Going for a female equivalent of Jay Z’s classic The Blueprint, The Pinkprint tries to achieve a fairly unattainable accolade with this album. To begin with there are some unsurprising numbers on the album with Minaj just on another pop-infused ego boost. Alternatively there are others that take an unexpected detour to more raw emotion. She does this well in placing “All Things Go” as the opening track, dealing with issues of engagement, break-up and abortion. It has a similar sense and tone of regret as tracks from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. “Bed of Lies” featuring Skylar Grey continues on this theme of heartbreak, along with “Grand Piano” that sees Minaj conclude the album’s crossover from her as a purely rap artist to vocalist.
It is “Pills n Potions”, however, that triumphs as the best vocal, ballad-y track for Minaj, as the first single originally leaked from the album. It’s kind of a bitter-sweet track in dealing with acceptance of self-medicating habits to deal with her personal issues and the strain of life in the public spotlight. It manages to effectively give listeners a rare stripped-back and frank glimpse of Minaj without her usual eccentric alter-ego.
Similarly “The Crying Game” is another high point, in using an R&B voice with as much depth to it as Jessie Ware, reflects the same depth and complexity Minaj is adding at certain points to this album. Moments like this in the album and “Four Door Aventadour” are personal favourites on the album. The latter feeds in a more retro hip hop hook, with Minaj’s Biggie Smalls inspired rap rhythm, which is a welcome addition to her sound and would elevate the album further if there were more of these classic influences.
“Get On Your Knees” featuring Ariana Grande is another track for Minaj to show off brashly sexualised rap to compete with her male contemporaries, as if to prove that as a female rapper she’s not intimidated by these themes but instead waves it in your face. Although Grande is a well suited and likely pairing for the album, it seems like this record is yet another statement of adulthood continuing the transition on her own album from teen singer to bonafide R&B/pop artist. “Only” impresses with its minimalist hook but isn’t quite as remarkable when considering it features Drake and Lil Wayne just setting straight their relationship with Minaj and yet more talk of if her ‘butt’s fake’.
“Trini Dem Girls” is nod to her Caribbean roots and like “The Night Is Still Young” will probably be a big pop hit but doesn’t really do anything dramatically different from even bigger dancefloor numbers from Pink Friday. Whilst at face value, the same might be said for the biggest single from the album “Anaconda”, the sampling Minaj features on the track is actually one of its greatest strengths. Of course given the constant debate over Minaj’s “curvaceous” physique, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is an obvious choice. However the rapper’s half-serious/half-parody sampling of the track works pretty perfectly for her infamously outlandish persona and for creating a regenerated pop hit.
This album is a massive step away from the aforementioned alter-egos that overloaded Pink Friday but for some tracks this kind of eccentric energy is missed and lacks the same edge. For instance, what the Beyoncé-Minaj combo did for the “Flawless remix” isn’t carried off with the same brilliant ferocity in “Feeling Myself”. At the same time, where Minaj has taken a different direction in taking this album down in pace does pay off as a break from pounding chart toppers, giving a brief look behind her fiercer rap persona.