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Minaj-a-trois: “The Pinkprint” Review

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Nicki Minaj.

Nicki Minaj’s third album was released this December, and the divisive pop star has decided to go a far different route than her breakout album, “Pink Friday.” Instead of being saturated with catchy, bass-heavy fluff, Minaj focuses on her relationships, past and sexuality in ways not previously seen since her rise to stardom.

“Anaconda” is obviously the most talked-about track, but the upbeat, sample-intensive song actually feels shockingly out of place with the album as a whole, even if it does touch on the performer’s conquests. Out of the four major tracks that discuss what goes down in Minaj’s boudoir, “Get On Your Knees” with Ariana Grande manages to be more creative than just talking about “dat ass” over and over,  far more sex-positive and have a better beat. “Feelin’ Myself” with Beyoncé is also superior in pretty much every way to last fall’s biggest, roundest hit.

The album actually starts off with “All Things Go,” a rather depressing look at the people (and people to be) that the artist has lost. That’s followed up by “I Lied.” It’s an introspection of the harm that is done to relationships by refusing to be vulnerable. After some lighter music, the somber tone returns with the trinity of “Pills and Potions,” “Bed of Lies” and “Grand Piano.” All are solid, but the last of them manages to be both the quietest and catchiest, if a little trite –almost like a Disney song.

All this said, Minaj does still have some old standbys. “The Night is Still Young” is reminiscent of her popular dance hits like “Superbass” and “Starships.” Fans of her self-hype tracks like “I’m the Best” and “I’m Legit” may appreciate “Win Again,” even though it has quite a different feel than those. “Want Some More” is also kind of a fun piece of puffery.

The album’s best song is easily “The Crying Game.” Eastern-influenced strings provide the background for a tale of a failed relationship and its emotional toll that builds up its beat. It’s at once both thoughtful and fun.

Nicki Minaj is not really the first artist that comes to mind when one says the word “introspective,” and that might be why “The Pinkprint” is so successful. After releasing a hit single about “[tossing] salad” that samples a 20-year-old song as a crutch, a series of personal tracks about abuse, power and a miscarriage are about the last thing you’d expect. The only downside is the overall flow of the album is just sort of all over the place. Going from “Grand Piano” to “Big Daddy” is pretty jarring.

4 out of 5.

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