Nicki Minaj ‘Starships’

In addition to our weekly panel reviews of local tracks with Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad, The Corner will also now be focusing our attention on international singles and shining some light on the best and worst new releases across a bunch of genres, and as usual, adding a grade out of 10. Read through the review below and hit us up in the comments section with your thoughts on the track.

Nicki Minaj
Cash Money Records / Universal

I’d like to start this one off with a question, and I’d really appreciate answers: Is there or has there ever been a record label as commercially prominent and creatively batshit as the Young Money Cash Money Billionaires circa-right now? Their A&R policy at the moment seems literally to be to throw named shits at a wall, and sign whoever sticks. In a fiscal sense, this may not seem altogether practical, but considering that their recent signings include Mystikal, Christina Milian and Limp Bizkit, it’s bound to be at least interesting.

These new additions to the roster are pretty amazing in themselves, but wouldn’t really bear mentioning if not for the fact that the label is pretty fucking enormous at the moment. Their two flagship artists’ last albums both debuted at number one on the still-pretty-important Billboard 200, and their first lady is undoubtedly the hottest female rapper in the world right now. For the uninitiated (welcome!), I’m talking about Lil Wayne, Drake and the subject of this piece, Nicki Minaj.

The first official radio single from part two of Nicki’s Pink Friday saga, ‘Starships’ is basically a conglomeration of everything that’s been popular in pop music in the last couple years. Featuring production from RedOne, best known for producing almost all of Lady Gaga’s hits (the only real exceptions being ‘Telephone’ and ‘Edge of Glory’), it’s essentially three songs shoehorned into one. The verses, notably more anodyne in terms of lyrics than the usual syllabic barrage provided by Minaj, borrow more musically from the acoustic guitars on Pink’s briefly inescapable ‘Raise Your Glass’ than any of RedOne’s work with Ms. Germanotta. On paper, this sounds mildly terrible, but an especially booming 4×4 kick and Nicki’s refusal to ever sound anything less than incredibly personally invested in what she’s saying make it almost uplifting.

The chorus switches for a slightly more Guetta-core stadium rave feel, later in the song even incorporating some totally perfect Eurodance ‘chanting crowd’ backing vocals, while Minaj inhabits whichever of her alter-egos it is that requires her to coo like a K-pop superstar and relates some Yo Gabba Gabba-level instructional platitudes. Again, it’s sheer force of will that gets this part over the line, placed in the hands of any artist or producer unwilling to go in with 200% misplaced sincerity it’d just sound stupid but as it is it’s pretty charming.

‘Starships’ is by no means perfect, rather it’s a scattershot experiment at an enormous pop tune gone mostly right. You may hate the say-nothing raps or the saccharine chorus or the now-obligatory dubstep break (personally I’m almost sold, purely because it’s rote and cheesy enough to pass as a parody), but rest assured that when the album drops, no two tracks will sound the same. As long as she keeps doing this music thing as wholeheartedly as she is here, I’ll continue to find that pretty hard to hate.


Listen to ‘Starships’ via YouTube.


  1. Dan Taipua says:

    No Limit owning a gold plated tank yet to be out-done by YMCMB

    • Dan Taipua says:

      I feel that P cut a trail which Baby and Slim have broadened in the past five years for sure.

    • matthew says:

      i’m not sure that was real gold…. but yeah i’m speaking creatively as in a&r. they seem to have a bit more nuance and restraint than no limit as well, though i still love those old album covers. 15 droppin a week, different colour jewel cases, swag swag swag

  2. Dan Taipua says:

    Limp Bizkit is nuance and restraint?
    Snoop is definitely nuance and restraint.

    • matthew says:

      again you’re missing my point. as a label, they’re more creatively ambitious and more astute than no limit. signing limp bizkit is evidence of the ambition, the fact that they haven’t released anything unsuccessful in about an age is evidence of the astuteness. i’m no great limp bizkit fan, but i don’t doubt that people will buy it

  3. I like the drop on this track a lot, but it’s really the only part I can listen to. That hectic bit afterwards just sounds like a mash of sounds to me and always make me switch songs.

    She was always going to move more and more into the full pop lane, I just wish we could get a few more “Monster” caliber verses from her before a full transition…

  4. matthew says:

    yeah hard. strongly recommend checking out the album, she’s beasting on about 60% of it.

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