Nicki Minaj/Macy Gray
Both Badder Than Donna Summer, and in Such Different Ways
Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded: Deluxe Edition (Cash Money/Universal Republic)
Since the positive and negative reviews say pretty much the same thing, we can agree that this is an overstuffed, musically manipulative, thematically directionless bid to put the pink-haired alien on the singles charts until Katy Perry absconds to rehab. She isn't "the female Weezy" or some ill-defined male alter ego. She's an aspiring and most likely inevitable pop queen who raps exceptionally well, sings quite well, rhymes inconsistently but sometimes superbly, and will do anything to be rich and famous. This obviously doesn't make her a heroine. But if you enjoy contemporary pop whose market-tested blare offends both rockist philistines and IDM aesthetes, her second album is a worthwhile investment. It begins strong and, counting the three bonus tracks, ends strong. In between it tends mawkish and loud, neither of which precludes fun, especially with the right cameos. There is, however, a Chris Brown track. (Hey‑-I said anything.) A MINUS
Macy Gray: Covered (429)
Ten non-Gray songs, three comedy skits, and three brief cameos for her kids and their high school pals. The songs are all post-1980, meaning post-song‑-from the era when bands began distinguishing themselves by sound. Credit producer Hal Wilner with isolating the melodically verbal in Metallica, Radiohead, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sublime, My Chemical Romance, and lesser lights. But 1) the high point is the opening "Here Comes the Rain Again," an anthem on the face of it that Gray wrests from Annie Lennox forever; 2) a low point is the closer from the anthemic-on-the-face-of-it Arcade Fire, a major structural mishap; and 3) an even lower point is the Metallica centerpiece, which could be my problem but I bet isn't. Casting directors should note that the comedy skits are genuinely funny; Gray should note that I'm omitting the cameos when I put this in iTunes. But both are distractions. Fun as it is to hear her do "Creep," "Teenagers," and "Smoke Two Joints," this is a bigger mess than it had to be. B PLUS
Katy Perry--or "Katy Perry" can play with that"Is it fun or is it dangerous?" line all she wants and with a certain level of comfort and protection. I hope the young women of USC (and Dartmouth!)--not to mention the much younger girl-children who form her core audience can continue to sort out KP's fantasy play from their real lives.
Course, I'm writing this sitting across the table from my 15 year old daughter (she's listening to some heavy metal in Arabic right now. School assignment, I swear). And she's the one who pulled my coat about this song: "Um, daddy? Am I right that this is a song about getting so f*cked up drunk that you pass out and maybe later have to try to remember who you had sex with last night? Cool. I'm glad those 8 year old twins I babysit have been jamming to this one."
Edit: That should be NYRB, not NLRB. Which do I like better when functional? The NLRB, natch.
the reductionism in Parks looks pretty silly. I was hoping for more, er, nuance in the idea than parents they f**k you up, but maybe there isn't much there.
Actually there is quite a great deal more there (there being systems theory as it applies to relationships, from families of origin to couples to work units to neighborhood associations to gangs to rock and roll bands, sports teams, crews on airplanes, the staff at your favorite restaurant and all other sociological units), and the common assertion that it is all about how our parents f us up is only one factor in the system. Most likely they also helped you in many different ways, not to mention that other family members influenced you as well. Among other things, the function of birth order is quite compelling, though none of this is fixed and unmovable.
During the 20th Century, most of the movements that rebelled against layers of paternalism -- the labor movement, feminism, civil rights, even rock and roll itself -- can easily be described by Systems Psychology and Sociology.
What it has to do with the creation of specific and unique works of art, literature or music is certainly open for discussion, and in fact, good criticism does just that. Not to mention considering somatic chemistry, class and yes, even Freud as someone we know demonstrated ably in Barnes and Noble two years ago.
My take is that Parks' reductionism comes simply from trying to fit complex sociological and psychological ideas about equally complex literature into a relatively brief article. Added to the notion that he's still working out the concept. Personally, I think it clearly describes why some people are nearly magically devoted to Bruce Springsteen and other people see him as corny, as just one example. Nicky's story about his friends and Kanye West would be a second.
33-1/3 readers will have noticed that the main subject of the pretty decent book on Nick Drake focuses on the issues of licensing Pink Moon for an advertisement, and how that affected Drake's posthumous career.
Certainly there is a generic Dr. Luke sound. I just happen to like it.
I'm not so much annoyed by her (she's tremendously inoffensive) as bored by her
As for sex-positivity, jury's out as far as I can see -- Rihanna/Ke$ha/Britney/ Nicki ("Turn Me On"!!) are just as celebratory and more direct
They opened with a new song called "All Future and No Past
Actually that's an old song. The BBall project released a bunch of web only songs on the Yep Roc website in between albums. I have some of them but I may have missed a few.
They were called the Broadside Ballads, Here's what I have and if anyone knows differently please correct me.
(Do the the)Triple Crown
The Way It's Gonna Be
All Future No Past
As I said there may be others that I have missed so please chime in if there are corrections. I'd be glad to post these later if anyone wants them.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.