American Idol's judges & host
It’s show time! After all the heart-breaking back-stories, quirkiness and “I can’t believe they didn’t get through” moments that usually come with the audition and preliminary periods of “American Idol” (how annoying are back-stories at this point?), we have finally arrived at the live shows in which 10 hopefuls battle it out for the crown previously donned by Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia & Carrie Underwood (the American Idol winners they slay my life the most). Let’s get into it.
The Top 10 Thing: 1st of all, let’s talk about the fact that there isn’t a top 12. How long have they been doing that? Did I miss something? Even though it makes the grueling and sometimes daunting to watch competition shorter, I don’t like the fact that there aren’t 12 and no wild-card picks this year. For those who have watched Idol over the years, we all know what a savior wild-card picks can be (see Jennifer Hudson), even though most end up getting voted out again anyway (see Jennifer Hudson). I hated it when they stopped taking 12 on tour in Season 3, so I’m a little glad that on tonight’s results episode, 2 booted contestants will get a chance to compete for a spot in a sing-off. Can’t they get a spot on the show too? Dang.
Nicki Minaj & The Judges: Minaj has proven everyone, even me, wrong when it comes to her judging abilities. Many questioned what insight she could offer since she’s a newcomer (her debut album dropped in 2010)who isn’t primarily a singer, but in an ironic twist, she’s given some of the most useful and constructive critiques. In a very motherly fashion, Minaj gives it to contestant’s straight, but reminds them of their strengths and encourages them to be creative and flexible (as opposed to the usual pushing them into one particular sound or genre). She even had the guts to strongly oppose comments made by label head Jimmy Iovine ( whose company contracts the winning contestant), who judges typically don’t challenge out of “respect.” Keith Urban irritates me often; he seems to always insist the contestant stick to doing one thing. Mariah Carey isn’t doing what Idol hired her to in my opinion. Obviously they wanted someone as established as she not only for ratings attention, but because her skill and experience, and yet she playing it Paula Abdul (a former judge) and super sweet. No, I didn’t expect her to be cut-throat like Simon Cowell, but I expected firmness and concrete assessments. Carey seems to beat around the bush and sugar-coat, but I guess someone had to be the “nice one.”
Predictions: I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed in this season’s crop of contestants. No one is flat-out terrible, but there’s too much “decent” and not enough stellar. My following predictions are not based on who I think is the most talented, but previous voting patterns over the last 11 seasons. Let’s face it, when it comes to voting, it isn’t just about raw talent. Personality, looks, genre, week-to-week song choice and yes, race, are all factors in voting outcomes. Candice and Curtis have the strongest voices in my opinion, but I don’t think either have a chance at winning. I thought Curtis would go far until last night, when he chose to perform “I Believe” by Fantasia. The category for the week was songs by other Idol winners; contestants could choose to sing an original song by an Idol or a song an Idol performed while on the show (many defeated the purpose by doing prior performance songs). The problem with “I Believe” was that the song is so unique to Fantasia, he’d either get compared if he sung it like her, or criticized for changing it. He chose to change it by downplaying it vocally and it was a miss. Candice should win the whole darn thing, but again, let’s face it: if you aren’t adorable and don’t do pop, country or acoustic rock, you won’t win. That being said, among the female contestants, Angie & Janelle have the strongest shot. Angie needs to watch her song choices though. With the guys, I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe Devin (whose voice is so smooth and sensual) and Paul have the best chances. Lazaro is darling, but I don’t think knows what songs best suit him and will pull in votes, therefore his picks will likely send him packing early on. Burnell may surprise everyone and pop up in the top 5 or 6 (there’s always that middle ground person who gets better with time and becomes a favorite). Cree and Amber may go home early as well. Cree’s issue is that she has too much blues and soul in her style. She has that country element, but if Janelle stays on pitch and makes the right selections, there’s no need for Cree. Amber has Candice to contend with, so likely lose that war. However, based on what I said about genre, Amber might knock Candice out because she has a more pop-friendly tone.
Those are my predictions. What do you guys think?
Fox’s “American Idol” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8/7c.
Likes: Hov Lane, Champion, Fire Burns, Marilyn Monroe, Beautiful Sinner
Dislikes: Beez in the Trap, Starships, Stupid Hoe
Overall: Instead of an innovative, well-written, hard-hitting rap album, it’s a meaningless dance party
Did the ‘sophomore jinx’ get Nicki Minaj? It’s somewhat hard to say. Whether you love or hate “Roman Reloaded” depends on what you’re listening for. There was a lot of curiosity about what direction Minaj would take with this release as her fans have seen a rather quick progression from her rougher, explicit mixtape material to the pop of her latest single “Starships.” With the album’s concept being centered on her unfiltered and angry male alter-ego Roman, some assumed it would be edgy core-rap with songs like the previous “Roman’s Revenge.” Not the case at all. “Reloaded” is arguably more of a dance album than it is rap. Roman is heard clearly on the first 6 tracks and afterward gets lost in the shuffle as Nicki puts on her best techno-dance suit, making you wonder if you’re listening to Britney Spears’ “Femme Fatale” instead of an album from rap’s latest star.
The rap-dominated tracks begin with the dramatic “Roman’s Holiday,” which lacks a strong enough lyrical narrative that introduces the alter-ego and the album concept. The subsequent 5 are moderately catchy and have some lyrical gems, but they’re topically the same (mainly boasting) and have some annoying repetition. “Champion” is this album’s “Moment for Life,” with a smooth, airy track, a Drake verse and a ‘yeah, we made it’ theme. The cross into radio-friendly dance and pop comes with “Right by My Side” featuring Chris Brown. It was hard to keep attention after “Side.” Several of the songs were too similar musically and the lyrics were thin. Additionally, the production was painfully mechanical, with the most simplistic and standard of techno patterns. Should the tracks become singles or get played in the clubs, they’ll perform well because it’s befitting of current trends, but it won’t satisfy those desiring a little more depth. The lack of such depth is especially agitating when the record is 19 TRACKS LONG. I didn’t have a problem with Minaj singing (even though her signing ability is minimal); I just wish it was more balanced between the singing and rapping. I did enjoy the reflective “Marilyn Monroe” and “Fire Burns.” I appreciated how she unapologetically spits ill-will towards her ex on “Fire,” as many breakup songs shy away from that to keep the karma clean.
“Roman Reloaded’s” biggest offense is distracting from its own main character and theme. I wouldn’t be surprised if the album was more Roman-focused in its early development and due to the commercial success of songs like “Super Bass,” Nicki and/or record label execs decided to take a different route (yes, Minaj is with Young Money Entertainment, which has its origins in hip-hop, but Young Money is a subsidiary of a label under Universal Republic. Universal Republic has say in YME’s activity). I’m not against an artist trying on another genre, but there’s a way to do these things. Going for basic AND super mainstream isn’t the answer. It tampers with your chances for longevity and only offers short-term hype. If she wanted to do more pop, they should have scrapped the album title, strengthened the content and have more sophisticated and creative production.
“…so I laugh at hopefuls, ‘Nicki pop’, only thing thats pop is my endorsement op.”- (Roman Reloaded)
Did Nicki listen to her own album?
A while back, I posted a career analysis article about Nicki Minaj (http://bit.ly/twPNoG
). In short, I stated that if Nicki made the right, strategic career moves to establish herself as a formidable artist, it could result in the breaking down of gender-biased barriers for future female hip-hop artists. Nicki is featured on Big Sean’s “Dance (Ass),” and in the recently released video, Nicki slides her buttocks into Sean’s groin area and proceeds to bounce and shake her rump like the other video girls seen (see the video below). I AM LIVID. ABSOLUTLEY LIVID. Nicki has spoken extensively about the double standards and disrespect she has encountered while trying to expand her career and how she would like to change things for future female MC’s. Shaking your tail like a video girl for a song you’re featured on is completely counteractive to that goal. It’s hard to get people (especially male industry peers) to respect and view you as a serious artist when you display yourself as rapping sex-toy. It’s bad enough that she would even offer a verse to a song called “Ass.” It’s bad enough a song called “Ass” exists, but that’s another topic. I’m so perplexed by Nicki’s decision to be a part of this project and behave the way she did in the video. Some may not be surprised by her choice, but I really thought Nicki was trying to purposely get away from anything that would objectify her.
I’m starting to think that Nicki doesn’t know who she is an artist. She appears to have the ultimate goal of being a mogul, artist and actress who will redefine female rap (“I’m here to save a thing called female rap” as she says on “Can Anybody Here Me?”), but I don’t think she knows, nor decided, how to get there- hence the inconsistencies in her music and disparities between her statements and actions. I support her goal (girls run the world :) ), but I’m not liking how’s she’s presenting herself. I’m so disappointed in and irritated with her because I feel like she’s screwing up a golden opportunity. Do I have to hold my breath and wait another 3,000 years for a female MC to get Nicki’s status so we change things for other artists?
Nicki Minaj gets some help from Rihanna in "Fly"
What’s up with majority of today’s videos being without a significant concept or storyline? What’s up with all these videos where you just see the recording artist staring and posing in the camera while they let the backdrop speak for them?? That’s what you get in Nicki Minaj’s new music video, “Fly,” featuring Rihanna. With great scenery, “Fly” is set in a destroyed environment, perhaps post-apocalyptic or war-torn, but that’s as interesting as it gets. Nicki and Rihanna walk and pose through the rubble, and eventually the rap-star fights a couple ninjas briefly. The video closes with the sun coming out and a flower growing. That’s it. Rubble. Posing. Brief Ninja Fight. Flower. The end. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Considering the lyrics of the song, Minaj could’ve been some type of superhero or healer who caused the revitalization of the land and Rihanna, her sidekick or guide. Something a little more interesting than random ninjas and staring at your face. Granted, both Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are easy on the eyes, but I can Google photos for all of that. If you haven’t seen it, you can check out the video below. Also below is a poll: Did you like “Fly?”
Cover photo for V Magazine
What the star’s next move should be if she wants to conquer the world.
So, I’m watching Nicki Minaj’s performance on Good Morning America (Aug.5), and I noticed she did part of a song that I hadn’t heard before. The song was “Where Them Girls At?” by David Guetta, which features Minaj and rapper Flo-Rida. Similar to her current hit single, “Super Bass,” the track was radio-friendly, commercial pop-rap. I was immediately concerned. When something is commercially successful, record execs see nothing but green and expect you to forever duplicate the sound that got you on the pop chart. I fear that in the future, Nicki will continue to record pop-rap and that will be at the center of her repertoire. Nicki Minaj doing nothing but pop-rap is a bad thing because it’s likely that she won’t be viewed as a legitimate artist and the longevity of her career will be shortened, as it will be dependent on commercial singles. Considering the fact that her ability level is already questioned in the hip-hop community, it’s especially important for her to prove herself, demonstrate her strengths and make impactful music.
Why do I care about the longevity of Nicki Minaj’s career? Because I think she has a bigger plan and a feminist agenda that I like. From what I know of her start in the industry (which is moderate), she went from a “rough around the edges” sexually charged rapper, to a more polished-looking artist with mild sexual energy. Comparing her pre-record deal image, music and interviews versus now, I drew the conclusion that she was playing by the unwritten rules set by the “Boys Club” of hip-hop to establish herself, and planned to switch gears once she “made it.” Due to misogyny, sexism and double standards, aspiring female rappers have a difficult time succeeding in the male-dominated genre without be being disregarded, disrespected, unreasonably challenged or expected to compromise or exploit themselves. I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Minaj’s former image was the result of this unfairness. Between the shift in her presence and the multiple declarations she’s made about improving the conditions for future female emcees and expanding her brand, I say Minaj is trying to change the game for the better. She’s trying to be the first female Jay-z: a “Jane of all trades,” multi-talented entrepreneurial mogul that changes the definition of what it means to be a female rapper and contributes to making hip-hop a widely embraced culture. There’s always been some sort of a “glass ceiling” for female rappers; a limit to what they can accomplish and Nicki seems to be trying to take a hammer to it. That’s why it’s so pertinent that she succeeds, because if she does, it will open a pathway for a future generation (for example, she’s the first female rapper to be featured on the “Forbes” -a finance magazine-top hip-hop earners list. Now we know it’s not impossible for a female to make the list).
The first step to achieving this goal is musical and artistic solidarity. Minaj needs to strive for a happy medium on her next record: a splash of pop-rap (ex. “Super Bass”) with a strong chunk of clever, unforgettable rhymes (ex. her feature on “Monster” or “Roman’s Revenge”). The more artistry she exhibits and the more respect she garners, the longer her career will last and she’ll have more power to access what she desires.
Just a thought. What do you think?
To see more "Curious Case" articles, click Minaj's picture above.