"And Fearless Minds Climb Soonest Unto Crowns"
IN THIS PHOTO: Nicki Minaj/ALL PHOTOS/IMAGES (unless credited otherwise): Getty Images
Nicki Minaj and Queen: Is the ‘Delayed’ Album Part of a Cynical Marketing Ploy?
SAY what you want about her…
but Nicki Minaj sure knows how to work the music promotion machine! Nobody really remembers when Queen was really due: it came out yesterday but I think various ‘expected dates’ have been tossed into the media. I will look at its troubled history but, in terms of feedback, I was expecting the journalism world to jump all over it. By that, I thought there’d be loads of reviews and carnival! We all know the album is out – where are the lashings of reviews that were predicted?! Maybe there is a load coming, and some might be hard to find, but early impressions have been positive. Forbes provided their opinions:
“…Fortunately, Minaj regains her footing at the end of Queen with the exhilarating one-two punch of “Coco Chanel” and “Inspirations Outro.” Fellow Trinidadian rapper Foxy Brown shows up for a downright filthy guest verse, usurping Minaj on her own track. That’s not an insult, either: Minaj delivers one of her most fiery performances on Queen, ending the album with a thunderous closing statement: “Bless up, Bob Marley, yes, king lion/ Marchin' with Lauryn Hill to Zion/ Caribbean, tings what I am/ Me and Fox gettin' paper like we ain't tryin’.”
With Queen, Nicki Minaj has crafted an excellent 10-song album and hidden it inside a scattershot 19-song album. Still, she accomplished what she set out to do: prove to skeptics that she can still spit with the same vitriol she had at the beginning of her career, and give fans plenty to sink their teeth into without pandering to them. For those reasons alone, Queen is a success that warrants repeat spins to decipher all of Minaj’s multi-layered boasts and subtle potshots at other rappers. It’s a rewarding listen if you’re willing to dig. Thankfully, the Barbz have never been afraid to put in work”.
Another viewpoint, from Billboard, claims Nicki Minaj has reclaimed her crown (Hip-Hop/Pop queen):
“Queen arguably runs a little long: its 17 tracks (plus an interlude and outro) feel like a lot in the midst of Kanye West’s newly adopted 21-minute album business model. But for an artist like Minaj, who had the top spot locked for years, it’s only right that she would serve numerous examples of her skills on her theoretical comeback project.
You can’t really call this a comeback, though. Nicki Minaj has been and will continue to be omnipresent, yet in an age where someone new enters the space and social media opts to “cancel” the predecessor (almost always involving two women), an album like Queen is necessary. This isn’t a project to annihilate the competition since the island is now well-occupied. Queen exists to exemplify Nicki’s proven longevity, which is enough of a rarity to finally declare her as well-deserved rap royalty”.
There was talk, as recently as days ago, that Queen would be released on 17th August – the fact it came a week ‘early’ stunned many. I wonder whether that obfuscation was designed to fool competition and create more hype! I have heard the album and the reviews highlight some good points. The first one I quoted highlighted how Queen is a rather cutting and captivating ten-track release caught inside a bloated nineteen-track beast.
It is overlong and some of the lyrics are either too controversial or bland. It is obvious how much intensity and self Minaj has put into the album. The Pinkprint was released four years ago: there has been demand and questions as to whether Minaj would bring an album out this year. Whether you see her as Rap/Hip or Pop; the competition is fierce and there is a rather cut-throat attitude to albums and timeliness. Maybe some journalists are working on their reviews; some might be in national newspapers. I wonder whether many are reluctant to be honest or whether the nineteen-track album is still sinking in. It seems, at first glance, the hype and sense of anticipation have yielded positive and focused music. Aside from the odd duff track and some questions regarding economy; Minaj has produced a strong and defiant album that improves on her early work. At thirty-five, there are tongues to suggest younger Hip-Hop artists like Cardi B are ripe to take her crown. I feel they each have their own style but, in terms of this year, maybe Cardi B wins more points. I like the Queen album and it has introduced me to an artist I am not too familiar with. I wonder whether there needed to be such a protracted and media-courting build-up to the release…
PHOTO CREDIT: Nicki Minaj
The Independent provide a capsule review of the album’s intended release:
“The new album follows singles “Barbie Tingz” and “Chun-Li” which were both released in April. Its release was originally slated for 15 June before being pushed to 17 August due to clearance issues over a sample of a Tracy Chapman song”.
There have been various release dates and reasons why Queen arrived yesterday – and not a week from today:
It was originally set to drop on 15 June, but was pushed back by two months as the MC wanted more time to work on it.
The reason for the second rescheduled launch date is reportedly so Minaj can acquire permission from Tracy Chapman to include a sample of one of her songs on the record. In a now-deleted tweet posted on 31 July she asked the musician to "please hit me".
Minaj was forced to shut down rumours that she was trying to compete with her friend and frequent collaborator Ariana Grande, who is set to release her own record Sweetener on 17 August”.
IN THIS PHOTO: Ariana Grande/PHOTO CREDIT: Ariana Grande/Instagram
"...Grande responded to the reports herself after a fan alerted her to them, commenting: "Jesus is this what's going on today? Imma jus stop logging in at all lmfao. That's my f***ing sister. She's clearing a sample. Buy and stream Queen and Sweetener August 17 bye. These numbers don't mean as much to the artists as they do to y'all. Jus want y'all to listen to the project".
I find all the clearance-related reasons a little too hard to buy: there seems to be more at work beyond permissions and legalities. Minaj took to Twitter, knowing she had to wait for sample clearance, and wondered whether she should release it a week early without permission (and miss out on a great addition). It is nice she reached out to fans but it makes me curious why the intended date, 17th August, does not stand. I wonder if, the fact Grande and Minaj are good chums, the clash of albums would have caused a rift. Both claim it is a coincidence behind their individual release dates – I smell a slight whiff or the record label fearing a close battle and wanting Queen out there to claim some love before Grande enters. Sweetener is out on Friday and it seems like it will be met with a lot of critical interest.
Although the music we have from Minaj now has satisfied her and pleased critics; I wonder whether Queen is part of a lucrative and overly-complex modern cycle that is taking something precious from music. Maybe it is a sign of the mainstream but it seems releasing records these day is more about hype, tease and news than it is about the actual product. Even giants like Paul McCartney have to buy into the single-by-single drip-fed approach; positing teasing images and little videos – by the time his latest record, Egypt Station, comes out next month, I wonder whether the effect will be as profound compared to a more old-school release. Back in 2015, Rihanna was due to release ANTI. It was all set to go but her eighth studio effort was pushed back. She played Travi$ Scott for delays and took to Twitter to rant about reasons why she is being held back. The album did come back and, no surprise, critics loved it and it sold well. I wonder whether personal reasons and delays behind the scene and being brought up as excuses rather than something far simpler – it is more intriguing and interesting throwing in some curveballs and keeping people guessing. There were a lot of rumours around Rihanna’s delays and, true or not, it seemed the music was taking a back seat to speculation and press focus.
IN THIS PHOTO: Rihanna (in 2015) unveiling the artwork for her album, ANTI/PHOTO CREDIT: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for WESTBURY ROAD ENTERTAINMENT LLC
I can understand rivalries and the necessity of remaining fresh and essential in music. You have Pop artists like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry who, whilst not jabbing at one another, are in competition and there is planning to ensure each of their respective releases gets the most press attention. Everyone from Drake and Ariana Grande to Ed Sheeran, at some stage, will have been part of the machine. Maybe I am getting old and long in the tooth – although I am only in my thirties! – but the surprise, physicality and honesty of music is being picked at and spoiled by drama and hype that seems all be part of the marketing cycle. I can understand there will be delays when it comes to musical permission; personal events surrounding an album and delays from the label – how many of these reasons are true and the whole of the story? I would like to see mainstream stars take a stand against the never-ending drip-feed of music and just release something! Set a date, release one single and get the album to the people – since when did that become so hard and boring?! It is just as well Queen is a great album. It would have been a disaster unveiling it after such time and the quality not reflecting the build. I hope, unless there is a worthy and authentic reason for an album being delayed and pushed all over the place, artists can get out of the practice. It might create column inches and conversation but there is a risk of people not caring and getting fed up. There is all manner of tricks, tactics and devices levied by big labels to ensure their star gets top billing and has little competition. The album delay is not a new phenomenon in music but one that I feel is all part of strategy and marketing. The thing that will impress me most in music is a big name, any, standing up; defying convention and the endless campaigns labels make them go through and…
PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash
SIMPLY put an album out into the world!