Check It Out- Nicki Minaj
Pink Friday probably loses a certain listener about half way through “Fly”. As they wonder what is this Rihanna song doing on Nicki Minaj’s “rap” album, I would then guess that their interest is regained when they hear Kanye West on “Blazen”, leaving less than half of an album that they would want to listen to or even care about. The reason I am going out on this assumption of what this listener would enjoy is because there is part of me that feels that the rap fans that were caught off guard at by Nicki’s guest verses on “Bottoms Up” and “Monster” and were expecting a whole album of those raps are going to be disappointed. Pink Friday is not that album, and it was never going to be, as it is not striving to be what her guest verses were this year.
One of the problems in wanting an album with rapping that is just like Nicki’s guests verses is that, part of the effectiveness of her guest verses were that they were stealing the spotlight on songs that did not require the spotlight to be taken. “Bad Chick (Remix)” might as well be the original, as the verses by the three female rappers stay on theme of talking about how much of a “Bad Chick” they are. Where Nicki’s verse is still ”bad” but she is seems to be fighting against Ludacris and not just playing into the stereotypes the song is attempting to portray. So even a song with good rapping like “Did It On ‘Em”, is not as effective as her guest verse, because she is carrying the entire song and instead of just appearing for forty-five seconds. The problem Nicki Minaj keeps running into is that you cannot steal the spotlight, when you are the only person on stage.
The middle of the album is where the ballads start appearing, and where I come to terms with enjoying a Will.i.am song that does nearly everything I hate about recent Black Eyed Peas and other radio hits. Nicki Minaj is not a singer, so Auto-Tune comes to the rescue distancing her voice to the point of nearly being a chillwave song. ”Right Thru Me” may have a first person pronoun in the title, but the song sounds like it tale that is even further removed from third person, as if she is retelling a tale from a friend of a friend, as the vocals lack the emotion of another song of hers like “Your Love”. I am convinced that “Check It Out” is placed on the album to challenge its listeners, because at this point of hearing four Nicki Minaj ballads, some may have given up even getting to the song with Kanye West on it. An over use of Auto-tune, one obnoxious sample, and Will.i.am singing the hook should equate to be the worst song on the album, but it isn’t. Nicki Minaj always mentions her Barbies, and this song sounds like it is made for that plastic doll with its overtly poppy shine, the already known song sample in “Video Killed the Radio Star” and the surprising well done production done by Will.i.am.
The last thirty seconds of “Dear Old Nicki” has a little synths outro that represents the overall sound of the album pretty well, as you have these synths that sound goofy and cheesy in 2010, but are featured throughout the entire album, which keep the album from ever sounding too serious. This outro leads to “Your Love”, which is the best ballad that Nicki does on the album, and this may be that it is not clumped in with the other ballads and is given its own space. “Your Love” still has Nicki’s voice sounding as far away from the listener as possible, and is effective in a way similar to 808s and Heartbreak, where Kanye West uses auto-tune to help him sing and distance his voice. Nicki uses is auto-tune for a very similar effect except on her does not sounds a grainy and hurt as Kanye’s did on that album, this effectively smoothes her voice over to a point of not sounding human, which not all that different from the unique personas she has been taking and rapping in the past couple years.
There in may be why this album got such a mixed response, as it pulls and grabs from different popular trends, that are strongly disliked and combined with misplaced expectations can lead to people wanting something that is not going to be happening. Nicki Minaj does have some great raps on this album, the intro and outro ”I’m the Best” and “Last Chance” shows this, hell even “Check it Out” has good lines by her. But, for some reason when people heard auto-tune singing they assumed that a major label must be messing with an artist work instead of it being Nicki Minaj just trying a new vocal style. (Remember that British Accent on “Roman’s Revenge”)
Still, “For me, it’s dying out,” he said. “I go places and they be like, ‘Why don’t you have pink on?’ [It’s like] I can’t even perform without having pink on. People gotta see it.
Cam’ron, MTV News, 2004
I could never hate a rapper that would say this.