queen of music

Celebrity Jury: Nicki Minaj

You even have a day that just feels like a Monday?

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But let’s chat.  As you all may remember, when the blog first started, we would take a look at some celebrities and judge them.  You know like these:

Justin Timberlake
Justin Bieber
Ray J
Bow Wow Shad Moss D-Pimpin

Well since we haven’t had a lady be judged, it’s time to rectify that.  Step on down Nicki!

tre

 

Oh…that’s not you. Hi Tré!

actually nicki

 

There you are!  Let’s get this show on the road.

Pro: Nicki is a capable rapper.

Let’s flashback to 2009, when Nicki burst on the scene with a bunch of star-making features.  I remember thinking that she was nothing special.  Clever, but not that interesting.  This was the first verse that really made me sit up and take notice from a signed artist standpoint (more on the mixtapes later).

This is FANTASTIC.  Witty, interesting, lyrically sound.  There’s not a forced rhyme in the entire verse.  Effective use of her accents.  There is not a single flaw here.  It’s the best part of the song.

But what it showed me was that I had been too harsh in my initial judgment.  I may not have been a huge fan, but the lady can rap and rap well.

Con: These singles.

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Short Version: I don’t like these songs.

Long Version: These songs aren’t interesting.  Nicki doesn’t have a terrible singing voice, but it’s not one that we need to hear when she’s capable of Monster style verses.  The rapping here defaults to L’il Wayne style broken similes and metaphors that feel lazy to me.  I just don’t get excited about Nicki Minaj music 90% of the time.  I feel like I’m going to get something dull and plodding (Your Love, Pills and Potions) or something zany yet bland (Starships, Super Bass).

Pro: Nicki’s Makeunder

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For the first few years, Nicki ran around looking a clown’s ass and we just let it happen.  Her wigs were always bright and colorful but sat too low on her forehead or were plagued by tragic wig glue.  Her make-up…was frightening.  In the wake of Lady Gaga’s “style,” Nicki’s felt try-hard and uninspiring.  no

Like this?  This is dumb.  This isn’t interesting.  There is no message.  It’s just stupid.

However in 2013, Nicki Minaj started looking like a human and dressing in a more toned-down manner.  I hate to seem like I’m discouraging her creativity, but she looks amazing.

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Like look at this person.  Look at this woman.  How stunning is she?

Not only did it let us see what she looks like, but it had the effect of pressing “Reset” for those of us who were non-fans and others who loved mixtape Nicki.  It’s one of the most effective image makeovers in history.  I’m reminded of Dorothy Dandridge.  Some of you may or may not know, but Dorothy Dandridge had a very sweet and “apple pie” appeal when she first broke in Hollywood with the Nicolas Brothers.

She’s obviously a dynamic performer and talent, but she’s miles away from becoming Carmen Jones.

SO. HOT. RIGHT. NOW.  She’s like sex personified in the role.  It was this role that would infuse her nightclub acts with sensuality and become her lasting image rather than her earlier roles.

It’s my hope that this is the route Nicki is taking.  I’m open to liking her and her music more now because I think she looks amazing.  Had she started out this way, I would think that she had nothing more to offer, but now I feel like she deserves another shot, if that makes sense.

Con: Petty Betty is Petty.

Let’s flashback to the BET Awards.  I said this,

But back to Nicki coming for Iggy’s writing credits and authenticity.  Girl. Good. Bye. I don’t say that because I’m some huge Iggy fan or anything.  But to come for someone who is having career success when you’ve just beaten her for an award is petty.  It doesn’t make you look good.  It doesn’t speak well for your belief in YOUR career.  And to have Nicki Minaj come for anyone on the grounds of authenticity when she has run around for a good 5 years wearing multi-colored quick weaves, speaking in tragic accents, and calling herself a Barbie just reeks of a lack of self-awareness.  Writing all of those lyrics gave us Stupid Hoe and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  So good for you?

And you know, I stand by this.  Most of Nicki’s first two years were plagued with dumb drama with L’il Kim over “not paying enough homage.”  It was petty and stupid then.  And Nicki’s reacting to Iggy’s success now is petty and stupid.  Nicki’s lane is secure and clear, despite any misgivings I may have about her.  Iggy being a part of two great summer songs has nothing to do with her.  She may not be a fan but just relax and know that you are and can do better.  People who are comfortable in their position don’t worry about what others are doing.

Pro: Lookin’ Ass N****

Yes.  Just yes.

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Con: Stupid Hoe

Now, I had to break this out separately.  What. The. Fuck.

Who approved this?

Who thought this would be a hit?

This is awful.

This is Nicki at her most indulgent and terrible.  Anybody who did not see it for her can point to this song & video and prove their point.

Pro: Nicki supports feminism.

Or at the very least, pays lip service to it.  I’m a big supporter of women standing up for themselves and their causes.  And I appreciate that Nicki does the same in her way.  Her response to Loyal at Super Jam was great.

And while I don’t care for the Anaconda cover, I don’t feel like there’s any reason for the uproar.  It’s just her ass cheeks.  This is Nicki Minaj we’re talking about. Her ass is her brand.

Con: Defensive, thy name is Onika.

Back to the point, I was making about the Anaconda cover and uproar.  Nicki went on a rant with images of other non-Black women with their booty butt cheeks out or half-dressed when people critiqued the cover.  While I agree that there is nothing particularly wrong with the cover, I feel like this is an Azealia Banks move.  It’s not that Nicki shouldn’t respond or that she can’t respond.  It’s that instead of managing her career in a way that an artist of her stature can, she’s still acting like a struggling artist whose record sales live and die by Twitter.

She’s more than that and I think that there’s two ways to respond.  Get you an interview with Jimmy Fallon or Chelsea Handler and state your case.  Or release a freestyle called “Unbothered” with several pictures of your ass in all of it’s glory.

Duh…

Going back a little bit, remember her “feud” with Mariah Carey?  Mariah Carey is a rude and shady bitch, but losing your cool isn’t how you fight someone operating at that level of mastery.  You do some digging

Pro: Parodies & Sophia Grace/Rosie

Without Nicki, these things wouldn’t be here to tickle me.

Those little girls are mega adorable.

 

Con: Her Live Performances Leave Much To Be Desired

 

I’ve said a couple of times that Pills And Potions is a boring song that really had no business coming out for the summer.  But the decision was made and Nicki performed it at the BET Awards with that cheap bunny costume, giant mushroom prop and one contemporary dancer.  It’s interesting that she pulled from Alice in Wonderland given Lewis Carroll’s thinly veiled drug references in the original, but there’s always something lacking in the execution.

I’ve never seen a Nicki performance that was “creative” that didn’t come across as juvenile.  To me, it feels like she has the idea first and does not think anything through until the day of the performance.  I’ve seen stans make the argument that she majored in Theatre in high school and that’s what I get from these performances.  High school spring musical.  At a struggling high school.

I’ve just sat through a few performances and I’m still bored.  It’s all lackluster booty popping (for the rap songs) or forced creativity.  Thanks but no thanks.

Pro: She gave Cassie a job!

You all know how I feel about the Original Queen of Music.

Overall: Meh…

You know, I was making this list and I was pretty sure that it would come out as a positive for Nicki.  While I can’t say I’m a huge fan or anything, I really do think there is something to be said for her career.  It had been years since we had any female rappers doing anything of note.  Remy Ma has the talent and flow, but went to jail.  Shawnna is also a great rapper, but her own singles never had much commercial appeal outside of hoodrat clubs and college parties.  Nicki was able to rise to the top with a slew of memorable verses and catchy songs.  She’s managed to keep control of her career in some ways and redirect it away from a sinking ship.  She’s got talent and spark.

But I’m still not convinced.  I’m just not moved by her own material enough to really be on her team.  For every triumph, there’s a complete flop.  For ever accurate point made, there’s something petty and insecure the next day.

I would like to see Nicki find a way to just truly own her star image and sound.  I think once she stops trying to “make hits” and relies on what got her signed in the first place, she’ll be golden.

But until then…

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What are your thoughts?  Let me know in the comments or over the twitter machine.

 

 

Queen of Music: Cassie

Hello and Happy Thursday!  Can you believe it’s almost March?

Now typically, today would be Trashy Thursday and I’d share the hottest of messes that I could find.  But I’m definitely having my man-strual cycle, so I plan to eat snacks and nap all day.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t start a new feature that I like to call “Queen of Music”.

So what makes someone a Queen of Music?  I like to break it down like this:

1 part mediocre vocal talent
2 parts good looks
1/2 part sleeping with producers
4 parts hilarious antics
1/2 part listenable music

So now it’s time to crown our first ever Queen of Music.  Cassandra Ventura, COME ON DOWN!

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Now Cassie is a phenomenally gorgeous woman. Tall, thin, with incredible bone structure and a striking face.  She was meant to be a star.  But then there’s the whole singing thing.  

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Cassie just does not have a great voice.  But you know during the first decade of the 2000’s, vocal talent was not necessary to having a hit song. So Cassie and her Myspace page took the internet by storm with her single, ‘Me and U’.

Now I hear you saying, that this isn’t the version you’re used to.  But with a budget of tens of dollars and a flip cam, Cassie made this amazing video.  It is my personal mission to make sure everyone on Earth sees the black-light sequence.  Remember this was a time where Paris Hilton wasn’t a joke.  Well as big a joke.

The moment at 2:50 makes me cackle every single time I see it.  And her dance moves?  ***Flawless.

But anyways, the success of this song and the fact that Cassie looks like a freaking supermodel got the attention of Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy and he signed her to a record deal. Success was in her reach with the official release of Me & U.

What’s really noticeable is that there were not a lot of changes to this version from her original version.  Diddy was right as the song shot up the charts and became a worldwide success!  Don’t lie, you jammed to it! 

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Fun Fact: Trash can actually reenact this entire video.  Don’t be jealous of my boogie!

Cassie was living the good life and she was primed to challenge Rihanna and Amerie for their thrones.  But then tragedy.

The Downfall

Umm…well.  Ooh Cassie what happened here?

Giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirl….no.

Cassie! The girl who doesn’t speak English sounds better, well she is actually trying.  Props to the sign in the audience (Elfy, une vraie artiste).

See the thing about Cassie is that she really can’t sing or dance.  She also doesn’t have a metric ton of charisma to back it up.  Me and U is a great song because of the production (Ryan Leslie is fantastic at his job), not because of her raw talent.  When forced to perform the song live, her career became derailed and it seemed the world became more interested in laughing at her than singing along with her.  

But that didn’t stop Cassie from trying!

“Try to take me out to dinner, I CANCEL IT!”

They attempted to step up the dancing in this video and cut all the live performances from her schedule.  But the song never gained a lot of traction and Bad Boy was now scrambling to figure out to do with Cassie.

Diddy attempted to have her sub for Nicole Scheherazade in a live performance of Come To Me.

She was paired with L’il Wayne during the peak of his career.

And none of that really worked.  The thing is that the general public is willing to ignore mediocre singing talent if you bring it with catchy songs (Rihanna), fierce dance moves (Jennifer Lopez), and water cooler discussion (Ke$ha).  But Cassie really doesn’t have any of those things.

Now this post is coming across like I’m bashing our Queen of Music, but really I find everything about Cassie super entertaining.  It’s the combo of being extremely beautiful but seemingly clueless about where her talents lie.  Had she accepted that she should be modeling and not singing, this post would be a lot different.  Most of her songs are slickly produced and fun to listen to, but the addition of her singing has no effect in making the song better.  I’ll provide two examples below.

King Of Hearts

I LOVE THIS SONG! It’s the perfect workout song.  The production is spot-on!  There’s a lot going that gradually builds as the song builds to the breakdown and final chorus.  The pounding bass line, the echoed voices, the synth line, and the gradual build-in of chords around her voice all work.  Even the use of having Cassie’s “harmonies” being an octave apart was smart.  

But notice, that all of my praise goes to Cassie’s production team and not her singing.  The only “interesting” thing she adds is the random octave jump on the “King of Hearts” in the last chorus.  She looks incredible in the video though.

The Boys

Now I’m no fan of Nicki Minaj, but can you point out what Cassie adds to this song besides the off-key “You Get Hiiiiigh” and looking supremely gorgeous in all of her outfits?  I’ll wait.

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But with that said, my world would be incomplete without the musical stylings of Cassie.  She is a delight, seems like a really sweet girl, and she’s managed to keep her record deal despite a relative lack of success.  You go girl!  

Now I’m going to go dance to King of Hearts.  Leave your favorite Cassie memories below and make your nomination for the next QUEEN! OF! MUSIC!