Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nicki Minaj
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded [Deluxe Edition]

Nicki blurred the lines between rap star and pop star with her first album, Pink Friday. Still not wanting to let the world force her into a genre box, Nicki delves even further into being as versatile as possible with her new album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.
With this new album, Nicki offers a huge amount of songs in an attempt to satisfy both new and old fans of her work. Essentially what we are given are 2 albums in one. Fans of her old hip hop mix-tapes are given a much bigger selection of songs to choose from, and newer fans who prefer her more pop orientated music, get just as much. For me, i'm a fan of both styles, so PF: RR offers a whole bag of new material to play with.

The first half of the album features the main bulk of the hip hop themed songs. The album opens with the bizarre and musical-esque, Roman Holiday, one of the most original moments on the album and a perfect way to open the record. As we roll through the first 9 songs we hear Nicki at her most schizophrenic and hilarious on Come On A Cone, where she barks her way through the chaotic chorus and softly sings the lyrics "put my dick in your face" during the bridge, crazy.
Beez In The Trap is Nicki's pounding ode to strippers, set to a sexy mid-tempo bass-line thats almost ear bleeding when played loud enough.
Roman Reloaded [which features Lil Wayne] and HOV Lane are the most old skool inspired Nicki tracks on the album, they could have easily come off any one of her old mix tapes.
Right By My Side is a cute and catchy ballad, even if it does feature Chris Brown, and the mid-tempo, Champion, is beautifully produced. Sadly, the same can't be said for the very dated and cheesy sounding, Sex In The Lounge, which sounds like a Boyz II Men left over from 1994. The song also barely features Nicki, placing the featured guests center stage instead of the star herself.

Once we hit the half way point, the dance/pop portion of the album starts. RedOne provides all of the production on the Euro inspired tracks, which are fairly generic, but still very catchy. The throw away but fun, Starships is first, followed by the similar yet slightly more appealing, Pound the Alarm. The much better, Automatic and Whip It follow, but the best of the club tracks is, Beautiful Sinner, slightly darker than the songs before it, it's a brilliant dance track with a great vocal delivery by Nicki.

The remaining last section of the album is a collection of r&b ballads which are all excellent. Marilyn Monroe features the strongest hook on the album and is very catchy, Forever Young screams single and is possibly my favourite song from the record. Fire Burns is pretty and is the 'Save Me' on the album and Beenie Man joins Nicki in the generic but still enjoyable, Gun Shot.
The album ends with 'Stupid Hoe', which is either odd and hypnotically re-playable or the most annoying song you have ever heard in your life. Most people consider it the latter, i personally don't mind it.

The deluxe album provides 3 more songs for anyone who wants more than the 19 the standard offers. Turn Me On, a great collaboration with David Guetta is one of them, still a solid track after all these months on the charts, VaVa Voom is a very catchy pop track, which deserves to be placed on the standard edition and Masquerade is the final and weakest of the bonus material, still catchy enough though.

What makes PP:RR so impressive, is that for an album that features so many songs, Nicki has done extremely well in keeping the record consistent. Artists like Christina Aguilera always bog down their albums with way too many songs, most of which turn out to be filler. Nicki succeeds in actually delivering an over populated track list and actually making it work. That's not an easy thing to do, so kudos to her for getting it right.
Also, with the album running at 80 minutes long, it's actually a very easy listen. A lot of songs are on the shorter side, and with the album being so carefree, it doesn't take much effort to get through it all.

Whether you find her untraditional approach to rap music appealing or not, you can't deny that Nicki moves to the beat of her own drum and is finding huge cross-over success doing it. Her versatility has always been her strong point, and as long as she can cater to her very wide fan base, she'll have no problems sustaining an already very promising pop career. I like that she doesn't shy away from doing what she wants and being the type of artist she wants to be. If people choose to judge her on that and think it makes her "rapping" less authentic to the hip hop community, that's their problem, Nicki clearly doesn't seem to give a shit, and that's what's most important.

As a fan, PF:RR is a very satisfying listen. It's fun, colourful and varied, which is pretty much Nicki's personalities in a nutshell. Some of the production can certainly be on the generic side at times, but with so much personality on each track, and with hooks by the bucket load, it's a minor issue when it comes to enjoying the entire album for what it is, a whole lot of fun.

Friday, April 6, 2012

MDNA [Deluxe Edition]

Madonna's last album, Hard Candy, was certainly well crafted, however, it lacked a lot of personality and had way too many production hands all over it. It was missing that certain signature Madonna stamp that usually comes with her music.
MDNA brings back that familiar Madonna feeling, with nods to her past work both musically and visually throughout the new album.
MDNA feels like a combination of a few of her past records, but it most notably shares the most similarities with her 'Music' album from 2000. MDNA has the same eclectic feel as Music with the album exploring a couple of different styles, rather than keeping with the same production on every track [aka. Confessions On A Dancefloor].

On one end we have songs that take a lot of inspiration from 60's retro pop tunes, and on the other end, we have a much more modern sounding and edgier inspired batch of dance songs.
I'm no stranger to old skool inspired modern music, artists like Outkast and Andre 3000 have incorporated those sorts of sounds into their work over the years and i've enjoyed it. MDNA however showcases these types of songs in a slightly cheesy way at times, which will either work for you or against you, depending on how sickly sweet you like your music to sound.
The lead single, Give Me All Your Luvin' is essentially a poor man's 'Hey Ya' [Outkast], and even though the song has grown on me slightly, i still think it's one of the weakest moments on the album, although it does feature 2 decent features with Nicki Minaj and MIA on the track. 'Superstar' also has the same sort of throw back feel, although it's catchier than the lead single.
Where the album really misses the mark though is with the bonus track, B'Day Song'. Although it's cute, it's just way too juvenile sounding to be listened to by anyone over the age of 4. After a whole albums worth of thunderous dance songs, it feels odd to reach a point on the record where you feel like you're listening to the latest Sesame Street song. Don't take my word for it though, fans seem to love the track, so i'm in the minority with that one.

Aside from a couple minor mis-steps though, the rest of MDNA is incredibly well produced and very fresh sounding. There are a few generic moments that feel like previous album lefts overs like, Girl Gone Wild and Masterpiece, but they're still both fantastic songs. Masterpiece doesn't fit the album very well, but it's such a great traditional Madonna ballad, i don't mind that it's on the standard track listing.
Other album highlights are the bonus tracks, Beautiful Killer and I Fucked Up, both of which should have been placed on the standard edition.
Love Spent is a wonderful 80's electro dance song, I Don't Give A is brilliantly produced and Nicki Minaj gets a second chance at a much cooler feature, Turn Up The Radio is a catchy and I'm A Sinner takes the retro sound from other weaker throwback tracks but actually makes it work thanks to William Orbits smart production.
The albums best moments for me however are the drugged out and chaotic, I'm Addicted, the fantastic electro track, Some Girls [which is the albums hidden gem] and Gang Bang, which features a cinematic, dark and sexy bass line amidst Madonnas breathy vocals . It's the best song Madonna has done in years and my favourite track off the album.

As a whole, Madonna has delivered a varied and solid album that is far more interesting than it's singles make it out to be. Although the album does have some a couple weak moments, there's more than enough on MDNA to make it worth your while. This is definitely Madonna's best album in a long time.