Let’s just say multiple members of the Voice critical braintrust are generating possibly dozens of hundreds of words about Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday even as you read this, and leave it at that — we are excited, is all. Nicki herself, meanwhile, is ubiquitous. Her “If I’m Lucky I’ll Finish Second To Kanye” tour rolled on yesterday: She showed up at some overpacked club in New Jersey, taped an interview with Angie Martinez set to at air on Hot 97 at 4 p.m. today, and, ah yes, did David Letterman, barreling calmly through the not terribly rappity-rap-ish “Right Thru Me” without the usual clown-ish cohorts like will.i.am or Robin Thicke to steal her spotlight. More meet-and-greets and semi-candid interviews will surely follow next week, climaxing Thanksgiving night when she plays Hammerstein Ballroom with fellow SOTC obsession Fabolous. Delightful. Meanwhile, fans and detractors alike get to sit around and argue about whether or not Pink Friday is rappity-rap-ish enough.
The finest critic thus far to grapple with the why-does-she-have-to-sing-so-much question is, not surprisingly, the L.A. Times‘ Ann Powers, who puts Friday‘s schizophrenia down to savvy, horizon-expanding feminism:
But this daughter of Queens, the most culturally diverse neighborhood in America, obviously spent her youth listening to all those accents on the subway. She takes the art of the fluid self into new territory by cultivating multiple vocal personalities, making her not just another fashion plate but a true spokeswoman for the split and shattered female self.
With several alter egos helping her define her rhyming style, from the nastily aggressive Roman Zolanski to the coquettish (but never dumb) Barbie, Minaj has not just set herself up to be a necessarily versatile pop star — she has taken on the very complicated subject of how any woman, artist or not, manipulates her own consciousness to adjust to what life within a still-sexist society demands of her.
Minaj doesn’t always succeed on “Pink Friday,” and I’m not even sure how thought out her split-personality approach is. But I for one admire her attempts to show range, vocally and emotionally, and to confront how confusing life for young women can be.
We’ll know if she can be all things to enough people soon enough. For now, here she is on Letterman, flaunting that range and charming Dave at least slightly, which is its own profound accomplishment. Good luck, Nicki. Kevin Durant went #2 too, y’know.