Posts Tagged ‘silly’

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Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (album review.)

April 6, 2012

It’s time to accept that the Nicki Minaj that we heard on her mixtape (and best album to date) Beam Me Up Scotty is gone. The Nicki Minaj that we heard stealing the show on Kanye West’s “Monster” is a distant memory. Now, the Nicki Minaj who pleasantly surprised us with her bubblegum rap confection “Super Bass” is asserting herself throughout Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. Nicki Minaj may not have concretely realised her Roman Zolanski alter-ego (who shows up at the start of the album, but his fangs have been sanded down after his explosive showing on “Roman’s Revenge”), but throughout her career we have seen her evolve and shift through persona after persona. The hard female rapper we heard on Playtime Is Over gave way to the exciting cyberspace femme fatale with the ridiculous flow and heart of gold on Beam Me Up Scotty, who tarted herself up with colourful outfits, wigs and softened edges for Pink Friday. Although her rap credentials have become less indisputable, mainstream success has opened Minaj to a new audience: pop. Teenagers, little girls dancing and rapping along to her songs on youtube, people across the world now want to hear what Nicki Minaj has to say. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded finds Minaj trying to please everyone whom she has courted throughout her career. Does she succeed?

Well, the album is certainly diverse and there is something for everybody. After the insane and yet exciting “Roman Holiday”, the album is stacked with urban tracks designed to prove that Nicki is still in touch with her musical roots. “Come On A Cone” is a fascinating listen, and the genuinely unexpected “dick in your face” interlude about two thirds of the way through the song is a refreshing thrill – but Minaj can no longer get through an entire rap song without resorting to her trademark ridiculous vocal tics. This is a gimmick that initially served to set Minaj apart from other female rappers, but now it sounds like a party piece that is trotted out to fulfil the listener’s expectations. The song succeeds, but it could have been more. The tracks which follow are chock full of features, which is nothing unusual for a rap album, but here they serve to mute Nicki’s own impact on the material. “Beez In The Trap” is catchy but incredibly basic while “HOV Lane” is single-entendre bragging that may pay tribute to Jay-Z and to Minaj’s potential to be a supernova rather than just a star, but compared to the more insightful work Minaj has done on the past (for example on Beam Me Up Scotty‘s “Can Anybody Hear Me” or Pink Friday‘s “Moment 4 Life”) it rings a little hollow. “Stupid Hoe” is an ill-advised tirade against Lil’ Kim that is so ridiculously silly that the bite in Minaj’s lyrics is muzzled by the repetitive hook and uninteresting beat. The buzz single for this project, “Roman In Moscow”, was so much more than all of the rap tracks that actually made it onto the album because the production was exciting and the flow and rhymes were unbridled and interesting. It showed that the ‘old Nicki’ is still alive, but there is no longer a place for her among any of Minaj’s current, more successful incarnations, which is a shame. As oddly structured and jarring as they may be, “Roman Holiday”, “Come On A Cone” and “Roman Reloaded” are the most successful songs in the first half of the album because although they are not amazing, they grab the listener’s ear and don’t let go.

After some tepid R&B slow jams which are so rote that they barely deserve mentioning, let alone a place on this album (“Right Thru Me” and “Your Love” from Pink Friday were miles better than these), we get to ‘pop Nicki’. This abrupt about-face in the album really should have been split into two discs on the physical version, but it’s not the disaster that other reviews have reported. “Starships” is at once derivative of LMFAO’s and Rihanna’s latest smashes, and yet also entirely the mutant spawn of “Super Bass” (without which ‘pop Nicki’ would never have come to triumph over ‘old Nicki’ or ‘Roman Zolanski’ or ‘Harajuku Barbie’ etc.), but my god is it fun. This song absolutely deserved to be a single and to be successful – I feel conflicted because Nicki Minaj shouldn’t have had to so deliberately manufacture such a hit, but its hit status is undeniable. “Pound The Alarm” goes one better and is an absolute gem that Britney Spears probably wishes she had recorded. “Whip It”, “Automatic” and “Beautiful Sinner” repeat this formula ad infinitum (or ad the next 15 minutes), and although the songs are great fun, they expose Minaj’s crossover aims as so calculated that a little bit of this fun is taken out of them.

The album winds down with some mid-tempo, more thoughtful songs such as “Marilyn Monroe” and “Young Forever”. Strong hooks and mainstream production make these songs perfectly enjoyable, and although the lyrics show more insight from Minaj than the preceding half hour or so, they’re still calculated. “Fire Burns” and “Gun Shot” close the album (before the jarring “Stupid Hoe”) and they are the most genuine tracks of the second half. “Fire Burns” is this album’s “Save Me” (one of the highlights from Pink Friday), and the regret and sadness in Minaj’s delivery rings true. “Gun Shot” features Beenie Man and brings a little Caribbean flavour that Minaj hasn’t explored since Pink Friday‘s bonus tracks, or Beam Me Up Scotty‘s “Keys Under Palm Trees” or title track (her shout-out to Trinidad at the beginning of “Beautiful Sinner” certainly doesn’t count). While so many of the second half’s tracks are deliberately and irresistibly exhilarating to a head-spinning extent, “Gun Shot” is a less manufactured but, if anything, more uplifting ray of sunshine.

Do I like this album? Absolutely. Do I feel that it squanders Minaj’s potential? Yes, and no. This has been a hard review to write, because there’s so much here to deal with. The mainstream-aimed songs are good, but many of them are so deliberately manufactured to be hits that the genuine feeling is often ironed out. The rap songs are acceptable to good (barring the mediocre slow-jam section in the middle), but the featured artists rarely measure up to Minaj’s own potential, while simultaneously limiting her own space to shine. The weird songs are absolutely interesting, but Minaj doesn’t need to rely on inconsistent alter-egos and silly voices to be compelling. Beam Me Up Scotty proved this, and I find it sad that Minaj isn’t encouraged to exhibit her rap skills and singing in a more genuine way. “Roman In Moscow” and “Fire Burns” are remnants of the Minaj we have previously experienced. And while I genuinely am happy for the existence of songs like “Starships” and “Pound The Alarm”, their aggressively insane exuberance is something that Minaj may risk exhausting herself trying to outdo on Pink Friday: Roman’s Resurrection (or whatever comes next).

I believe that Minaj genuinely enjoys catering to a range of audiences, but as Beam Me Up Scotty and even Pink Friday demonstrated amply, she can do this in a more integrated and less scattershot way. Everyone was wowed by Minaj’s feature on “Monster”, but there’s nothing approaching that venom or spark here; her album-closing declaration that “I am the female Weezy” is reductive. Minaj is not a female Lil Wayne, female Jay-Z, new Lil’ Kim or resurrected Lauryn Hill. Nor is she Roman Zolanski, a cockney grandmother, a Harajuku Barbie or anything else – she is more than the ‘mere’ summation of these characters or costumes. She’s a savvy businesswoman and a genuine talent who is producing good music but coming dangerously close to losing the edge that set her apart so definitively in the first place. I fear that the more mainstream success that Minaj garners (and it will likely be deserved), the less heartfelt and genuine her music will become. There’s a difference between creating art that is deliberate in its purpose and achieves its goals, and art that is so focus-group tested and aiming to please that the quality is filtered down to a semblance of what it originally could have been. And while we can respect and admire an artist’s potential, we can’t praise them for what they have the talent to create if they don’t actually create it, or realise their potential consistently. And so Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is a blast to listen to, but it also warns that unless Minaj takes stock and finds away to hone all of her personalities, she may ultimately spread herself too thinly and become nothing to anyone, rather than something to everyone.

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end game.

April 18, 2010

It sounds silly to say, considering the last 8 months that I’ve had, but sometimes I still feel a waste of space.  I get down sometimes and I feel so indecisive, so useless… I don’t know what I want.  I have made huge changes and huge improvements in my life, and I am so grateful to that and I appreciate things like I never used to, so I don’t feel I’m being ungrateful or taking anything for granted.  It’s just that despite everything seemingly going my way for once, despite the career change I’m making and the reasons I have for doing it, I still wonder… what is it all for?

I always hated the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I’ve never had any idea, apart from when I was a child and I used to fantasise about running away and catching a plane to America at age 13, so I could be a superfamous pop singer by the magical age of 17.  Needless to say, that didn’t quite pan out (although I am very proud of my latest album Quiet Storm) and since then, I’ve felt at a loss, and somewhat a failure, for not having achieved that ridiculous and yet wildly romantic childhood dream.  In much the same way as I’ve been academically brilliant, I have always been able to sing, dance, write songs and play instruments because I just always assumed that I was capable of those things.  I never doubted myself, and through sheer force of will and plain naïve arrogance I turned out to be really good at all of that.  The only time I’ve ever failed any kind of test was my driving test, and 5 years on I’m making moves to finally erase that failure.  Generally, I’ve believed in myself and it’s pushed me to the top.  So why am I not famous, successful, rich and happy?

I look to my twin Ciara. She was born on the exact same day as me, and in her life she’s accomplished exactly what I wanted to but never did. Where did I go wrong? Did I ever have a chance, or was it just luck?  If I had my life over again, what could I do differently to end up where she is? Does that mean my achievements are nothing? I’m not going to brag about anything I’ve done in my life (the last paragraph sounded plenty up myself for this entry) but I know that I’ve achieved things which are pretty decent, some would say admirable.  But it means far less to me than perhaps it should, because it’s never really gotten me anywhere that’s mattered to me.

But then, looking at what the music industry is, especially now, I think perhaps I was naïve in believing that I could give up everything and just be famous.  Having the talent is one thing, but I don’t know if I have the stamina to stick out the years of churning out radio-friendly fodder to get to a stage where I can call some of the shots and have any sort of creative control. Especially now, where I’ve got to the stage of clearly becoming an “adult” (i.e. old) because I find 90% of what is played on the radio recycled garbage.  As I’ve grown my musical identity, I have gained more fixed ideas of what I want musically and who I am, and I certainly don’t fit into any of the current moulds.  I would not last five minutes on X-Factor and similar programmes, because even if I have the talent to make it, I don’t have the obedient personality which can be crammed into a shiny black suit and forced to sing mundane cover versions with choirs and key changes.  Frankly, I’d rather die.

But then, we all end up dying anyway, right? So I have let’s say, 65 years, to make something of my life.  Ideally, I want to have a life where I’m remembered for all time, but that doesn’t seem to be too likely does it? Either I go on a killing spree (which is a little bit messy for my liking), or I become a leading politician (I’d rather go on the killing spree), or I do something incredible on a grand scale.  This incredible thing was going to be the super-influential singing career idea, but I guess I’d rather sing for my friends and those online who appreciate my music (THANKYOU ALL btw!) and get to write, produce and sing the music I want, which means sacrificing the fame. Oh well.

My logic for going into Careers Guidance was to do an incredible thing on a smaller scale.  If I can’t have / don’t want the burdens and trappings of fame, I could still touch people’s lives as an individual, because doing Good Things gives meaning to my life and my actions, and it’s the meaning that I truly seek.  Just as my friends and I influence each other (again, thankyou all of you! YOu know who you are), I would like to be a good influence in people’s lives when they need it most, to enable them to progress and achieve what they want.  If it’s a less grandiose dream, it still has its heart in the right place, I feel.  And perhaps one of the people that I advise, that I support, that I help, will become the superstar I always dreamed of being.  That would make me feel incredibly proud, and perhaps that would be enough. I just hope that I do get a job as a guidance worker somewhere, because I finish this course in 2 months (it’s flown by, hasn’t it!) and I need the money, I need the experience and I also need to get my own place and not waste any more time!  Otherwise I will end up dying, and not having made anything of my life on whatever scale.  And that would be a disappointment and a waste of myself.  I need to make my life a life worth living.

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what christmas means to me.

December 20, 2009

I remember when I was little I would count down the days to Christmas Day so eagerly.  About the 22nd December, I would be so excited I couldn’t sleep.  And then on the day itself, I’d be up ridiculously early, eager to open my presents and be spoiled for the day before we would go to my nan’s for a big Christmas lunch, relax in front of the television watching one film or another while my mum and my nan chatted, my grandfather slept and my dad made a nuisance of himself in one way or another.  Eventually we would go home to wait for the inevitable boredom that was Boxing Day. But overall, it’d be a lovely day and hold the type of memories I’ll always cherish.

I guess it’s called growing up, but I don’t feel at all the same now.  Part of it is that those memories are irreplaceable – my grandfather is now dead, my grandmother is in Australia this year, and the year before last spent the day in hospital with my granddad, and my father is the one who cooks now (nowhere near as well, though it’s ok) and we eat here at home.  There’s no eagerness to open my presents, and since my parents don’t seem bothered by what I get them, they wait until 11am or something ridiculous like that just so that I can see their faces and suss out whether they really like their gifts.  In other words, the childhood traditions of Christmas are completely broken and gone; we do things differently now, and sometimes I wonder if I was the only one who ever enjoyed Christmas.

Nowadays, I dread the day itself.  There’s nothing to watch on TV, there’s nowhere to go that isn’t parent-sponsored (my friends are all busy with their families, obviously; there aren’t any buses and as I don’t yet have a car – something which I’m looking to change in the very near future – I am essentially home-bound), the sanity of my nan’s conversation and the scrumptiousness of her cooking is poorly imitated by my father.  And I feel bad for saying that, because it’s not that his cooking is bad; it’s not. It’s perfectly edible, but it’s not the same.  I have a lot of my own issues with food, eating food and generally feeling guilty for it. (Another down side to Christmas – every cigarette I have is under surveillance, so I am currently eating more and smoking less.  Not good for my figure, nor my state of mind!) But nevertheless I am always eager to taste my nan’s cooking – it is that good (I like to call it the Italian influence) that even though I exercise restraint in size of portions, I eat more than I otherwise would.  Her food has a certain feeling of safety to it that is comforting and yet vibrant and actively tangible; my father’s food just feels fake and bland in comparison.  That’s just Christmas Day – this year I plan to be talking to Mike (who is a real Scrooge!  I’m certainly not as bad as he is – he actively hates it) and complaining in unison, and quite possibly working on my essay.  Hell, there’s nothing else to do.

Nowadays, my favourite part of Christmas is buying everyone’s presents.  I couldn’t really care less what people get me, as I appreciate anyone thinking about me enough to get me a present, and I don’t tell people what to get me as everything I actively want is invariably too expensive, and I wouldn’t be happy with people (not even my parents) spending that much money on me.  I prefer to buy jewellery and expensive items with my own money, because then it’s my own decision and I’m not bound to being grateful to anyone.  The thing I enjoy about buying people’s presents is the rush and buzz in the shops, the feeling that Christmas is here (maybe it’s left over from my days working in retail – which I am still so glad are over) and most of all, choosing the right gift for somebody so that it will genuinely make them happy and let them know I have not only put thought into what I’ve chosen for them, but that I value them as a friend.  This year I have spent a bit more money than usual and than I intended, but since I have my bursary from university, I can afford it 😉 Hell, if I can afford my Gucci earrings and bracelet (which FINALLY came on Wednesday after a 3-month wait!), I can afford splashing out an extra few £ for my friends.  I take pleasure and pride in that, and I believe that as much as I deserve to be treated, so do they.  We all should allow ourselves to feel good, and allow our friends to shine a little sunshine our way every now and then.

But the meaning of Christmas has changed.  This year at university has been something I’ve enjoyed so much, I plan to go into the library over the holiday just to see Mike and do some work – it fills the time! I can barely stand to be at home anymore unless I have the house to myself, because I feel like I’m in a cage that isn’t allowed to co-exist comfortably in the same room as my parents.  I go to Starbucks most days when I have free time just to work on my essay – it has the double bonus of allowing me to escape the house & have some cigarettes, and I actually seem to get a fair amount of work done there.  (The unfortunate drawback is that I consume a beverage that contains calories – though I always go for skinny, so I guess it’s not too bad.) I like being around people, I like being close to my friends, and the fact that I have this essay to work on means that I have something to focus my energy on.  I don’t know if it’s that my attention span is getting shorter as I grow older, but I cannot stand to simply sit in front of the television and vacate my brain.  I need my laptop near me at the same time as I am watching anything just so that I can talk to friends and surf the internet – my nan jokes that I am constantly multitasking, but it is true!  I don’t know if it’s that I don’t know how to relax, but most of the time I don’t really feel the need to relax, because I’d rather be on the go.  And I guess that that’s at the heart of the problem – at Christmas, there’s just not enough to do that keeps me entertained!  I don’t dislike Christmas, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that the soft-focus memories of my childhood aren’t enough to hold my attention anymore, even if they were still able to be replicated (which they’re beyond not).  I don’t need gifts anymore, and I don’t need to watch a silly film on the TV while eating x, y and z.  That’s not me. Fundamentally, what I want from Christmas more than anything is to spend time with my friends, get out of the house and go somewhere and talk, be silly and have fun.

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layin’ in the bed bumpin’ Jodeci…

October 6, 2009

… is exactly what I’m doing right now.  (Thankyou Mariah Carey – “The Impossible”, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel) Wrapped up in a daydream, I took half an hour longer to do my veterinary nurse job profile for university because I kept pausing, laying my head on the bed and just dreaming and wishing about things that could never come true.  Inappropriate crushes, unlikely crushes, unrequited crushes.  Following on from my previous post where I was lamenting the fact that all the best, most mature, solid and sexiest guys are straight (and usually a few years older than me), I… am lamenting that very same thing!  So let me regroup a sec and come with a progression.

I think that possibly the most accurate thing I said was wanting someone who feels comfortable in their own skin.  Looking at B’s sudden decision to contact me last weekend, I was talking to Mike about it and he said exactly what I was thinking, “What does he want you to do about it?” And I can’t make somebody feel good about themselves, and I can’t be responsible for healing anyone’s deep-seated personal issues.  If you’re coming to me expecting me to do that for you, then I’m really sorry but I just can’t.  And I won’t – I have my own things to deal with, and I can keep myself together relatively well but I can’t give over that much of myself without my own life just falling apart.  Right now, I need somebody who’s not perfect, but who has it relatively together and can offer me as much as I’m offering them.  That’s the way it is.

I wonder if it is true that “we’re always on the lookout for the next person”.  Right now, I am more or less adamant that I want to get myself sorted and stable with this course and whatever comes afterwards (fingers crossed, a job!).  I want to get a car and I want to move out (it’s come to the point where I sort of dread coming home and whatever mood I might find my parents in – my own place is looming!).  Once I’ve sorted those things, then maybe I will consider really trying for a long-term relationship – until then, if it happens, then great, but I am honestly honestly not looking.  I am flattered if people flirt with me, and I may flirt back for fun, but I’m tired of being dicked around so I’m not looking for anything serious unless it trips over on my doorstep.  Which would be a first.

I just wish that I could have the kind of relationships I have with my friends, both guys and girls.  We can go for drinks and chat for days, we can party, we can hang around one of our places and listen to music and just mess around and be silly. It’s easy.  And I understand that relationships involve a certain amount of effort and compromise and sacrifice – but it shouldn’t feel like hard work constantly, otherwise the rewards of the relationship aren’t enough to make it worthwhile, I don’t believe.  I just want to be with somebody who wants to be with me, who has fun being with me and who makes it easy to be with them.  I mean, good looks and independence and money are all lovely, but if it’s still hard work, I guess I’m getting a little lazy (thanks LeToya).  Just be good to me (thanks again LeToya) and genuine and I’m not that hard to please.  Sometimes I like to go shopping or go out to drink or dance or whatever – I’m 23!  But sometimes just lying together listening to music or watching a film is the most intimate, wonderful thing.  Especially if you have strong arms and nice broad shoulders – I’m not usually someone who admits this (and my height and stature seem to contradict what I’m about to say), but sometimes it’s nice to feel fragile and have somebody scoop you up and make you feel safe.  Just buy some proper R&B CDs – Ginuwine, Jodeci, Usher, Mariah Carey, Dru Hill, Aaliyah are good starters – and put some nice cologne on and invite me over… nothing more, nothing less.  Let’s escape into a private daydream, just for a few hours… and you got me. 😉