Nobody knows how to polarize a fan base a well as Nicki Minaj does. Somehow, she manages to group all of her fans into two main camps, while retaining both of them, at least for now. There are the old adopters of Nicki (2007 era), who appreciate her hardcore and mixtape-style rap songs, and there are the modern Nicki Fans who listen to her poppy, zany stuff.
The title of my review is a lyric that I thing represents Nicki and her style well. It is a reference to the old, old, old novel Trilby, mainly a character in it named Svengali, who was a pro at hypnotizing people. It has since become a vernacular, idiomatic term (although I bet no one here has read the novel, myself included). But that's really what Nicki is doing with her sophomore effort: teasing her older fans with cool rap and pleasing her new-found fans with some pop tracks. And, this whole time she is managing to convince everyone that she has, at the same time, remained the same Nicki *and* grown into something new... Roman Zolanski, if you will.
But Nicki's battling personalities aren't always as entertaining as they think they are, and often times, the reason everyone is here, the music, gets lost in the crossfire.
This album is basically split into two halves. If it were a tape, A side would be all rap songs and B side would be comprised of pop anthems. I almost wish it was presented in a two disc format. That would make things less conflicting. But I digress, let us continue.
The album starts off with "Roman Holiday", which Nicki performed at the Grammys. Say what you will about the controversial performance ( I appreciated it, personally, but it was not in everyone's taste), but I do appreciate this song a lot. My title lyric is from it. But the problem is, if you heard the live version, you will be jarred. The recorded track becomes amazing over repeated playings, but initially, it does not stand up to the grammy counterpart.
Following "Roman Holiday" there are a few similar Rap songs: "Come on a Cone", "I Am Your Leader", "Beez in the Trap", and "HOV Lane" (pronounced /hove/). "Come on a Cone" is often compared to Pink Friday's Did it On 'Em, and with good reason. It is the usual "I'm so great" minaj rhymes. "I Am Your Leader" has a fun hook, but can get a bit contrived at points. "Beez in the Trap", which just released a music video, is pretty fun, too. "HOV Lane" has a killer beat and I like to bump to it.
Then there's the title track "Roman Reloaded" which is very mixtape-ey, but Lil Wayne (the featured artist) steals a bit of Nicki's thunder. Its a great song.
The Rap half ends with three fantastic tracks, "Champion", which is comparatively serious to everything else on the CD, "Right By My Side" with Chris Brown, which is really R&B, and "Sex in the Lounge" which is fantastic except for the fact that Nicki Minaj isn't really even in it.
And now, onto Pop!
The Pop arch begins with the previously released "Starships", which, let's be honest, you should have heard by now. Then, two similar, but awesome, tracks, "Pound the Alarm" and "Whip It", which I want to dance to in a club. They are cool followups to Starships.
Tracks 13 and 14 are both kind of blunders, to be honest, but I still appreciate them. "Automatic" seems like it was written for Britney Spears and "Beautiful Sinner" is just missing... something. Nice effort though.
Next comes "Marilyn Monroe", which is an interesting take on the icon and her personality. I dig it.
Then we have " Young Forever", which is one of the most stand-out tracks on the CD. I really like it. Really Really Really. It's also a "serious" song, but the loud drum beat and neat melody pull it along.
Things go bad though with "Fire Burns", which is too sad and slow and sappy for my tastes. I kind of wish it wasn't included.
Track 18 is called Gun Shot, which I may have listened to once, but honestly could not tell you anything about it. Forgettable and meh.
And we end with the other previously released track, "Stupid Hoe" which bookends the CD with some more Roman rap. I'm okay with this track.
The Bonus Tracks are all outstanding. Everyone's probably heard "Turn Me On" with David Guetta, so it was really just included as a courtesy. But "Va Va Voom", which was almost the album's lead single instead of "Starships" is fantastic. DOWNLOAD IT. "Masquerade" is strangely addicting, too.
In whole, the songs are all kind of hit-or-miss. I don't find myself in either the rap camp or the pop camp of Nicki's fanbase, but I admire her attempts in both musical stylings. It's just that this album really lacks focus... which the original Pink Friday [Explicit] did not. Nicki is doing more of the same, but this time, she's no longer fighting to make it with a huge debut album, she's just kind of rapping and dropping beats. Which is fine, but it needs the extra oomph to get it going.
- Young Forever
- Va Va Voom
- Right By My Side
- Come on a Cone
- Gun Shot
- I Am Your Leader (this isn't "bad", just not the best"