opinion byMATTHEW MALONE
“I had to reinvent,” Nicki Minaj opens her third album. It’s a promising statement, given that she’s executed each of her previous LPs quite haphazardly. The debut, Pink Friday, found Nicki trying to access each of her powers within the limiting realm of the mainstream, a difficult task when your persona is as avant-garde as Ms. Minaj’s. Filler tracks like “Your Love” diluted and overpowered the zingers (“Roman’s Revenge”), leaving the LP a largely unmemorable affair. Then came Roman Reloaded, the unashamed shrine to pop,probably a result of the world’s justified addiction to “Super Bass.” Shooting for the moon, she ended up lower than where she started, track after track failing to stun as effectively as the bass dropped. That said, there was “Beez in the Trap,” “Come on a Cone,” and “Starships,” the fraction of the album that succeeded with serendipity. But Nicki, the cartoonish, sweet-then-sour lollipop flavored queen of rap has yet to absolutely kill it with a full-length.
It is thus with great desolation that I say that The Pinkprint not only doesn’t succeed in breaking free from Nicki’s pattern of lame, but, in fact, might mark her least impressive release to date. She does indeed “reinvent” her style, but in a way that simultaneously distills her tracks to feeble stabs at heartbreak-r&b.
Almost thirty producers were affiliated with the album, yet the music is shockingly simple, I assume to forge a “graver ambience” for the personal songs. The first three songs arrive shyly, the only bodysuit that Nicki Minaj cannot don with spunk. “All Things Go” remarks on life’s unexpected turns, “I Lied” on regrets, and “The Crying Game” on a relationship’s erosion. If you haven’t skipped to the Beyoncé song by this point, you’re probably asking yourself where that saccharine caricature named Nicki Minaj went. There’s not a remnant of the Nicki the world knows and loves in these gloom-laden tracks.
Exactly nine songs (half of the album, mind you) revolve around woe of some sort. The majority of those tracks employ the same elements: celestial synth chords, a GarageBand beat, and Nicki’s—albeit stunning—vocal whining. Nicki’s recent breakup to 10-year boyfriend Safaree Samuels is clearly a factor in this praise, but even so, it doesn’t feel genuine, particularly when she references “Caucasian doves.”
With guests, it’s better. Tomorrow’s pop heroine Ariana Grande triggers the first track that you might not want to skip; “Get on Your Knees” uses the subdued bass that fills every corner of The Pinkprint in a sultry way, rather than a somber one. Grande oscillates from whispers to bellows, with Nicki squeezing sexy verses about her lovers’ temptation in between. And the underdog, “Trini Dem Girls,” which features promising producer Lunchmoney Lewis, flaunts Nicki’s dancehall skills reminiscent of her great presence of Gyptian’s “Hold Yuh” remix. And the Beyoncé track, “Feeling Myself,” even though it doesn’t explode nearly as scarily as it could, holds its composure as badass-ly as possible. These ladies’ power in the music industry is collectively unparalleled, so hearing them gloat is still fun only because they’re so accurate. On here, “Feeling Myself” is a standout. On Beyoncé, it would be the worst track.
As much as the album is cohesive in that it serves as Nicki Minaj’s autobiography (hence, Pinkprint), outliers like “Anaconda” and “Only” show that Nicki is still desperately searching in the dark for the next “Super Bass.” If we reluctantly come to terms with the fact that there can never be a Nicki album that is phenomenal as a unit, it’s comforting to know that she’ll continue to test a boundary every now and then. But hopefully next time, she won't shove "Grand Piano" into the mix as well...
The world today is lazy. Nicki is trying to reach everyone, while still looking so inwardly for inspiration. It’s an unfortunate truth, but people simply won’t give your personal troubles the time of day unless they have a Category 5 hook to accompany them. Nicki has shown us a million ways she's felt strife, and as plaintive as her memoirs might be, having seen the ***flawless execution of her heart stopping singles, it's clear she has so much more to offer. Minaj ought not recede further into a realm of “emotion,” but rather, use her blazing spark to flame the haters. Or to galvanize the dance floor. Or both at the same time!