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What happened to Nicki Minaj in the past 2 years!? Back when she was the go-to “Feature Queen” she was fresh and unique and I fell in love with her and expected a lot from her solo career. Her debut “Pink Friday” underwhelmed though, and over the past year it seems she’s lost a lot of her appeal. It can’t be denied that she has done immensely well for herself, not just in sales but in expanding her fan base. She’s no longer just a Hip Hop star but a Pop star as well, and her follow up album “Pink Friday … Roman Reloaded” is a testament to her audience as it dabbles in Hip Hop R&B and Pop. Diversity generally should be applauded, but in this case it feels less natural and extremely calculated. Like the genre hopping wasn’t something she Wanted to do but what she felt she was Supposed to do. Aside from that, diversity is pointless if the content builds up to nothing, which is the problem with the album overall.
The 19 track (and 23 tracks if you buy the deluxe version) is broken up in two parts, one half devoted to Hip Hop and R&B and the other Dance and Pop. The Hip Hop portion is easily the best of the album, with her producers Hitboy, Kenoe and T-Minus going Excessively hard on tracks like “Come on a Cone” “I Am Your Leader” and “Beez in the Trap”. She attacks the tracks with her humor, but the downside is that almost all of the 7 Hip Hop tracks are her stroking her own ego and patting herself on the back for her success which gets boring after a while (a little Humble Pie will go a LONG way). Her two R&B songs are also quite boring, even though the Chris Brown duet “Right By My Side” has a certain charm and cuteness about it.
Things go extremely downhill from there as her and RedOne produce a bunch of same-sounding Dance Pop tracks. “Pound the Alarm” is one that stands out, and “Beautiful Sinner” isn’t GOLD but it’s a tad different from the bunch, where as the rest are just muddled messes of noise. On top of that she only offers lazy and predictable lyrics, in the realm of “..fill my drink up” “…put your hands in the air” and other basic stuff you might find on any Taio Cruz or LMFAO song. And on top of the redundancy, her “Minnie Mouse/Barbie” voice gets extremely grating and lacks any sort of character.
The album is rounded out by some ultra-schlocky “slow” Pop numbers, most embarrassingly “Marilyn Monroe” which had potential to actually say something with some kind of personal substance but is just another paint-by-numbers Pop song with the embarrassing hook “must be how Marilyn Monroe Felt Felt Felt Felt!” (SMDH!!)
There are about a handful of songs that are worthy of going back to. “Roman Holiday” is weird but fun, “Gun Shot” with Beenie Man has Nicki working her Jamaican patois to great effect and “Young Forever” is a slight step above decent. It’s still the Hip Hop cuts that are the saving grace of the album as “Come on a Cone” is hilarious (“dick in your face, put my dick in your face!”) and heavy at the same time, and even the oft-mocked “Stupid Hoe” (which I always found similar to her break out “Itty Bitty Piggy”) at least has the kind of flow she got famous for in her features.
Overall, she just did too much without doing much at all with “Reloaded”. It’s not enough to say “she’s trying new things” (which, she sort of isn’t!), you can’t respect that if she’s taking the laziest route at versatility. It’s clear the multiple genres was simply just to cover her bases and give something to everyone of her fans, but in the end the album feels like it comes from a smart Business Woman and not from a serious Artist.
Rating: 2 Stars
Best: Come On A Cone, Gun Shots, Beez in the Trap