When I think of Nicki Minaj I think of a intelligent and talented woman, exploding with energy and wit, determined to mark her spot in our musical landscape. When I reviewed her debut album, Pink Friday, I was a bit harsh and judgmental. If I had the opportunity, I would go back and tweak a lot of my thoughts. While originally dismissing it, Pink Friday went on to become a temporary soundtrack to my life. After Nicki‘s MTV Documentary special it was hard not to fall in love with her genuine drive and determination to become a female mogul in a male-driven world. However, as Nicki’s star has risen at light speed, I cannot help but feel like she is simultaneously veering off into too many directions, never allowing one train of thought to become fully realized to its full potential. This scatter-brained mentality may be her downfall on the just released, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, which seems to try and encompass multiple genres of music with no time for a real connection.
I approached Nicki‘s sophomore album with a sense of dread. The official lead single “Starships” had not connected with me at all and her “Roman Holiday” performance at the Grammy’s left me worried for her mental health. However, after digesting the album, I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. While it is a largely non-cohesive mix of rap and pop, I was relieved to hear that no amount of over-production or generic lyrics could take away from the raw talent that Nick Minaj undoubtedly possesses.
The album begins with “Roman Holiday”, her schizophrenic foray into the world of her homosexual, European-accented male counterpart. While being a fan of the unusual and bi-polar side in all of us, this song really tests how far I am willing to go. Sounding mostly manic, the song makes me feel like I have lost my mind in an overly-produced rap/pop musical. By the end she is singing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and I need to skip to the next track. The instrumental had potential but it just did not get there. While the album is supposed to be a concept album further looking into her “Roman Zolanski” character, I fail to see how the character is connected in the majority of the songs. “Come On A Cone” sees the spark of rapper Nicki Minaj, yet the chorus looses me. While her quirkiness and schizophrenic talking styles used to entertain me, they now feel a bit forced. It is mostly evident when she uses her manic odd voices to say “Come On A Cone” and it nearly almost ruins the song for me.
“I Am Your Leader” featuring Cam’ron and Rick Ross is one of my favorite rap numbers on the record. With a simple beat, it really showcases how great of a lyricist Nicki is and really brings me back to the mixtape days. I can’t help but feel like the presence of Cam’ron and Rick Ross on the song really toned her crazy down and allowed her to produce a straight-forward hip-hop track. “Beez In The Trap” is another immediate favorite, mostly for the beat and how Nicki sticks to her rap formula. “Roman Reloaded” sees a feature from her old mentor Lil Wayne where she has the most telling line of the entire album: “I guess I went commercial, just shot a commercial”. Couldn’t have said it better myself. “Hov Lane” and “Champion” are other notable sincere hip-hop numbers and do not go unrecognized.
We then get to “Right By My Side” featuring Chris Brown and the album begins to take a turn for the generic. This and “Sex In The Lounge” sound like basic r&b tracks with not enough punch to make them stand out. The remainder of the album is to cater to the “Super Bass” pop fans of Nicki Minaj. While its definitely not a part of the album that I dislike, it’s definitely not something to rave about either. Nicki is capable of so much more than just singing over songs that sound like they were intended for the one-hit wonders or the LMFAO‘s of the world. Though clearly a hit, “Starships” feels like Katy Perry should be singing it, with its beachy atmosphere it would fit perfectly into her whole California-girl routine. “Pound The Alarm” is an obvious single choice and enjoyable radio-friendly track, as are “Whip It” and “Automatic”. All of these tracks were produced by RedOne and have a similar style, sound, and structure. They’re a lot of fun and great party-starters and I’m okay with that. “Beautiful Sinner” produced by Alex da Kid is a much needed change from the RedOne tracks.
The rest of the album can almost be easily forgotten: “Marilyn Monroe”, “Young Forever” “Fire Burns” and “Gun-Shot” all qualify as pop ballads that feel weirdly out of place after hearing the handful of club tracks. They take on the same vulnerable vibe Nicki showcased with “Your Love“, “Save Me“, and “Fly” from Pink Friday. It’s a softer side of her that is always a hit or miss. Roman Reloaded ends with buzz track “Stupid Hoe” which serves as a reminder that Nicki still has that silly and fun rap queen inside of her.
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is an album definitely worth a few listens. You’re bound to find something to enjoy. While the record has a clearly defined set of rap and pop songs, it is nice to see a woman who is so willing to try and take risks and take charge of her career. I just hope the next time around she fine-tunes and edits her vision. Nicki is completely capable of producing an album that is fully realized and that shows how talented she really is. Roman Reloaded may not be that album but one thing I’m certain of is that Nicki isn’t going anywhere…yet. 3/5 – Amanda ‘Bergz’ Berghorn –
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