Following a successful debut, most artists or bands would live in fear of the dreaded sophomore slump. For Nicki Minaj, the pressure is piled on even thicker.
Minaj’s debut album “Pink Friday” had the second-highest sales week for a female hip-hop artist (behind only Lauryn Hill), topping the Billboard 200 and selling more than 1 million copies.
With the release of “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” the sequel to her debut, the Trinidadian-born rapper tries to use guest appearances by Big Sean, David Guetta and Madonna to ride the success of her last album — but fails.
The album spreads itself too thin over 19 tracks. Minaj spends the first half catering to hip-hop fans and the second half jumping on the dance-pop bandwagon currently dominating top-40 radio.
“Roman Holiday,” which kicks off the album, is an utterly bizarre song sung by Minaj’s alter ego Roman Zolanski, with a chorus sung in a Cockney accent by Roman’s mother Martha. The track also features an excerpt of “Come All Ye Faithful.”
Minaj performed the song in her exorcism-themed performance at the Grammys.
To be frank, Minaj sounds equally possessed on this album. “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded” is an aural identity crisis.
Minaj applies that same frenetic style to “Come on a Cone,” which feels like a sped-up version of her hit “Did it on ‘em.”
It’s still memorable for brief moments where Minaj harmonizes about putting her you-know-what in people’s faces.
After two outlandish, but borderline decent songs, the album gets less strange. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better.
With the exception of her latest single “Beez in the Trap,” the rap songs are not memorable. Minaj is on autopilot, rapping over minimal beats, accompanied by typical guests like Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross.
“Champion” feels too much like “Moment 4 Life,” complete with the inclusion of Drake. Even great rappers like Nas and Young Jeezy offer lackluster verses that get overshadowed by well-produced beats.
The pop half of the album falls flat by completely ridding itself of Minaj’s over-the-top personality and hip-hop charisma that made her famous.
Already a radio hit, “Starships” sticks out as a little less forgettable but nothing evokes the charm of Minaj’s summer anthem “Super Bass.”
“Pound the Alarm,” “Whip It,” and “Automatic” are so basic and regressive it hurts. Minaj asks, “Is this how Marilyn Monroe felt?” on a weak ballad named after the iconic actress, as if they have anything in common.
The album ends with “Stupid Hoe,” where Minaj fires shots at her arch nemesis Lil Kim. Instead of jabs, she should be offering thanks to a rapper whose career gave birth to Minaj.
On her debut album, it seemed like Minaj had something to rap about. On “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” she is either obsessed with “haters” and Lil Kim, or pandering to stale mainstream trends.
Minaj tried to capture the magic of her debut, but in the end, she can’t live up to the hype. “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded” is not so much a sophomore slump, as it is a nosedive.