Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes which most...

Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded Album Review

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes which most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction. I used to think that Nicki Minaj’s schizophrenic persona was concocted, but after listening to her new album Roman Reloaded, it now appears that life has imitated art so thoroughly that there’s no longer a distinction.

As is so often the case, I can only assume that Nicki Minaj’s schizophrenia was brought on extreme fame, a well documented cause of mental illness. Imagine for a moment that you’re one of the most famous women in music. Your last album sold over one million copies, literally thousands of people pay money to see you and companies are throwing endorsement deals at your feet. More importantly, everyone around you depends on you for a check, and so they do what anyone would do in that situation, they say yes: “An exorcist pageant at the Grammys – great idea Nicki!” “That track sounded great Nicki!” “Don’t listen to them, they’re haters Nicki!” Extreme fame creates an inescapable alternate reality for the superstar that’s nearly impossible to say sane in, and I can only assume that’s the reason so much of Roman Reloaded is so disconnected from reality.

Of course, that’s just my overly complicated theory. Roman Reloaded could also just be a bad album because, you know, people sometimes make bad albums. Either way, I defy anyone to enjoy listening to the album’s opening track, Roman Holiday. To be clear, this isn’t just the switching voices, hyperactive flow we got accustomed to on Pink Friday. Here both the production and Nicki’s delivery border on absurdist theater, at one point devolving into Nicki literally making noises. And I wish I could say that Holiday was the album’s low point, but that kind of musical decay pops up time and time again. Come on a Cone at first appears to be a tolerable straight rap cut before cutting into an almost impossible bad hook and according to the UN Human Rights Council, Stupid Hoe has been used to coerce confessions from innocent prisoners. It has to be said that Champion, featuring an excellent Nas verse, is one of Nicki’s most engaging tracks in memory, precisely because she drops the posturing and fame-hunting. It’s proof that behind all the acting is a legitimately talented artist.

And then, as is often the case with schizophrenics, the “rap” we’d heard on the first eight or so tracks of Roman Reloaded disappear and the album instantly becomes a parade of pop and club confections. Lead single Starships will undoubtedly be playing in a Coke commercial campaign this summer, as intended, and Pound the Alarm follows suit with an offering that European clubs will absolutely eat up. While catchy, ironically what makes Nicki unique disappears on tracks like Pound the Alarm – you could just as easily hear Rihanna giving the same performance, which apart from the quick rapped verse, also holds true for the more sex-focused Whip It. And I think we can expect Right By Your Side to be released as a single any minute now; it’s exactly the kind of bouncy relationship jam that’s dominated the charts lately. These tracks may not be particularly remarkable, but at least I can listen to them without cringing. Given a choice, I’ll take Nicki Minaj the catchy pop singer any day. Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice.

Roman Reloaded will most likely do well because music has become just another facet in Nicki Minaj’s branding campaign, and in an economy where generating headlines, and Facebook updates/tweets/etc., is your most valuable commodity, it’s no wonder that Nicki Minaj is a millionaire. I know while some will defend Roman Reloaded on the grounds that Nicki’s using the album’s extreme range to avoid being placed in a “box”, but ironically she’s only boxed herself in further. Frankly, I’m not particularly interested in putting Nicki in any particular box, or taking her out of one. I’m really only interested in listening to music that I, well, enjoy listening to, and frankly I have no real interest in listening to Roman Reloaded again. In fact, I’ll be actively avoiding it. You know, the same way you actively avoid crazy people on the street; just don’t make eye contact and hope they don’t notice you.

DJBooth Rating - 2.5 Spins

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