking mess that her Grammy performance would have you know, “Come on a Cone” might actually have you singing to yourself “dick in your face, put my dick in your face…” absentmindedly to yourself (seriously, careful, I almost started doing it at a job interview the other day) and “HOV Lane” is quite tuneful, if a rather generic brag-fest. “Beez in the Trap” actually reminds of Fergic classic “Fergalicious” in a weird way.
It’s not all good. “Roman Reloaded” is outright rubbish, only being saved by Lil Wayne coining the phrase “Nicki Minaj a trois”, which is basically the line of the album. As for the HIDEOUS “Sex in the Lounge” well…. you can pretty much guess what sort of song it will be by the title and it is exactly is repellent as Nicki, Wayne and someone named Bobby V (shrug) jabber on about shagging randomers over club couches. Vile.
The turning point is “Starships”. I can understand why somebody wouldn’t like Starships, what with it being completely fucking mental, but you’re wrong, it’s amazing, deal with it. I have yet to find a song that is as much fun to completely let yourself go and just fucking DANCE to. But, if you don’t like Starships, you can pretty much sit out the rest of the album.
“Pound the Alarm” immediately follows it, and it is a very similar sound. A bit darker perhaps, and more rapping from Nicki, but basically Starships pt 2, and it is glorious. “Whip It” has much more of a Caribbean vibe to the other two. You could see Sean Paul doing it, if he wasn’t shit. (It also includes the line “Come get this pie”. Yeah I don’t know either). “Automatic” isn’t quite as amazing as the songs the precede it, and does slip into generic territory a little too much for my liking. If you put J-Lo into it instead, no one would know. However, she does name-check all four countries in the UK, which is nice, if a little unexpected.
The ballads “Marilyn Monroe” and “Young Forever” are gorgeous. She’d be mad not to release Monroe as a single at some point, it’s basically the new “Fly”, full of self-confidence-boosting lyrics including taking Marilyn’s “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you’re don’t deserve me at my best” quote. Amazing. . And as we saw from the “Give Me All You Luvin'” video, Nicki can totally rock the Marilyn Monroe look. “Young Forever” is the heart-breaking story of the end of a relationship and I just ❤ it. It’s surprisingly sweet and romantic.
For once with one of these things even the bonus tracks are good. “Masquerade” is only OK, but “Va Va Voom” is AMAZING. Apparently, it was originally planned as the lead single before Starships replaced it and you can see why. Perhaps it’s slightly too pop, compared to Starships’ dancier vibe, but it’s very annoying it’s hidden away on the deluxe version.
Right, now I do love Nicki Minaj, but I feel like I don’t quite love her as much as I should. Therefore, I’d like to give Nicki (cos of COURSE she’s going to be reading this at some point) a few tips for the future:
- Stop slagging off women. I know you’re in hip-hop and everyone else is doing it, but you’re basically the most high profile women in that part of the music industry, and you should be promoting the sisterhood, rather than referring to every woman as a “bitch” or a “hoe”. Live that to bellends like 50 Cent, thanks.
- Same with the gays. I know your alter-ego Roman is supposed to be a gay man, but he seems to be mentally un-hinged and violently anti-women. Which most gay men, you know aren’t. I’ve seen you in interviews and CLEARLY you pretty pro-gay so if you could give some sort of positive impression of gays to pretty much the most violently homophobic area of music, that’d be lovely, ta.
- Stop with all the bad language. I’m not a prude, and a “fuck” here or a “shit” there is fine, even encouraged at times (No one want’s the clean version, Cee-Lo) but srsly? You can’t move in the first half of the album with hearing talk of “dicks” and “pussies” and “cocks” and “look at my big dick” and “I’mma shove my big cock in your face” and “I’mma slap your tits around with my massive dick and jizz in your eye”. I might be exaggerating, but only slightly. Freud would have a field day with your genital obsession
- Stop trying to be Lady Gaga. You’re better than just trying to rip off someone else’s look and performance style.
- Keep genre-hopping. I like it. I like the unpredictability of not knowing at the start of a song if I’ll want to dance, cry or protect myself from you trying to piss on me by the end.
- Think about who you collaborate with. I’m fine with Lil Wayne and the like, but Chris Brown (on the actually rather good future single “Right by Your Side”)? Really?! And don’t even get me started on the like of Beenie Man (who guests on the not-bad “Gun Shot”), who in the past has called for the violent execution of all gays. Please align yourself with better people in the future please, Nicki.
Anyway, I can’t score the album as a whole because… well, if you listen to it, you’ll know why. It just IS two seperate albums. Therefore, for the first, hip hop side:
And, for the second, dance-pop side:
Of course if, unlike me, you like the urban Nicki and not the “Starships” Nicki, feel free to swap the ratings round.
And, no I am not mentioning “Stupid Hoe”. I… I just can’t.
BEST 3 SONGS: “Starships”, “Pound the Alarm”, “Marilyn Monroe”