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Nicki Minaj's 'Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded' — Is She the Next Lady Gaga?

Apr 06, 2012 | 5:09am EDT

Nicki MinajNicki Minaj just released her much-awaited album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, a revival of her Roman Zolanski alter ego created for her 2010 album, Pink Friday. And it illustrates the dilemma she's having as an artist who's stuck between two worlds: hip hop and pop (with far more straight-up pop songs on the album than her hardcore rap fans will want). 

Nicki is a “love her or hate her” type of artist, who calls for reactions by being an extreme performer — remember her occult, macabre presentation at the 2012 Grammys? She certainly isn’t the first performer to make a career off being “weird.” In fact, she’s often compared to Lady Gaga, another contemporary musician whose very existence is a celebration of oddity and uniqueness. And with Nicki's new pop-friendly sound, it seems she's gunning right for Gaga herself. 

Now, of course, being compared to Lady Gaga is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Gaga is unbelievably popular, remarkably talented, and a living, breathing symbol of the message of loving yourself. Being associated with these things is a big win for Nicki. But with that comes the hard truth that she might always live in Lady Gaga’s shadow.

Her new album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, is at best a wavering example of Nicki's ability to stand alone as a performer. Her good songs are good — the opening “Roman Holiday” stands out as terrifically creative and unique. Unfortunately, the rapper's album is packed with more forgettable, run-of-the-mill hip hop pieces. 

Why Nicki opts for “the norm” is puzzling. New tracks like “I Am Your Leader,” “Beez in a Trap” and “HOV Lane” are just ordinary while her bizarre compositions and performances are so much more invigorating and defining. Maybe she's been preparing for the inevitable comparison to Lady Gaga by keeping a few of these standards on her resume? That way, no matter what the results of her audience's “Gaga vs. Minaj” debate, she’ll still find success in step with the hip-hop genre.

Ultimately, what's disappointing is that she'd simply be better off going for broke. Her lyrics and harmonies in songs like “Roman Holiday” are strong enough to keep her in contention with Lady Gaga, or any contemporary artist for that matter. While she might never quite reach Gaga’s demigod stature, with stronger pieces like this one and a consistent dedication to her unusual methods and styles of performance art, we'll keep talking about her, which is half the battle.


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