Nicki Minaj Released "Pills N Potions" and Is About to Conquer the World with Heartbreak
It's the lighter-waving breakup song we always wanted.
Stream the new Nicki Minaj single below
We want everything from Nicki Minaj. We want Nicki Minaj to spit incredible bars. We want Nicki Minaj to be the biggest pop star in the world. We want her to never pander yet still appeal to her "core fans" of real hip-hop heads and also her "core fans" of teenage girls (and a ton of other people) who love sugary pop. The more Nicki does one of these things, the more we want her to do the other.
As much as I love Nicki—as the best, most inventive rapper working right now, as the fantastically over-the-top, frenetically varied pop persona—I will admit that she has achieved this perfect balance, this ideal melding of everything she represents, exactly once, on "Super Bass." Otherwise, she's leaned hard in one direction or the other (to still-amazing results). Her upcoming album, The PinkPrint, is supposedly a return to her hip-hop roots, but it's already being rolled out with the type of prophecy-fulfilling, classic-in-the-making approach that suggests it's going to be way more than just a collection of blistering verses. Rather than taking the rap half/pop half model of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, my guess is it will present Nicki Minaj as a pop star who is above all a rapper, much in the way Tha Carter III did for Lil Wayne (it doesn't hurt that YMCMB has been here before).
"Pills N Potions," the long-promised first single, is not a perfect song. It will probably be the song on the album that, by the time you actually get the album, you skip because it's been over-exposed. But it is going to be really, really over-exposed because it hits that almost impossibly alchemical balance of pop and rap that Nicki Minaj has promised and that everyone wants from her. And it's a breakup song that's also about drugs, which are the two most reliable topics to make everyone on the planet—especially teenagers, who make up 90 percent of the music-consuming planet—identify with it. You can wave your lighters to this. You can shut down arenas with this.
"Pills N Potions" feels like a Madonna-scale pop hit, the kind of ubiquitous, schmaltzy thing that will always be on some playlist somewhere for decades. It would work in the grocery store, but it's still cool. It still gets across a message of actual heartbreak. "I'm angry but I still love you" is probably the easiest feeling in the world to relate to. And the "I still love, I still love, I still love, I still love, I still love" hook has the kind of bombast that makes for those perfect moments at a concert where they shine the lights on the crowd and everyone starts spontaneously crying. Also, it's apparently co-produced by Dr. Luke and co-written by Esther Dean, who are the types of talents that can make literally anyone a star, and thus mesh particularly well with someone who is already a huge star on her own merits. Unlike "Starships" or "Pound the Alarm," it's not overwhelmingly maximal (mirroring a similar shift in Nicki's own more natural image recently). It's kind of similar to Nicki's first breakout single, "Your Love," except it sounds better in every way. It's totally in line with everything she's done, but it's also an undeniable progression.
Nicki has been good at smoldering romantic disappointment in the past (if you skipped past Roman Reloaded's pop section, do yourself a favor and check out "Fire Burns" and "Marilyn Monroe"), but somehow this feels like the truest expression of it yet. Because, see, while this feels like world-crushing pop—and make no mistake, this is the kind of song that people in other countries will enjoy even if they don't understand the words—it's still rap-first Nicki. Nicki still promises to "cop cribs in the hills on 'em." She spits two barn-burning (or, perhaps, bridge-burning) verses, but they're delivered with the straightforward simplicity that makes them hit home with people who don't listen to rap. The verses are offered in the way that pop-friendly rappers deliver features on pop songs, and the hook is sung with a pop-first mentality that most rap songs with sung features can never achieve. The minimal instrumentation is classy—and tense, and beautiful (those horns that come in on the final chorus!), and intimate enough to be played by a chamber quartet while being grandiose enough to fill a stadium. Like, say, "Lollipop" or "Super Bass," this is what pop looks like when it is also rap. This isn't a "crossover"; it's the union of the two. Plus, as mentioned, it's about breakups, and people love songs about breakups (remember Adele?).
We want everything from Nicki Minaj, and we're certain that when we get it she will conquer the world. She's got the heartbreak and the songwriting and the rapping and the production: This might be it. Stream "Pills N Potions" below:
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