This isn’t a rhetorical question; I’ve been thinking about it for a bit and still am not sure of the answer, if there even is one. But, now that the fervor over Roman Reloadedhas died down, I think it’s interesting to think about what the album means to pop. Is Nicki currently unable, or maybe unwilling, to navigate the waters of pop without resorting to the lowest common denominator, or is she a woman out of time?
My lasting thought reRoman Reloaded has switched from, “Wouldn’t it be great if she made a whole rap album?” to, “How would this album have turned out if Nicki had people like Timbaland and the Neptunes at her disposal?” My hope would be that if Nicki could work with peak-era Tim or the Neptunes, that the pop that she would create would be much more adventurous, something that bridged the gap between “Beez in the Trap” and the Billboard Top 10. (Or maybe “Beez in the Trap”will do that.) But maybe that wouldn’t happen, or wouldn’t even be possible considering the market.
Nicki is a singular voice in pop, but she’s come up in a time where basically no producers and/or writers are consistently bridging the gap between rap/r&b and pop in a way that doesn’t seemingly make massive concessions. Forget Tim and Neptunes, there isn’t really anyone out there right now that could even hit Nicki with a “London Bridge.” Wouldn’t it be great to hear what Nicki and Pharrell and Chad would’ve done with the “I’m a Slave 4 U” beat?
Whether listeners have pushed what would be (or could be) the next Pharrell out of pop or whether a lack of Pharrells has allowed pop to submit itself to Europe is something I also don’t really know the answer to. Would Nicki over the “Southern Hospitality” or “Gossip Folks” beats be top 20 hits right now? If not, would that be Nicki’s fault? Or would it be the marketplace’s fault?
I realize I’m sort of creating an alternate universe here that contains an irreconcilable number of variables, but Roman Reloaded leaves me with a lot of questions about pop music in 2012, and a much smaller number that I can answer. At some point, I think the back-and-forth contrarian arguing over whether the pop parts ofRoman Reloaded are “right” or “good” will look silly to us in retrospect, as the next few years of Nicki’s career should help us answer a lot of the questions that we — or at least I — have right now.
Maybe here’s a better way of putting it (or maybe not): despite what you heard on Watch the Throne, it’s really Nicki that’s the LeBron James of pop.
I don’t think there’s anyone at fault with how this album ended up turning out and certainly no pointed blame could be made of the marketplace it was released into. While, it would be great to hear Nicki work with early 2000 Timbaland or Neptunes, I would also love to hear another Outkast album and well we know how likely that is to happen. The music climate is constantly changing, and maybe “Beez in the Trap” could become a Top 10 hit—I certain didn’t hear a Top 10 single the first time I heard “Niggas in Paris” or “Rack City”—but if it doesn’t no one would be surprised.
The separation of Pop and Rap in 2012 is kind of interesting. A hit Pop song in 2012 is so by the numbers at this point that if Guetta, Dr. Luke, or RedOne on a track one can assume that it is already a Top 40 hit, but who are those producers in the rap world? At least in terms of Top 40 hits, the era of the rap producer reigning supreme has been over for a few years now, and while there are those occational hit cross-over songs, no one producer dominates the rap and pop charts the way someone like Lil Jon was doing nearly a decade ago. Yet, if one did, who knows if they would have produced more than a song or two for this album, because while “I’m a Slave 4 U” is a classic single, it was Clipse and Kelis were getting fully produced Neptunes albums not Britney.
And to question of whether those previous Neptunes produced single would be hits today: No, they wouldn’t be. Most songs don’t get second lives for a reason, because at least for the general public songs exist in certain period and are popular for a specific circumstance that just cannot be replicated no matter how great or timeless a song might seem. Would “Yeah” by a #1 hit again in 2012, probably not, and I doubt it would even crack the Top 20.
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