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Music Review | Minaj’s latest smoothly bounces between styles

3.5 out of 5 stars | Frantic raps and smooth pop make a good mix on new album

Published: Friday, April 6, 2012

Updated: Friday, April 6, 2012 07:04

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Christopher Macsurak via Flickr Creative Commons

Fans won’t be disappointed with Minaj’s latest release.

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The Music.FM via Flickr Creative Commons

Minaj’s vibrant personality defines her new album.

Nicki Minaj aims to please all her fans with her latest release, “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.” The first third of the tracks are Minaj in full “rap−bitch−nightmare” mode. She employs her “Roman” persona and her notorious rapid−fire verses that are original and strange in both their lyricism and delivery. This release is Minaj at her most compelling; she commands every second of the listener’s time. The rest of the album is pretty evenly split between catchy euro−pop tunes and more standard pop ballads that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Rihanna album.

The album opens with Minaj at her most schizophrenic and psycho with the song “Roman Holiday.” She sing−talks in a British accent, swiftly raps aggressive attacks and sings in overly dramatic tones for no discernable reason other than to prove that she is crazy. The track is nothing short of exhilarating, even when she starts singing “Come all ye faithful” repeatedly.

While some have recently accused Minaj of becoming too “pop,” the opening of the stellar track “HOV Lane” should prove them wrong. Minaj quickly rattles off sharp lines like “Zipping, I’m zipping, I’m zippin/ soon as they come out I’m dippin,/ big ass closet, I’m trippin big booty strippers, / I’m tippin’.” Her lyrical sass is unmatchable.

Minaj has always been great at memorable and song−stealing verses over the course of her career and the album’s earlier, rap−heavy songs attest to that skill. On the title track, “Roman Reloaded,” Minaj employs her trademark hash tag rapping style with lines like “bite me/#apple sign” and “all you hoes crying/#Christopher Bosh” that she rattles off with the fierceness she is known for. They are quick and easily quotable in a way that great rap lyrics should be.

Lil Wayne plays off Minaj’s energy on the same song and sounds fully awake for the first time in a while as he throws in killer lines like, “Kush on my breath, cocaine on my tongue/eat that p**sy make it numb/she can’t feel herself cum.” Lil Wayne proves that he is one of the few rappers that can match the insanity of Minaj, but also keep all the playfulness and humor that goes along with it.

Minaj is wise to limit the amount of wild “Roman” tracks on the album because they can become overwhelming after a while. They work best as just a quick jolt of vigor to get the album started and to display Minaj’s amazing rap prowess.

The album abruptly moves into pop territory with the Chris Brown collaboration, “Right by My Side.” Minaj’s and Brown’s voices blend well together and the song is catchy. It calls to mind Brown’s hit track, “No Air” (2008), in its dynamism and tone. Lines like, “You own my heart/she’s just renting” are pleasant though it still seems too soon after Brown’s altercation with Rihanna to have him be a romantic lead on a song like this again.

Many of the songs that follow are produced by hit−maker RedOne, known for his collaborations with Lady Gaga, who does a great job of adding even more oomph to Minaj’s dance songs. Dr. Luke, who has worked with superstars like Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Rihanna on some of their biggest hits, also produces many of the more radio−friendly songs that have Minaj in full singing mode.

While these songs are great for dancing and partying to, many of them could have been sung by any generic pop−singer and really drain Minaj of her distinct sound. The beats overshadow her in many of the dance numbers, which is a shame because Minaj’s biggest selling point is her over−the−top persona.

Minaj also attempts to get emotional on a few of the closing tracks of the album, including “Marilyn Monroe” and “Fire Burns,” which do a commendable job of reminding the listener that underneath the heavy production, odd personae and insane delivery, there is a strong singing voice that can be subtle when it wants to be.

“Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded” ends on one of the album’s, and the year’s, best songs, “Stupid Hoe.” Even by Minaj’s standards, the beat and song are bonkers. The production features frantic “woots,” whistles and Minaj hastily trying on tons of different voices. The song is paradoxically annoying and incredibly catchy all at once. It’s hard to not smirk when Minaj says things like, “who’s gassing this hoe?/BP?” and slips into some of her most appealing characters.

Nicki Minaj’s new album is able to please both her pop and rap fans with an approach that isn’t afraid to change its sound and direction. While Minaj gets drowned out by the production at moments, her unique style makes this a rewarding listen.

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