Monday, November 22, 2010

PINK FRIDAY Review: Oh, Darling Nicki. Where Are You?

Where is the real Nicki Minaj?

You know, the one from the popular features, like the "Monster" verse? Or the one from "Itty Bitty Piggy?" Or even the one from the "Hello Good Morning or "Lil Freak" remixes?"

Where's the chick that had the club rockin' to "I Get Crazy?" Or the artist who had her "Barbz" reciting all the words to her verse on "5 Star Chick?"

I'm just wondering because she certainly didn't show up on her debut album, "Pink Friday," that was released today.

Aside from the Lil' Kim diss record, "Roman's Revenge," the album is a huge disappointment that lacks everything people really enjoyed about the Queens rapstress. Where's the rah-rah-rah in-your-face lyricist that commands the attention of any crowd? After the third track, "Did It On'em," the whole album goes south.

The over-the-top animated verses that featured multiple voice changes seemed to have been kept a minimum, and instead swapped with pointless pop singing. "Right Through Me," "Save Me" and "Your Love" are just a few prime examples. I understand the importance of connecting with a mainstream crowd, but this is a joke. People liked those bizarre animated voices - "then I press the little button on the sit back chair!"

I guess the sit back chair went back, and Nicki took a nap on this album.

The highly-anticipated album features top-billing artists, including Rihanna, who sings the sappy chorus on the subpar, "Fly." I think Rihanna wisely snagged the better song ("Raining Men" feat. Minaj) for her own album.

That's not the only bad feature. "Check It Out" features, who tried to create some Black Eyed Peas-style magic for the self-proclaimed Harajuku Barbie. Instead, he created an amazingly cheesy and annoying song that not even Fergie would hum in the shower.

Minaj's Young Money labelmate Drake comes to the rescue on "Moment 4 Life," and Kanye West returns the "Monster" favor by appearing on "Blazin," two of few bright spots on the album. Hard to go wrong when you throw Kanye or Drake on a track.

The big surprise is just how mellow the album is. It just doesn't have the edge to match her wacky persona. Definitely not what I would have expected from the 13-track debut from one of the most charismatic rappers in the game. And certainly wouldn't expect a pop collabo with Natasha Bedingfield on "Last Chance!?" Save that for her album, not your debut!

If you get the deluxe edition, you will pick up some decent bonus tracks. But the damage is done.

I'm sure there was a lot of music recorded for this release. How they decided on these 13 tracks? I'll never know. Obviously, there was plenty of bad decision making. Just like the decision making that resulted in "Massive Attack" being her first single. See how well that worked out? The song was a massive failure and didn't even make the final cut.

Sorry, five star chick - your album is barely a two-and-a-half, even if it's not all your fault.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

American Music Awards: Just 20+ years ago

Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Prince were just some of the marquee names of the annual American Music Awards show more than 20 years ago.

I was just a kid watching those larger-than-life stars perform and accept armfuls of the pyramid-shaped crystal trophies. It was a big day - that is until the Grammy's rolled around about a month later.

For the AMAs shows that I didn't see live on TV, I just watched VHS tapes that my uncle had neatly organized in the basement. I couldn't wait for the results of those award shows. The results of the AMAs were always usually more satisfying than the Grammy's.

With the 38th AMAs airing tonight, I decided to share some pretty memorable moments.

Diana Ross opened the 1986 show, which she also elegantly hosted, with a performance of the Michael Jackson penned, "Eaten Alive." This year, we'll be treated to Rihanna, who will open the show.

Lionel Richie hosted the 1985 show during a time when there were "Favorite Black..." categories. How awkward does that look and sound to us 25 years later?? The nominees for "Favorite Black Single" were "Caribbean Queen," Billy Ocean; "What's Love Got to Do With It," Tina Turner; and "When Doves Cry," Prince.

In the same show, Huey Lewis and Madonna presented the award for "Favorite Black Album" - the nominees: "Can't Slow Down," Lionel Richie; "Purple Rain," Prince; and "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.

But the BEST PART of the show was that the same THREE black albums were nominated for the "big award of the night" - - "Favorite Pop Album."

And it was the purple one who would scoop up all three awards that night. That year would also mark the end of the "Favorite Black..." categories. The next year, those categories were changed to "Favorite Soul/R&B..." That's better.

Prince closed the 1985 show with these words: "For all of us, life is death without adventure. And adventure only comes to those who are willing to be daring and take chances."

Another interesting clip, came during the 1984 AMAs. Michael Jackson won the "Favorite Pop Album" award for "Thriller." So the same album was nominated for the same category two years in a row?? (1984 & 1985 - Wow. Weird. Wouldn't happen today.) MJ has holds the AMA record, winning 26 trophies, including eight in 1984.

And you can't talk about the old days of the AMAs without mentioning Whitney Houston. She's won 22 AMAs - the most for any female artist. She won eight in 1994, and a total of seven between 1986 and 1987.

In January 1986, she accepted her first AMA and delivered a top-notch vocal performance of "How Will I Know."

In 1990, it was a showdown between the student and the teacher. Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson, both at big moments in their respective careers, performed separately on the show. Abdul was previously known for her work as a choreographer during Janet's breakthrough. But Abdul decided to step out with her own singing career (although she's known more for her dancing). At the AMAs, she put on a quite a dancing clinic with her big 1989 hit, "The Way That You Love Me." She easily outperformed Janet's "Escapade," but we all know who would go on to have a bigger music career. So I guess this "showdown" didn't mean much in the long run...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jay-Z presents new Roc Nation signee: Jay Electronica

It was indeed a magical night at The Box in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

In an event that was put together in about 24 hours, Jay-Z presented Jay Electronica as the newest member of his Roc Nation label. The New Orleans rapper joins a stable of artists that includes J.Cole, Willow Smith and Rihanna.

The announcement came as guests sipped on what seemed like endless amounts of Ace of Spades, and magicians went table-to-table performing some pretty cool card tricks. The night also included earlier performances from a very limber female entertainer and a man who showed off his skills as a human slinky. Interesting, to say the least.

After a pause from the unusual entertainment, Jay-Z suddenly appeared on the stage.

"Been watching this wizard do his thing," he said. "You guys supported him in a major way. He goes by the name of Jay Electronica, and he's [an] official Roc Nation signee. Make some noise!"

Jay Electronica performed in front of a crowd that included Beyonce, Omarion, Estelle and his own mother.

"Y'all gotta forgive me because this a real moment for me," Electronica told the crowd. "I'mma just do what I do the best."

The rapper, who is also one of Erykah Badu's baby-daddies, performed his popular song, "Exhibit C," which has gotten some steady radio-play in New York.