Posts Tagged ‘single’

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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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the ex that never was.

June 6, 2010

Just a quick one.  Remember this?

easy to get.

It’s a blast from the past, and so much has changed since then.  Needless to say, Brett fell by the wayside, I lost interest, we lost touch.  He came out and said he had ADHD, and then I never heard from him for 9 months – within which a lot happened to change my life for the extreme better.  I have totally moved on.

Then a couple of weeks, Hannah, Toby and I are in town and I see him with his friends.  I just wave and say hi and we go on our way.  Flash forward to today.  I am in Starbucks having a coffee and fiddling with my iPod, waiting for Toby and Nick to arrive so we can go and have lunch at Nandos.  Brett comes and taps me on the shoulder, and we have a brief conversation and catch up – more about him than about me.  He is there with his “friend” (date? sugar daddy? the guy is at least 30; Brett is younger than me.) whom he sends to wait in the queue to get him a glass of water – he doesn’t like coffee.  At this point, I’ll mention that next to my laptop is a big mug of black filter 😉

Brett admitted he could have used the coffee to wake him up, as he was “tired” – I guess he was extremely tired, because if his eyes had been red I would have sworn he was stoned.  It’s 11am, a bit early for weed or whatever drug he’s taken? Perhaps I’m being mean, it’s quite possibly the ADHD medication that is making him really spaced out.  But when I mentioned he’d changed his hair from when I saw him a couple of weeks ago, he claimed it was just “wax / gel”.  Okay, but I’m not colourblind, and it was ginger the other week; it’s now black!  And to top it off, if the ADHD medication was what had made him sluggish, how come he had the impetus to put his hand on my thigh for a moment?  Is that just being friendly? It seemed quite flirtatious to me, and I bit my tongue from mentioning that a) you’re here with your “friend” (who, incidentally, gave me side-eye as they left the café – insecure much?) so perhaps he might get annoyed if you flirt with me? and b) I have a boyfriend now whom I love and I am certainly not going back a year in time to deal with all your mixed signals and unpredictability.

If I sound like I’m being mean, I don’t mean to be – it’s nice to see Brett and know that he’s ok.  We don’t have any animosity towards each other, which is good – I mean, why should we?  Things just fizzled out naturally and we drifted apart more or less happily. But at the same time, the whole experience made me go “HUH?” Like, what just happened?  10 minutes later, Toby and Nick turned up and life resumed its normal course.  But the whole experience just served to show me how far I have come, how much better my life is one year on.  And although I used to say that being single was good in that it had freedom, I love having a boyfriend for many reasons – one of which is that I don’t have to navigate the dating scene!  It’s so exhausting chasing after people, being chased after, playing a constant power game.  I was with Toby the other day and I was saying that although we’ve had a couple of big talks and the need to realign ourselves at times so we’re on the same page, we never played hard-to-get games with each other.  I liked him, he liked me, so we spent more time together.  The more time we spent together, the more we liked each other, and so our relationship grew.  There was no pretending, no hidden agenda on that front – even if we had our insecurities, we knew we liked each other and so we gravitated towards being together happily.  Why is it so rare for a courtship to proceed in that kind of orderly manner?  It’s like in modern life, we expect things to be more complicated and if they aren’t, we’re almost tempted to make them so. Well, my life is busy enough, interesting enough and problematic enough without me adding extra complications to it, and I love Toby for the fact that he says and does what he means.  I try to be the same.

Unwittingly, Brett has made me realise how lucky I am to have Toby.  Thanks!

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quiet storm. (new single!)

April 15, 2010

Check out the 4th single, title track and centrepiece from my album Quiet Storm, which you can download for free here!

More songs from the album available on my myspace to preview 🙂

The new single cover includes a brand new picture taken by Toby of me posing against a metal wall on the Bristol waterfront!

As always, I really hope you enjoy the song, the album, and thankyou for your support 🙂

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come home to me. (new single!)

February 21, 2010

Without further ado (I know I’m late! I meant to release this in conjunction with Valentine’s Day, but Valentine’s came and went… sorry!) I present to you the third single from my album Quiet Storm, which you can preview here on my myspace and download from this blog post through Megaupload.  The song is called “Come Home To Me”, and it’s a mainstream pop/R&B ballad incorporating elements of Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, as well as a ballad production inspired by The-Dream.  Check out the song – I really hope that you enjoy it!

To finish, please download my album – it’s free – and I hope that you like it.  I will close by adding a little bit of info about the song, taken from the Quiet Storm track walkthrough I did for the album release.  Thankyou xxx

Come Home To Me

For me, this track is definitely going to be a single from Quiet Storm.  It’s very short and sweet, very immediate, and the beat is quite reggae-inspired, despite the overall feel of the production being straightforward R&B/pop.  The thunder rumbling at the very start of the song fits in with the overarching idea of a “Quiet Storm”, but it also represents the lyrical motif of the song, saying that although we had storms in the past, it’s time to get over it.  It’s about a lover who may have been unfaithful or made mistakes, so you had a bust-up, but now you’re ready to forgive them and give things another try.  It’s about recognising that sometimes, even though we may try to be strong and independent, ultimately we have to forgive someone’s transgressions and not cut our nose off to spite our face.  That’s not always the right message, and sometimes someone may do something too serious to be able to let them back in.  But when it’s the little things that cause a breakup, with time you can see whether it’s really worth being alone or whether it’s better to forgive and make up.  The song steals from Rihanna’s “Umbrella” towards the end, with the “forever ever ever eh eh eh” at the end – that was just a little bit of fun!  The backing vocals in the second verse are also inspired from a nu-classic Janet Jackson track, “Take Care”, from her 20 Y.O. album, which IMO is one of her best works and seriously underrated – another track which infused the concept and production within my album.

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trust, humiliation & beauty.

November 7, 2009

I understand that this blog has been a bit Rihanna-focused lately, but between the new material that has been premiering online and the publicity surrounding her 20/20 interview (which is a must-see – check it out at Toya’s World), I’ve been hooked on her once again.

Within this interview (which resonated with me more than I will go into on this particular post), Rihanna said two things that I thought were particularly interesting.  One thing was the notion of feeling ashamed and embarrassed when the picture of her battered face was leaked by the media – because she fell in love with a person who could do that to her.  Obviously you can’t help who you fall in love with, you never know how abusive they might be until the first time it happens, and the notion of shame is one that we could debate for days anyway.  But the idea of that was interesting to me, that there are certain of us who seem to feel humiliated or ashamed by things that are essentially not our fault – yet we take the blame for ourselves.  It reminded me of a time when I was dating L, and we found out that we had a friend in common, M.  So everything was cool, and it was a nice coincidence and all that business.  And I remember having a conversation with L, and he said that M had told him effectively to be gentle / careful with me as I’d been hurt in the past.  I remember just feeling utterly mortified, humiliated and ashamed.  I wasn’t angry (and I’m not angry about it now) – after all, M wasn’t wrong, and I wasn’t embarrassed by the fact that he had told L to treat me nicely; although it wasn’t necessary for him to do that, I appreciated the sentiment and understand that M was only looking out for me.

But I felt ashamed that someone viewed me as fragile, vulnerable or emotionally unstable.  That someone might have to explain my apparent insecurities to someone else made me feel humiliated.  I mean, yes, I have been hurt in the past (and then during that relationship – although I caused L hurt too, something which I still feel sad about, as I never meant to – and since) and my reluctance to let somebody in right away stems from that.  I was discussing with Emma last night that I am a very suspicious person, and if someone is friends with me or enters into a relationship with me, or even just approaches me in a bar or whatever flirtatious setting, I can’t help but wonder why they’re doing it, what they want from me, and whether they just want to use me up and throw me away.  I guess that comes from past experiences, and also probably what I’ve learned from my mother.  But I can’t help suspecting people, and I admit that I’m still growing as a person and I’m more insecure than I might care to admit to anyone who isn’t very close to me.  So for somebody to not only penetrate the façade I uphold of being strong (and at the same time as being a vulnerable person, I also believe that I am a strong person and that the two can co-exist within me), of being independent and of being teflon, but also to have to make excuses for the way I am and the fact that I might not let somebody in as quickly as 1-2-3 made me feel embarrassed.

Why should I feel embarrassed about myself?  In relationships, I don’t know what is up with me but I generally manage to get into these tortuous situations without ever having something concrete that lasts very long.  But I am a popular person, an intelligent person and a handsome person – my friends say that I will not be single for long, etc. etc.  These are things people say – who knows whether it will come true or not?  There’s more to life, but I can’t help but wonder if the façade I try to maintain at all times slips more often than I realise?  I think I would feel equally humiliated to know that the vulnerability and sadness I try to hide every day of my life was in actuality on full show half the time, and that that might be part of what turns people off wanting to date me or feeling attracted to me.  I hate the thought of people feeling sorry for me – not only because they shouldn’t, since everyone has their own pain and who’s to say that mine is greater than anyone else’s, but because I’d rather people didn’t focus their pity on me.  I understand it’s out of kindness or what have you, but I don’t desire that kind of attention.

The second sentiment Rihanna expressed was that of “F love”.  If you’re in an abusive relationship, be it physically, verbally or emotionally, you have to keep your judgment unclouded by love, and you need to do what is logically right for you, your safety and your health, regardless of the direction in which your heart pulls you.  That is a hell of a lot easier said than done; exhibit a) my current infatuation with somebody with a ring on it.  And this isn’t the first time that love has led me astray – this time, although the feelings are intense, at least I am getting something out of the relationship and it makes me happy more than it makes me sad.  Looking at my parents’ marriage, both past and very current present, although I’m proud of the storms they have weathered, if I had been in my mother’s position, I would never have put up with it.  And if I had been in my father’s position, I would never have put up with it.  Without saying too much, I don’t know if love was their only motivation in deciding to stay together (I highly doubt it, since things are rarely that clear-cut), but I would certainly have said “Fuck love, fuck everything, I’m gone.”  Even though I am a vulnerable person, and quite often I believe that part of me must be really an ugly person, I still have more self-worth than to go along with it.

Last night, I was out with Emma and we had some really special heart-to-heart conversations.  Obviously I am going to divulge nothing of what we discussed (here or anywhere else), because I made her a promise to keep what she told me to myself, and that is the whole point – I am a trustworthy person and trust is such a fragile thing, such a precious thing and something that takes so long to build.  Be it because of past experiences, be it because of what I’ve learned from my parents and other relationships that have surrounded me as I’ve grown up, but I find it hard to trust people and it’s rare that I am totally and immediately open with my heart to friends I’ve known for years, let alone somebody new in my life.  But I believe that trust is vital for life, for relationships, for friendships.  The thought of my betraying someone else makes me feel sick; a promise is a sacred thing, and there is so little that is sacred in life.  I think that having some self-worth as a person, even if it ebbs and flows sometimes, is really important, and the fact that I feel I am trustworthy, that I have dignity, and that I have the ability to give love but also am now aware that sometimes we have to say “F love” makes me a good friend and will one day mean that I might be a good boyfriend and not feel so ugly at my lowest… These things give me hope, they give me something to aspire to, and I hope to at the end of my life be able to look back and say that I was a good person, I was a strong person and that I did myself proud.  Work in progress.