Music Review: Nicki Minaj’s “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded”

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the new album from Nicki Minaj, doesn’t deserve a review. I say this not to dismiss the album’s quality–that’s something we’ll get to in a second–but rather to acknowledge something Minaj has been slowly working toward for the entirety of her career. It’s apparent in her outfits, her bizarre performance at the Grammys, her “multiple-personalities” shtick, and now in Roman Reloaded: Nicki Minaj is officially capital-W Weird. This is not an inherently good or bad thing, really; it simply means that Minaj has dedicated a lot of her creative faculty toward dodging most people’s understanding of how a mainstream rap album works. Ergo, in its own clever little way, Roman Reloaded is sort of un-reviewable. To call it excessive or stupid or unnecessary seems to miss the point of the album, which is more or less to slyly mess up the mainstream hip-hop status quo.

In this way, Minaj’s new album is neither good nor bad but rather just interesting–something that will be both vehemently attacked and defended from both sides. That’s perhaps simplifying things a bit; some of Roman Reloaded is very good, like “Starships,” which is awesome despite its bald-faced attempt at Katy Perry-esque glory, “I Am Your Leader,” with its unexpected Cam’Ron guest spot, and “Champion,” which has a great, almost nostalgic-sounding beat, and another unexpected guest spot from–wait for it–Nas. Nicki Minaj’s rapping throughout is sometimes hilarious, sometimes surprising in its adeptness, and almost always entertaining. That said, the album can also be very bad: following “Starships” are a bunch more absolutely useless “pop-rap” tracks which rehash the same Big Chorus structure with diminishing returns; that one Bobby Valentino song is just terribly boring; and–it must be said–what’s up with the whole “fifty different voices for each of my personalities” deal?

The whole thing comes off as sort of a big mess. There’s some good here, a lot of bad, and a lot of merely…weird. This, all things considered, is probably fine. Nicki Minaj didn’t make her new album for me, and I know that. I’ll take “Roman Reloaded” or “Champion” and throw them on a playlist, and leave the rest for someone else to pick up. But, handed the whole, subversive, gleefully unreview-able, nineteen-track version of this thing–did I mention that this album has nineteen songs?–I’ll pass. I’m glad to see Nicki Minaj is having fun, and it’s always intriguing to see an artist almost unanimously considered “mainstream” push themselves in an uncompromisingly oddball direction. But, keeping the still-awesome “Super Bass” and her phenomenal verse of Kanye West’s “Monster” in the rearview mirror, I know Minaj is capable of making music that’s both fun to talk about and to listen to. And when it comes to being merely intrigued versus being enthralled, I’ll take the latter any day.

–Alex Robertson, Arts Editor

 

Posted by on April 4, 2012. Filed under Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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