Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Roman & Friends

The title of this post would've been a fitting title for Nicki Minaj's new album, due to its versatility and many guest appearances by other artists. I take issue with the actual title of the album, "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded." It takes too long to say and half of it comes from a previous album. In fact, it sounds like the name of a re-release.

Love the album art! So fun and colorful.

As for the album itself, it includes rapping, singing, hip hop, pop, and even some techno. This artist certainly doesn't like to limit herself, which I can certainly agree with. Here's my review-

"Roman Holiday"- The tone of this song is both theatrical and menacing. It revolves around two of Minaj's alter egos- Martha, a proper English woman, and her rambunctious son, Roman. And I am glad to see that Roman's mother, Martha, managed to make a cameo appearance on this album. In this song, she pleads with Roman to get help and become well. Roman refuses and continues to be his vicious self. Well done, Roman.

"Come On a Cone"- This seems to be the counterpart of "Did It On'em" from Nicki's debut album, "Pink Friday." Both tracks are more laid back musically, but lyrically, declare Minaj the top female in the rap game. Also, they both implement not-so-subtle allusions to male anatomy.

"I Am Your Leader"- Nicki speaks of being the queen of rap with lyrics like "I'm a brand, bitch, I'm a brand!" Cam'ron and Rick Ross, who bring their own twist to this theme, rap verses here. Musically, it is what I like to refer to as a half catchy. Not very dance-able, but not super slow either. Just eh.

"Beez in the Trap"- This song is a snap-along slow jam, featuring fellow rapper 2 Chainz. The beginning of its chorus reminds me of Ben Folds, because of the "Bitches ain't shit" lyrics. Its music video came out recently, featuring the head Barb surrounded by barbed wire. And shout out to a booty even bigger than Nicki's!

"HOV Lane"- The metaphor of this song's chorus is pretty clever, if not repetitive. It references Jay-Z's famous song "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" The lyrics speak of Minaj being ahead of others in the rap business. These work well together, because she has spoken in the past about how she wants to become a hip hop mogul, much like Jay-Z, which has not yet been done by a woman. Sound effects of cars whooshing by and steady, driving background music help contribute to the feeling of superiority found within this song.

"Roman Reloaded"- This quasi-title track is basically Nicki's "I'm the shit" song. If you ever had any doubts of just how high of an opinion she holds of herself, just listen to this song and the record will be set straight. Lil Wayne makes an appearance here, matching Minaj's swagger. Sound effects simulating guns can be heard while the rappers do their thing, which adds to the tough vibe of the song. This song's feel is not so much for mainstream, top 40 clubs as it is for underground, urban clubs. Think of a location similar to that of the "Beez in the Trap" music video, which can be seen above.

"Champion"- With appearances by Drake, Young Jeezy, and Nas, this song has a bit too many guests on it. Perhaps three really is company. Lyrically, it speaks of overcoming obstacles to come out on top. Nicki makes several shout outs to those in her past whom she knew in the ghettos of NYC, which is rather sweet. The background music is pretty slow, yet triumphant.

"Right by My Side"- This song is pretty similar to "Right Thru Me," from "Pink Friday." Chris Brown is featured on this track, which was a smart move on Minaj's part. Brown is well established in the music world and will help this song in its chart performance, as this is the album's current single. As the song's title might suggest, the lyrics here speak of always wanting your loved one by your side. Singing is the main focus here, but there is a rap bridge by Minaj as well. The production is pretty sleek and big, rendering this mid-tempo ballad in your face as well as vulnerable.

"Sex in the Lounge"- Bobby V provides vocals on the chorus and Lil Wayne returns with a dirty verse to act as a counterpart to the Nickster in this song. This is obviously a baby maker kinda song. To me, it feels a little bit like an album filler. I usually skip it.

"Starships"- Best song on the album! It served as the first single of the album, and I think that the record company couldn't have chosen a better one for that task. It is interesting to note that this song was not included on clean versions of the album. I'm guessing that this is because Nicki was simply not willing to alter this song in any way. Anyway, you guys already know that I love this song- the lyrics and music are pop gold. It's such a party track, which Minaj has expressly stated was meant for spring break. Well, I don't know about y'all, but...I could get down to this joint any time of year. ;)

Its music video, as promised, is very colorful and lighthearted. Set in Hawaii with many a fierce dancer, Minaj is featured as an outer space party goddess who came to earth to spread the good times. My only critique would be to include actual choreography, but the partying is still pretty fun. :)

"Pound the Alarm"- Pound the beat! Pound the bass! Rewind and pound it again! This is a really good club track. The lyrics are trashy fun. For example: "You know we gettin' hotter and hotter, sexy and hotter, let's shut it down." I especially like the part where a deep male voice (which is somewhat robotic) in the background says "Music makes me high." That is pretty much my motto in life! lol

"Whip It"- Another great club track. My favorite part of it musically is probably the drums. Shout out to my friend Mary, because she said it's her favorite song on the album. The lyrics are cute and cheeky, speaking of Nicki getting into a guy at the club. I like the whip sound effect too. Very saucy.

"Automatic"- The lyrics of this song's chorus capture perfectly the feeling of just wanting to lose yourself on a dance floor all night. This helps to give it a very anthem-like feel. I could totally see myself singing along with Nicki to this song at a concert. Also, a spoken section of the song is reminiscent of "Vogue," by Madonna. Needless to say, that is pretty awesome. Musically, this song is a winding, grinding trip to the club. It's hard, because I want all of these Euro-pop/techno, club-ready tracks in the latter middle section of the album to be singles, but that just isn't possible- it wouldn't show enough versatility. Besides, that would be too many singles from one album. Oh Well.

"Beautiful Sinner"- The lyrics of the rumbling, almost whispered rap intro here are quite similar to the previous song. In fact, when I first listened to this album, I thought that the previous song hadn't ended yet because of it. Not that this song isn't its own, because it establishes that pretty early on. The feel of this song reminds me of "Turn Me On," which Minaj sang with David Guetta and is discussed below. It's a grungier take on the club scene-type of music, which i think works pretty well. It speaks of how being "bad" can actually feel quite good.

"Marilyn Monroe"- Given this song's title, I thought that the subject matter would be entirely different than what it ended up being. Instead of "I'm hot like Marilyn Monroe," this song is saying "Fame comes with a lot of pressure." It is the most solid ballad from Minaj to date, in my opinion. Also, it showcases her voice beautifully.

"Young Forever"- A stomp clap rhythm similar to that of Queen's "We Will Rock You" is the main component of the production here. The feeling is that of being so in love with someone that you want to live forever with them in a state of eternal youth and bliss. I also enjoyed the delivery of the spoken lines toward the end of the song- honest and open, yet sweet and girlish.

"Fire Burns"- This song speaks of love in a bitter kind of way. Minaj has been betrayed by her lover and hopes that he gets his just desserts. It is pretty similar in sound to "Save Me," from "Pink Friday." I wish this song had more of a buildup; instead, it doesn't really seem to go anywhere.

"Gun Shot"- The overall feeling of this song is pop fused with reggae, and rapping and singing seem to take about equal precedence. Beanie Man makes an appearance on a verse here, helping to bring breezy island vibes. It's very hard to understand what either artist is saying, however, because both are performing in a heavy Jamaican accent.

"Stupid Hoe"- This song is a fairly obvious Lil Kim diss. I enjoy and appreciate both femcees, but it's pretty undeniable that Nicki is more relevant at this point. Besides...Kim started it! The juxtaposition of bad ass lyrics and playful background music work together to keep things interesting. The frantic visuals of its music video match the song's sound pretty well. Check it out below.

"Roman in Moscow," which was supposedly the first promotional single and "teaser" of the album, is nowhere to be found on this album. This echoes what happened to "Massive Attack" in relation to "Pink Friday." Some early fans of Nick might be disappointed by this decision, as the song's spitfire delivery of venomous lyrics and quirky background music echo her mixtape days. I can understand why it was not included- it is not quite as polished as the rest of the album. As stated in the song, it contains no bridge, hook, or third verse. At just over two and a half minutes, it doesn't quite fit with the rest of the album, which contains songs that are all around three to four and a half minutes. Still, artists often include shorter songs as interludes on albums, and I don't see why she couldn't have done the same. Perhaps it could have been included after "Roman Holiday" as well...Roman's holiday. Basically, I have mixed feelings about it.

Bonus tracks:

"Turn Me On"- This was originally from David Guetta's album, "Nothing but the Beat" and was a hit single. This French DJ can do no wrong with club music, in my opinion. I always enjoy his stuff. This song features Nicki singing (with a short rap in the bridge) of love and desire over a heavy, dance-ready beat. Its music video took a different spin on the song than expected. In a nod to steampunk, Guetta literally turns a Nicki Minaj bot on. Turn it on below.

"Va Va Voom"- As mentioned in a previous post, this song was set to be the first single off the album before the record company decided to switch it to "Starships" at the last minute. Therefore, I'm pretty surprised that this song is merely a bonus track. However, it still holds a chance of becoming a single. "Super Bass" was a single off of "Pink Friday" and it was a bonus track as well. I would be ok with this song becoming a single in the future. My favorite part about it is the title; it's very intriguing. The tone is flirty as Nicki seduces a man in a club. She raps in a softer, more feminine fashion than usual over a thumpin, bump 'n grind instrumental.

"Masquerade"- Freedom is the theme of this album, as stated by Minaj herself. This song fits that very well, with lyrics like "You can be who you want. Be who you is; never be who you aren't." Minaj compares life to a masquerade and a merry-go-round here, meaning that she feels free to be whoever she wants. She also speaks of how it is never too late to try something new and that creativity is very important. Because of all of the aforementioned, I think that this song should have been on the standard edition of the album as a mid-tempo groove track.

There is also a bonus feature, available exclusively on the iTunes explicit version of the album, that allows the listener to hear Nicki talking to Charlemagne and Safaree "SB" Samuels in a press conference. This is about 20 minutes long, but is still only part of the press conference. It was fun to be able to hear about Nicki's past, what she thinks about certain important issues, and where she wants to go in the future.

At the end of the day, Nicki Minaj is more complicated and indeed more talented than many give her credit for. She already established that on "Pink Friday" and "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded" takes that even further. Is it a perfect album? No. But I certainly applaud Ms. Minaj for trying out so many different styles within it. Perhaps we could all learn a little from this to embrace our many different sides.


P.S.- Only two weeks after its release, this album has reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. Thass my Nickster!

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