4/5 After whipping up a frenzy with her debut ‘Pink Friday’ in 2010, this week sees Nicki Minaj stake her claim as a formidable chart force with the arrival of her eagerly awaited sophomore set ’Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded‘.
A pick ‘n’ mix of genres, the project is split loosely in two; a musical melee, the set finds itself divided between songs rolled in Hip-Hop grit and others soaked in Pop fantasy.
Boasting a tracklist as polarised as the artist performing them, the question on the lips of many remains: beyond the wigs, schtick, and “eccentric”, does Nicki deliver on the most important release of her career?
In short, “yes”. However, it’s a response served with a potent side-course of “caution”.
For, despite delivering the goods on an Urban front, ‘Reloaded’s upper echelon serves up the depth of a steam-pressed pancake.Indeed, while the Drake, Nas and Jeezy assisted ‘Champion‘ gets an “A” for poignancy, its neighbours can be summed up with the following sentences:
I’m better than you.
You wish you were me.
I’m richer than you.
Are you aware that you wish you were me?
The repetitiveness of such “bravado” holistically takes little from the gems that are the Hitboy produced duo ‘Come On A Come‘ and ‘I Am Your Leader‘. After all, a degree of “pomposity” ultimately serves as genre-cornerstone of commercial Hip-Hop. This does, however, in select instances make for exhausting listening- especially on the Hip Hop Quorn that is the Kenoe cooked ‘Beez In The Trap‘.
On ‘Trap‘, the Young Money star turns the ignorance up to ignorant levels, delivering lazy one liners and an ever lazier hook over a lazy-sparse beat which ironically “works” – but only in isolation. Surprising, as the Rico Beats produced cut sits right above ‘Roman Reloaded’ (a track destined for the Kill Bill 3 soundtrack) and the stuttering ‘Hov Lane‘ – the older and far more sassier sister to Pink Friday’s ‘I’m The Best’.
So, with relative R&B fillers in her trunk (‘Lounge and ‘Right By My Side (ft. Chris Brown)’, Minaj heads for the Promise Land, trading Clue and Flex for Snooki andSophia Grace - serving up dream like numbers with even dreamier melodies.
Every jam- from the summer soaked ‘Starships‘, to the fist pumping ‘Beautiful Sinner’ is as organic as the last, kicking dust in the face of any in doubt of her crossover appeal. There’s the Euro-ready ‘Automatic’ soaring with ‘It’s automatic, some might call it insane- I assure you I’ll be stuck in your brain‘ and ‘Whip It’, sonic mozzarella at its best.
In essence, Nicki becomes Lolly with bars. Yet a Flo’Rida she is not.
Because, unlike Rida, Nicki isn’t playing dress up with Pop. No. Instead, she fashions and molds it to her taste, as best evidenced on ‘Va Va Voom‘ and the album’s standout track, the RedOne produced ‘Pound The Alarm‘.
With prom night in mind, Minaj spawns ‘Young Forever’ and the Jam-Pop‘Gunshot’, then gets all kinds of vulnerable with ‘Marilyn Monroe‘ and the Rihanna tinged ‘Fire Burns‘. All solid.
So just how does ‘Roman Reloaded’ stack up holistically?
Without a doubt, the LP lacks the cohesion of ‘Pink Friday. However, this is negated by its boldness. Indeed, as a body of work, ‘Reloaded’ stands as the bravest release since GaGa‘s ‘Born This Way’.
For, despite being the chaotic home of perhaps one too many tracks, the album is fun, sexy, smart and absolutely “out there”. All of which make it the only Pop effort worth picking up this year – thus far.