Nicki Minaj is a great pop star who has yet to make a great album. Her 2010 debut ‘Pink Friday’ hopped from genre to genre in pursuit of a crossover hit, and succeeded when ‘Super Bass’ became the following year’s summer anthem. Then came 2012’s ‘Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded’, a messy but exuberant fusion of club bangers like the irresistible ‘Starships’ and harder-hitting rap tracks. This third album is the New Yorker’s most cohesive collection yet, but also her least thrilling.
Minaj has supplied incendiary verses on hits by everyone from Jessie J (‘Bang Bang’) to Justin Bieber (‘Beauty and a Beat’), but ‘The Pinkprint’ finds her in surprisingly subdued form. She’s still deliciously filthy when bragging about her bedroom technique on the Beyoncé-assisted ‘Feeling Myself’ and the digital disco of ‘The Night Is Still Young’ proves Minaj still knows how to party. Yet the album is dominated by melancholy midtempo cuts that seem to chronicle the rumoured breakdown of her long-term relationship with fellow rapper Safaree Samuels.
Fortunately, Minaj can never suppress her natural sass for long: ‘I put you in the crib and you ain’t never pay a bill in it,’ she reminds her cheating partner on standout track ‘Bed of Lies’. It’s a shame Minaj doesn’t show her playful side more. ‘Anaconda’s grotesque celebration of shapely posteriors, for example, sticks out like a stripper in a convent. Despite that, ‘The Pinkprint’ is at least successful in revealing the human side of an artist who can often come off like a cartoon character.
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