>There were three releases I was looking forward to nearly all year, and they are finally all available at stores and available for me to ridicule. This review will just cover two, the females — we’ll get to the phenomenal Male release soon (it’s just too good to lump in with this post). Honestly though, all three artists delivered, some more than others, but none of the albums were major disappointments.
Nicki Minaj “Pink Friday“
The “rookie” of the year Nicki Minaj has made a name for herself this year with her dozens upon dozens of features, most times bringing the only bit of life to the songs in her verses. Her animated and energetic bars were intriguing and exciting, but somehow when she’s by herself on a full 3-4 minute song a lot of that excitement is lost. And that’s the biggest problem with “Pink Friday”, which is actually a solid Hip Hop/Pop Album, it just feels like the Nicki that we fell in love with this year is absent. It’s a solid and standard Hip Hop album with club cuts, love songs, and diss tracks and really the only thing that sets it apart from other solid albums from the genre is the fact that she’s a woman. There are glimpses of the uninhibited Nicki on clear stand out “Roman’s Revenge” with Eminem, and also on “Blazin” with Kanye West and single “Check it Out” with Will.I.Am. Most of this album is spent on trying to prove that she can back up the hype, and for the most part she does a good job in giving her fans something versatile and introspective (“Dear Old Nicki”), and empowering them (“Fly” with Rihanna and “I’m the Best” which gives great commentary on females in the rap game and how she wants to help them). Unfortunately in doing this, she’s exposed her short comings as a lyricist, for instance her rhyming “F-1” on 4 bars of “Did it On Em” . Though there are moments of greatness on the album (the Drake assisted “Moment 4 Life” and “Here I Am”, and her actually singing a full song on the surprisingly subdued “Save Me”), some of it feels almost like wasted space. The good thing is the album overall is a good listen, by abandoning the rap style that got her famous we at least have something to look forward to on the second album, or future feature work. (Also note: you can get a taste of that Nicki on some of the bonus tracks — check out “Muny” and “Catch Me”, those are the best)
There’s really not much to say about Rihanna’s 5th album “Loud”. She and her team are just undoubtedly gifted at selecting material that combines to make great Pop albums, and though “Loud” is a slight departure from her slightly more disturbed “Rated R”, it plays as a culmination of her career up to this point. There are heavy traces of all of the different genres she’s tackled in her short 5 year career, you have the dancehall/reggae sounds found on her first two albums in “Man Down” and the island tinged future Classic “What’s My Name?”. You get the genuine club sound that made her a worldwide star in first single “Only Girl (In the World)” and the unapologetic sexed up “S&M”. You get some R&B (“Fading” “Raining Men”) and some pure pop (“Cheers (Drink to That)” and the acoustic/rock ballad “California King Bed”). And more so than just treading paths she’s already walked down, each song sound fresh and up to date and just elevated from where they were on previous efforts. Rihanna has become so comfortable with her voice and has always known how to sing with appropriate attitude, and this may be the best album to show off the sass and Diva swagger that has made her a star. Some of the album, with only one verse or no bridge, seems a little rushed at time and it’s clearly not the Pop masterpieces that “Rated R” and 2007’s “Good Girl Gone Bad” were, but it’s a great place holder until her next album — which given her discography should be pretty phenomenal.