Nicki Minaj Outshines James Franco With Pinkprint Cuts on SNL


If there are two names that 2014 wore the hell out, it’s Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian West, and yet Nicki Minaj was able to capitalize on both — and deliver a stellar musical set — on Saturday Night Live, without tapping the trend till it goes stale.

SNL booking crew, you do a phenomenal job, but why bother with James Franco when Nicki could’ve carried the show on her own as a hostess and musical guest, like Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, and Taylor Swift before her? The release date for The Pinkprint is drawing nigh, and her Minajesty is clearly on her A-game, jumping on high-profile shows and dropping fire one revealing verse at a time. Of the tracks off Pinkprint, the hugely emotional “All Things Go,” which details Nicki getting an abortion, among other things, is proof enough that the forthcoming full-length dives into new waters for Minaj. It would’ve made perfect sense for “Anaconda” to kick off her latest SNL performance — it’s the first single off Pinkprint and easily lampoonable, right down to the lyrics, the “Baby Got Back” sample, and its now iconic video treatment — and it’s telling that Minaj chose to shelve the hit in favor of bringing the direct, personal material to SNL when she could’ve easily rested on her “Anaconda” laurels.

The skits Nicki had cameos in — a “Drunk in Love”-belting Beyoncé for “Jingle Ballerz”; a Kim Kardashian West defense of the notorious Paper spread for Weekend Update — didn’t overshadow the Pinkprint tracks, but just proved how comfortable the MC is in multiple formats. Up first we had “Bed of Lies,” which featured a hefty dose of real talk aimed at a man who underestimated her, plus the sweet juxtaposition of a piano-playing Skylar Grey. (Thankfully, Skylar’s appearance on SNL this time around eclipsed her contributions to Eminem’s not-so-lovingly received performance last fall.)

As for “Only/All Things Go,” the minimalism of the Lil Wayne/Drake/Chris Brown-featuring joint wavered for a minute despite Nicki’s stark delivery and sans the slow-burning verses from her cohorts in a live capacity. Minaj quickly regained her footing and shot off “Only” one volley at a time before stepping into “All Things Go,” staring the audience dead in the eye while she opened up and exposed herself on a personal level that anchors her intensity in a way “Anaconda” never could.

SNL may be about laughs first and foremost, but the musical stage has shaken it up in recent seasons, and Nicki bringing exactly what she wanted to Studio 8H proved that you can hold the world’s attention between butt jokes and Bey hair flips. You’ve just gotta hit ’em with a verse they can’t ignore, and that’s exactly what she did.

The #Barbz were out in full effect for their queen on Twitter — #NickiOnSNL trended for a bit Saturday night — and plenty agreed that Nicki deserved top billing on SNL, so here’s hoping the next time around we get Minaj alone under that multifaceted spotlight. She’s earned it, and the internet came out to holler about it.

First things first: NOPE.

Of the compliments thrown Nicki’s way, the loudest were the ones clamoring for her to be upgraded from musical guest to both SNL‘s hostess and performer.

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Fans got to it on artwork not a full day after “Jingle Ballerz.”