Nicki Minaj

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This coming Monday Meek Mill will drop his sophomore album Dreams Worth More Than Money with guest features from appearances from Drake, The Weeknd, Rick Ross, Diddy, and Future. Today the Philly rapper unleashed his new single “All Eyes On Me” featuring his girlfriend Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown, a video for the single has already been recorded and is set to drop in a few days. Listen to the song below.

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This summer, Nicki Minaj will grace the July cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. And in her feature story, she had some choice things to say on money, men, love, the future and more. Minaj is currently getting ready to start the final two legs of her massive, worldwide tour that hits Europe in July before returning to the States to end the summer. It’s been a busy season for the “Beez in the Trap” starlet as she just dropped the official video for her joint with Beyonce, “Feeling Myself,” exclusively for her new streaming venture in which she is a co-owner, Tidal. Minaj makes no bones about making sure she’s appropriately compensated for her art, saying that more people should ask questions and make sure their own work isn’t undervalued.

The “Anaconda” rapper opened up about the more personal recording of her smash hit album, “The Pinkprint,” amidst a difficult breakup with producer Safaree Samuels. She explained that the album dealt with her developing a stronger identity and focusing on her needs as opposed to others. “I had to learn quickly that if you don’t have a sense of self, you can be destroyed by a man,” she said. Her newfound appreciation for self-love mirrors that of other prominent pop-stars including similar comments from Ariana Grande regarding her split with rapper Big Sean.

Apparently Samuels is still plenty bitter about the split and isn’t too happy about her current relationship with rapper Meek Mill. Safaree has recorded a scathing new diss track about Minaj and what he claims were her infidelities while the two were still together. He spends most of his new track, “Love the Most,” complaining about her refusal to have his children and her alleged unfaithfulness while also basically acting like a baby about her new relationship with Mill. If you ask us, Safaree is getting a little thirsty for the one that got away, or maybe he wasn’t coming correct in the first place if she had to find what she needed elsewhere.

While we can’t comment on anyone stepping out in the relationship, there’s no question that Nicki gets what she wants and won’t take no for an answer when it comes to the bedroom. “I demand that I climax. I think women should demand that,” she told Cosmopolitan. “I have a friend who’s never had an orgasm in her life…we always have orgasm interventions where we, like, show her how to do stuff.” Sadly, Nicki’s friend is not alone in her continued fruitless pursuit of happiness. A survey by Adam & Eve showed that 5 percent of people had never had an orgasm while 50 percent of women didn’t think it was important. Ms. Minaj begs to differ. “That hurts my heart. It’s cuckoo to me,” she said.

It’s clear that Nicki continues to feel herself, or rather doesn’t have to if what she’s saying is any indication. Her Cosmopolitan cover story hit the stands on June 9 with more of its interview and photoshoot with Nicki.

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After premiering the roadtrip fun video for Feeling Myself with Beyonce, Nicki Minaj takes to Tidal to release another exclusive video. This time the singer unleashed the visual to her new single “The Night Is Still Young.” This won’t be Nicki’s last Tidal surprise as she is rumored to release a new song with Jay-z next week. Check out the video below.

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Nicki Minaj and Beyonce show what live is like for the two biggest female artists out right now as they take a girls road trip to Coachella in Nicki’s brand new video for “Feeling Myself.”  Filled with twerking, tanning on the lawn, pigging out on junk food, ending up at Coachella. Only members of Jay-z streaming service tidal can view the video.

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Multi-platinum selling and GRAMMY award-winning DJ/producer David Guetta closed out the Sahara Tent at Coachella’s Weekend Two last night in style, with a performance of epic proportion, with a ram-packed crowd going crazy to his electronic beats. Then by surprise he was joined onstage by Nicki Minaj during his Afrojack mix of his new single, “Hey Mama” ft. Nicki Minaj & Afrojack. It was a cool fly by from Nicki as “Hey Mama” continues to dominate the charts in the US, with the single currently sitting at #21 on Top 40 radio, #6 on Shazam’s USA Top 100, #7 on iTunes’ Overall singles chart, #1 on the Dance/Electronic Chart for three weeks running, with streams up over 45% to 948,000 last week.

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Guetta garnered backstage Coachella support from many friends and collaborators including Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Usher as well as The Black Eyed Peas who surprised his audience last  week – WATCH HERE – with a live performance debut of their new single “Awesome,” which Guetta produced and is featured on. David Guetta is credited as helping break dance music into US radio six years ago with his Black Eyed Peas collaboration “’I Gotta Feeling,” so the two artists have a long standing relationship. When Fergie jumped up for the encore, they showed why.

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Yesterday the Academy Awards came under scrutiny for what has been labelled its “whitest year” since 1998, after this year’s nominations revealed no non-white actors had been nominated in any of the four main categories. However, ahead of the upcoming 57th Annual Grammy Awards on 8th February, let’s have a look at what impact race has in other areas of entertainment today.

Last month, US rapper Azealia Banks caused a media frenzy after an interview she gave with New York based radio station Hot 97 in which she talked openly about fellow female rapper Iggy Azalea and the cultural appropriation of black people in America. On the surface it may have appeared as nothing more than a nonsensical celebrity feud – the pair have had an on-going rivalry of sorts for a few years now stemming from a lyric in which Azalea, in her song “D.R.U.G.S.”, referred to herself as a “runaway slave master”.

However, the interview delved much deeper than that. Banks, who broke down in tears at several points, expressed her concerns with what she refers to as “cultural smudging”, her phrase for appropriation. Azalea, a white rapper who originally hails from Australia, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Album category, although many of her contemporaries, including Banks, feel such a nomination is unwarranted.

“The Grammys are supposed to be accolades for artistic excellence… Iggy Azalea’s not excellent,” Banks said during the interview. “I have a problem when you’re trying to say that it’s hip-hop and you’re to trying to put it up against black culture… It’s like a cultural smudging.”

She continued, “When they give these Grammys out, all it says to white kids is, ‘you’re great. You’re amazing. You can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to black kids, ‘You don’t have s***. You don’t own s***, not even the s*** you created yourself.’ And it makes me upset.

“Put her in the pop category. Put her with Katy Perry. Put her and Miley Cyrus in the same f****** box together. Don’t put her in hip-hop… just because she’s not singing, does not mean it’s rap music.”

Fellow rapper J. Cole shared similar sentiments in “Fire Squad”, a track taken from his new album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive”, where he says:

“History repeats itself and that’s just how it goes.
Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows.
Same thing that my n***** Elvis did with Rock n Roll,
Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore.

“While silly n***** argue over who gon’ snatch the crown,
look around, my n****, white people have snatched the sound.
This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down,
watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile.”

He later clarified the lyrics in an interview with Power 105.1’s Angie Martinez:

Cole’s frustration came in the wake of Macklemore sweeping the rap categories at last year’s Grammy Awards along with producer Ryan Lewis. The duo took home the prize for Best Rap Album, trouncing stiff competition from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, who’s album “Good Kid M.A.A.D City” received widespread critical acclaim. Many felt this album had been snubbed and, in a surprising turn of events, Macklemore agreed. Shortly after the win, he posted a snap on Instagram depicting a text he had sent to the “Good Kid” rapper to declare he had been “robbed” since, like many were saying, he had released the better album.

The question is, where do the concerns with Iggy Azalea and Macklemore receiving accolades in the hip-hop genre derive from? Is it because they are white or because their sound is non-traditional hip-hop and influenced by pop music? Let’s not forget Nicki Minaj’s pop-fused debut album, “Pink Friday”, which spawned huge crossover hits like “Superbass”, was also previously nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Rap Album category, as have many other contemporary hip-hop albums without adversity.

An artist’s success, either in the form of sales or industry recognition such as the Grammys, can be attributed to their popularity, which is increased considerably through being embraced on the radio. In the aftermath of the Banks/ Azalea media storm, Macklemore also did an interview with radio DJs Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg at Hot 97 to weigh in on the debate.

Darden: “Do you believe that your music got embraced by ‘white radio’ [contemporary hit radio stations] because you’re white and you rap?”

Macklemore:

“Yes, I do. Absolutely… Why am I safe? Why can I cuss on a record, have a parental advisory sticker on the cover of my album, yet parents are still like, ‘You’re the only rapper I let my kids listen to?’ Why can I wear a hoodie and not be labelled a thug? Why can I sag my pants and not be a gangbanger? Why am I on Ellen’s couch? Why am I on Good Morning America?

“If I was black, what would my drug addiction look like? It would be twisted into something else versus maybe, ‘Get back on your feet!’ The privilege that exists in the music industry is just a greater symptom of the privilege that exists in America. There’s no difference, this is just a by-product. This is just an off-brand of what’s happening in America. People see me, they resonate with me – America’s predominantly white. There’s relatability.”

Macklemore was well received for acknowledging what many in his position would choose not to, at least not publicly. Music fans listen to what they can relate to. If the majority of American people are white, it would make sense that many would identify with and listen to Macklemore over Kendrick Lemar, for instance. While this allows Macklemore – by his own admission – to be embraced by contemporary hit radio stations more easily, it could be seen as the very reason why he, along with a host of other white artists boxed in the urban genre, find it difficult to secure the same support from urban radio stations, which primarily play black artists.

Eminem has received acclaim and respect from his peers since he made his major label debut in 1997 with “The Slim Shady LP”. Despite this, he has never been embraced entirely by the urban radio format and instead gets a lot of his support from pop radio stations. While a lack of authenticity or an over reliance on pop music may plague Iggy Azalea and Macklemore, Eminem has long proven himself, so why is he still unable to attain the same backing as his black counterparts?

If mainstream radio stations that have much larger audiences embrace certain artists more than others, it is no surprise that these same artists are more popular with the record-buying public. A domino effect is then created, as these popular rappers are front of line when the Grammys and other accolades are being handed out – you have to be seen before you can be heard. Case in point: Azalea, who released one of the most commercially successful singles of last year, “Fancy”, recently picked up two gongs in the rap categories at the American Music Awards, ahead of both Drake and Eminem. Again, likely due to her mainstream popularity given her album was widely panned by music critics.

But, wait; have we not seen this same story played out countless times over the years already? Going as far back as the 1940’s, for example, Elvis Presley was dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll” in favour of the many black artists who wrote, recorded or inspired much of his material. His 1954 debut single “Alright Mama” is often cited as the first rock and roll song, despite being released a few years earlier by African-American singer Arthur Crudup.

Crudup was eventually forced to give up his recording career due to an on-going battle over royalties and the small wages he received as a singer. In contrast, Presley went on to garner millions. This was an era in which a host of black musicians, such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard, were successful in their own right, but often unable to match the mainstream recognition of their white equivalents. One of the more known cases was Richard’s “Tutti Fruitt”, released in 1955. The single, which is considered as one of the founding songs of rock and roll music, reached number 17 on Billboard’s pop chart. The very same day Pat Boone, a white American singer, saw his cover version of the track chart at number 12. On the contrary, over on the R&B chart Richard reached number two, and Boone’s version did not even chart.

Here we had two versions of the same song that were appealing to two separate audiences. One was labelled rock and roll; one R&B. Boone’s version went on to be a huge mainstream hit, while Richard saw success of his own version pale in comparison. R&B had been adopted, given new faces, and rebranded as rock and roll.

However, at what point does merely “covering” a song turn into appropriation?

The question is a tricky and complex one to answer, as there have been many varying definitions as to what constitutes appropriation. Website Afriendlyletter.com offers 10 different explanations, although the general consensus seems to refer to the process whereby a majority group takes elements from a minority culture for personal gain, which can often damage and dishonour the original source.

Nevertheless, it’s a proven model that, rightly or wrongly, appears to work. Last year in an interview with radio station Power 105, Rita Ora explained how many people often confuse her ethnicity. She commented, “A lot of people think that [I’m black], but I like that – it gets me places.” Radio host DJ Envy later agrees that she does indeed look non-white to which she responds with “thank you”.

Joking or not, she wasn’t mistaken. In the entertainment industry there’s certainly, at times, a distorted view of black culture as merely a fashionable trend that, once adopted, reinforces street credibility. Pop star Katy Perry has been accused of this a number of times, most recently for her “This Is How We Do” video.

Moreover, in 2013 a “blackout” was referred to, as it was the first year in Billboard history that no black artist topped the Hot 100 chart as a lead performer. This resulted in a paradox whereby several white artists, such as Macklemore, Emimen and Robin Thicke, were still able to achieve this feat through using urban music. This sparked a satirical open letter by Sebastien Elkouby, a former publicist for rapper KRS-One, which looked at how black artists were being marginalised in popular culture.

It’s evident to see that race still plays a role in today’s music industry, particularly within the urban and pop genres where radio airplay is concerned. However, unlike previously, we’re now seeing artists discuss this more openly and publicly, even outside the US, as most are striving for a fair and level playing field rich in diversity, not one dictated by who appears to be the most relatable.

 

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“Changed the game with that digital drop, know where you was when that digital popped. I stopped the world, male or female, it make no difference, I stop the world, world stop”, Beyoncé brashly boasts on “Feeling Myself”, a new track taken from Nicki Minaj’s third studio album, “The Pinkprint”. And, yes, it seemed the world did stop for a second.

Last year Beyoncé “dropped” her self-titled fifth studio album and it challenged the way mainstream albums are traditionally released. However, an album campaign that started off so slick and robust in its offerings was not without its pitfalls. With a special focus on the US, her biggest market, here’s a recap of what happened…

After being released exclusively on iTunes worldwide with 14 tracks and 17 videos, the eponymous album shot to the top spot in a staggering 104 countries and gave the 17-time Grammy winner her best opening week on the Billboard 200 with 617,213 copies sold in just three days. In going against the typical first-single-followed-by-gruelling-promo-campaign release format that we’d all become accustomed to with popular artists the singer tried something a bit different, something more daring, and it caught on.

Sales were strong out the gate due to word of mouth and the hype generated from the surprise release. A Twitter Spokesperson confirmed that, at its peak, the album was responsible for 5,300 tweets per minute, a record at the time! Usually when artists release their music we can anticipate an onslaught of iTunes links flooding our social media timelines as they, or “HQ”, scramble to force-feed the new music to their doting fanbases. Beyoncé, however, more silent in her approach, opted to let the fans do the talking for her. This included an ensemble of America’s A-listers such as Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and Snoop Dogg, who all flocked to Twitter in support of the album that “changed d game”, according to Snoop.

You’d be forgiven for questioning whether Beyoncé was even aware the album had been released. Just hours afterwards, the singer was back to playing house – she had just made some vegan cakes and couldn’t wait to share them with you all…

Of course, there was a big advertising push through iTunes and, of course, Beyoncé had already pre-recorded a behind-the-scenes video series to give fans an insight into the project’s recording process and release strategy, but there were no big bells and whistles. Over the next few days the videos were uploaded one by one across social media platforms, which was enough to sustain the album’s hype through the remainder of its release week.

The album wasn’t selling purely on hype alone, however. Strip away the novelty factor of the surprise release and you’ll uncover some of the singer’s best work to date. Recently nominated in the prestigious Album of the Year category at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, the album is the star’s most critically applauded work in her 17-year career, receiving rave reviews from publications such as Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, NME and Pitchfork. At Metacritic, which compiles reviews from professional publications and assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100, the album was awarded an average score of 85, indicating “universal acclaim”.

Sales were through the roof, everybody was raving about the album and phrases like #IWokeUpLikeThis quickly became “a thing” on social media. After the lukewarm response to the album’s predecessor, “4”, it seemed that Beyoncé was on to a winner this time round. Earlier this month the singer sought to capitalise further on the album’s success by issuing a “Platinum Edition” in time for Christmas, packaged with remixes, new tracks and live performances.

So, after selling well over half a million copies in just three days, why did sales stagnate at 2.2 million? While an impressive figure compared with her contemporaries, given the critical acclaim and social media backing of the project, the album had the potential to extend its legs beyond its first few months of release. However, several factors prevented it from doing so…

Sales vs. Streaming

Undoubtedly, album sales are not what they used to be, as less people are buying cds (the industry’s cash cow – although now less than ever) in favour of digital downloads and more increasingly streaming services, such as Spotify – a platform the album was not available on until recently. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) recently revealed, in their Mid-Year RIAA Shipment and Revenue Statistics report, that overall US music streaming revenue grew 28% to $859 million in the first half of 2014. Streaming services now account for 27% of the overall music industry revenue in the US. Gone are the days where an album would effortlessly sail past one million copies, the platinum certification point. In fact, only 4 albums so far in 2014 have achieved this feat, a far cry from 10 years ago when 38 albums scanned 1 million copies in the first 8 months of the year. However, can this really be the sole reason for sales of the album tailing off?

Art vs. Radio

“It’s all about the single… There’s so much that gets between the music”, Beyoncé proclaimed in her behind-the-scenes video series.

For pop artists to really catapult the album charts, singles that will resonate with the general public are needed. Record labels want tracks they can service to top 40 radio stations. While such tracks were noticeably absent from “Beyoncé”, it was what many critics and fans praised about the album. The throwaway, club-ready, pop radio singles of her previous efforts were replaced with slicker, darker and edgier productions.

Beyoncé’s move away from mainstream pop is arguably why none of her releases have reached the summit of Billboard’s Hot 100 in the six years since Singles Ladies began a four-week run in November 2008. While the lead single from the latest album, “Drunk in Love”, was a permanent fixture on urban radio stations and peaked at number two on the Hot 100, thanks to a surge in streams following a steamy performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, it didn’t reach the top 10 on Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart.

When speaking about the development of her sound, in 2011, Beyoncé said, “I feel that it’s important that I start shaping my legacy and doing things that have a little more substance… I want people to think when they listen to my music.” The question arises, then, should an established singer with multiple Grammy’s really be trying to appease the masses and score hits at top 40 radio stations? Is an artist’s creative development more important?

Promo vs. Touring

“The Pinkprint” was released earlier this month. Nicki Minaj appeared on household TV shows such as The View and Watch What Happens Live, as well as being visible to her main audience on radio shows Hot 97 and Power 105, in addition to the release of the album’s short film, The PinkPrint Movie.

We didn’t see this type of promo from Beyoncé; instead she opted to spend most of 2013 and early 2014 touring. The 132-date “Mrs Carter Show” world tour went on to gross $229 million, making it the second highest grossing tour by a solo female artist this decade – second to only Madonna. While it would seem the decision to tour in place of the traditional promo push implemented by record labels paid off, her absence from TV meant there was less visibility to the casual music buyer. Her main fanatics attending the concert dates will have already purchased the album, but those music fans that needed a little more convincing before being able to justify the initial $15.99 price tag may have been missed. It would be senseless, however, to gloss over the banner ads her team rolled out on iTunes to coincide with the album’s release, which, if this is where you buy your music from, would have been inescapable. Evidently, promo was there, but a different and more understated strategy had been used, and it was doing the trick.

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What’s more, the touring figures are undeniable and helped the singer earn a cool $115 million in 2014, according to Forbes, where she resided in second place on its annual list of highest paid musicians. As touring and endorsement deals are a primary source of income for many artists, is this now the way forward, particularly for R&B singers who will typically sell less albums than their pop counterparts?

“I don’t trust these record labels, I’m touring.”

Privacy vs. Accessibility

Social media Q&A’s, selfies outside the hotel and other forms of fan interaction may not be an unusual occurrence if you’re one of Lady GaGa’s Monsters or one of Nicki’s Barbs. Beyoncé, however, prefers to maintain an element of mystery and has created an invisible wall between her and her fans, dubbed the BeyHive.

While it is understandable that the singer, now in her mid-thirties, married and with child in tow, would want to keep her personal and professional life separate, with social media being as dominant as it is today, fans want to be closer to the artist. They want to know how their favourite singer “woke up”, what they had for breakfast, their likes, dislikes and so on. They want to tweet them endlessly, clinging to the near impossible likelihood they will get a response. Although Beyoncé is active on Instagram, we wouldn’t be able to tell if is actually her posting the pics or the social media guy at the record label. There isn’t much personal interaction with fans either, for instance she is unlikely to post a drawing or a picture a fan has sent her. Instead we see a series of carefully, well-placed snaps depicting a lifestyle that those who are following are likely to never experience and therefore may have trouble identifying with. In an interview with Essence magazine in 2008, Beyoncé said:

“I feel that, especially now, with the Internet and paparazzi and camera phones, it’s so difficult to maintain mystery… I feel like not being that accessible is really important. If you think about Prince or Michael Jackson, or any superstars, you couldn’t see them when they got off their planes or when they got out of the pool and didn’t comb their hair. It’s great that people see we’re not perfect. But it’s almost impossible to have superstars now, because people will never get enough.”

To mark the one-year anniversary of the album’s release Beyoncé released a short film, titled “Yours and Mine”, in which she echoed similar sentiments. “I sometimes just wish I could be anonymous and walk down the street just like everyone else”, she says. “When you’re famous no one looks at you as a human anymore, you become the property of the public. There’s nothing real about it.” This begs the question, do artists have an obligation to interact and be visible to the fans paying their bills, or is this simply an unwarranted demand caused by the increase in popularity of social media? Do artists have the right to share these frustrations given they know what life in the public eye involves when they ‘sign up’?

When taking all the above into consideration and summarising the album’s campaign, the truth is, the secrecy and unique promotional strategy were its strongest points. Releasing the album without warning was different to what her peers had done previously and allowed her to reinvent herself as a leader in the industry, rather than a trend chaser. What will be most interesting, though, is where Beyoncé chooses to go from here, as she finds herself in a unique position. Releasing a follow-up of disposable pop hits would see her audience expand and back at the top of the charts, but after releasing her most critically applauded work to date, it would likely be viewed as taking a step backwards artistically.

One thing is for certain, the fans who have stood by and watched her evolve from the frontwoman of Destiny’s Child to the self-assured, fearless “Drunk in Love” singer we see today are not going anywhere. They are not merely interested in one or two albums, but her as an artist, and it is this fan loyalty that will secure her future as a force in the industry for years to come.

What should Beyoncé do next?

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beyonce-video-5432c2eab5310After collaborating on the remix to Beyonce’s Flawless, which was named Best Song of 2014 by TIME magazine, The two reunite again this time for Nicki Minaj’s album cut “Feeling Myself” which will appear on her 3rd studio album The Pink Print due in stores next Tuesday. Nicki Minaj new album will also have guest appearances from Ariana Grande, Lil Wayne, Drake, Chris Brown, Jessie Ware, Meek Mill, and more. Check out the new song below.

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nicki-snl-2-e1417973410706Last night Nicki Minaj not only gave her best impressions of Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, but the YMCMB rapper also was the musical guest for the night. As her new album The Pinkprint drops on on December 15, Nicki started off the night with a performance of her single “Bed Of Lies” featuring Skylar Gray. As the night was coming to an end Nicki gave her fans a medley of her Lil Wayne and Drake assisted single “Only” and her most personal song yet “All Things Go.”performed her new singles. Check out the performances below.

Bed Of Lies

Only & All Things A Go

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Only two weeks left until Nicki Minaj will release her third studio album The Pinkprint. Nicki opens up to her fans with this new track “All Things Go,” which is now available for download on iTunes with the pre-order. In the new track Nicki gets personal revealing she was pregnant with her ex’s baby, but had an abortion. Check out the song below.