I love Nicki Minaj because of her silliness. Her lyrics are tight even if the ever-growing cavalcade of characters is hard to keep track of. If you think she's being serious (beyond the aesthetic quality of her music), you're missing the point. Nicki's goal is to make music she's proud of but have fun doing it. Pink Friday...Roman Reloaded is nothing without the silliness. Nicki puts on these big boisterous personas for the first few tracks to announce her presence again. You think "Superbass" or "Starships" mean she's trying to be a pop star? Guess again.
"Roman's Holiday," the controversial Grammy performance song, is the strongest track on the album. It's bizarre in the best way possible. There's are at least three characters and no shortage of clever allusions to dig through. The reason the song works as the first track on the album is that it lets you know you're in for a trip. This will not be a straight forward rap album. It will go all over the place as Nicki Minaj guides you through her strange and theatrical Hip Hop style.
This does not mean Pink Friday...Roman Reloaded is a flawless album. Nicki puts so many different styles in to appeal to everyone that you're bound to be put off by some of it. Song by song, the tracks work. Taken together as a 19 track album? It's a bit scattered.
Is Nicki's goal fluffy club tracks? Hard edged boast songs? Stream of consciousness character monologues? Hard edged club tracks? Fluffy character pieces? Nicki's rap style and lyrical aesthetic create some sense of cohesion. You won't mistake her for anyone else. The album is just so broad reaching that it doesn't quite come together as a singular vision.
Maybe the key to the album is closing track "Stupid Hoe." There's arguably a literal meaning there (discussed before). Why even include the track just for that reason? Nicki's sending a message about taking what she does too seriously. Respect her musical skills. Applaud her stage presence and wardrobe. Nod along with her business sense and industry insights during interviews. But don't ever take every word she says as gospel on her tracks. Even when defending her skills and attacking her haters, her tongue is firmly planted in cheek.
Nicki Minaj has a lot going for her. She can sing and rap. She has a good ear for what production standards should be. She's charming enough to get guests like Lil Wayne to match her wacky bit for wacky bit on tracks. She has a lot of ideas and she's not afraid to go for them, even if they can overwhelm the senses when taken all at once.
Pink Friday...Roman Reloaded is just a fun album. It's not game changing. It doesn't present a new version of Nicki Minaj to the world. The goal may be just to cement Nicki as a force in the record industry. There, it succeeds. She'll surely have a good string of hits off the record. I just wish that all the different sides of Nicki could come together in a tighter package.
If you're not setting out to revolutionize the sounds of a genre or present a giant concept album, then you need to make sure the technical presentation is flawless. Nicki Minaj's songs do not fall short, only the flow between tracks in a few odd moments. Pink Friday...Roman Reloaded works in spite of some cognitive dissonance.
Thoughts? Love to hear them.