CD Reviews: Dec. 3-9

CD Reviews: Dec. 3-9

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Nicki Minaj Pink Friday Universal Motown

With “Pink Friday,” Minaj has all the tools at her disposal to graduate from mixtape hype to global fame: A-list producers (Swizz Beats, will., etc.), superstar guests (Rihanna, Eminem, Kanye West, Drake), industry buzz and a major label backing it up.

In all probability, “Pink Friday” will be a smash and, if you are under age 24, you’ll love this album. But for all the hype and obvious money spent on this project, listeners should be getting and demanding more.

To Minaj’s credit, she’s got a palpable sense of style, swagger and star power. She’s at her best when she gets down and dirty lyrically on tracks like the pleasantly nasty “Did It On’Em” and the dark, synthy “Here I Am.”

On the surface the album is good, but the more you dig into it, the more the seams show. Minaj as a performer never outshines her producers and guest stars. Drake gives a more compelling performance on the catchy “Moment 4 Life.” Minaj can’t match Eminem’s intensity on “Roman’s Revenge.”

And on a side note, for an artist that early on claimed to be bisexual (she’s since backed off that claim) and that she embraces the LGBT community, having Eminem drop the f-bomb on your album is bad form.

Minaj also doesn’t transcend her obvious influences, as her sound and image come across as a Frankenstein monster made of pieces of Missy Elliot and Rihanna, with a dash of Lil’ Kim. And for the record, Missy did edgy, pop-influenced hip-hop a lot better.

“Pink Friday” is just the sum of its shiny, expensive parts. No more, no less.

John Grant Queen of Denmark Bella Union

John Grant has been called a “more emotionally raw Rufus Wainwright.”

That’s an understatement.

With his solo debut, the openly gay former Czars frontman delivers the naked intimacy people associate with Wainwright, but with impressive displays of bombast to keep listeners on their toes.

Also, with songs such as “Jesus Hates Faggots,” Grant opens up about his personal battle to find acceptance. In less-capable hands, such material could be maudlin, but Grant gives the song an upbeat pop edge that would make Elton John beam with pride.

Throughout the album, Grant alternates between lush, textured balladry (“Where Dreams Go To Die” and “It’s Easier”) and fun, quirky pop (“Chicken Bones” and “Silver Platter Club”). But Grant is far more exciting when he turns it up to 11 on dynamic songs like the title track and “Sigourney Weaver.”

Long live the queen.

Bo Burnham Words Words Words Comedy Central Records

Normally, we hate mixing comedy and music.

No, really. We normally really HATE comedic music.

Burnham is making us reconsider our stance.

A whirling dervish mash-up of Ben Folds, Monty Python and Mitch Hedberg, Burnham commits to his irreverent shtick while playing piano or guitar, and he is just too crazy and good to hate on.

The two studio tracks that open the album, the title track and “OH BO,” are poppy and inappropriately funny. And they’ll have you backing up every 30 seconds thinking to yourself, Did he really just say what I think he said?

His lyrical flow is amazing and his jokes fly fast and furious on the remaining tracks, which were recorded in front of a live audience. Even the toughest curmudgeons will be smiling begrudgingly at some point during this album.

Why resist?

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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