Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on>"/>
Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on the logic that just because a lot of the music on the radio is crap doesn't mean all the music on the radio is crap.
Current chart position: #5 on iTunes; too early for the current Billboard chart (the song just hit radio on Valentine's Day).
The team: If you keep track of these sorts of things, it won't be a surprise to know that "Starships" is RedOne track. RedOne is 39-year-old Nadir Khayat, who won a Grammy in 2010 for producing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." Others of Lady Gaga's early hits also bear RedOne's stamp, including "Just Dance," "LoveGame," "Bad Romance," and "Alejandro." On Gaga's second album, Born This Way, RedOne worked on four tracks, including the second single, "Judas." So far, Gaga is RedOne's most notable collaborator, but he's also produced tracks for Jennifer Lopez, Cher Lloyd, Selena Gomez, and Little Boots. On "Starships," he shares production credit with three others--Rami Yacoub, who co-wrote a slew of Britney Spears' early smashes, including "...Baby One More Time," "Oops!...I Did It Again," and "Stronger"; Wayne Hector, who's also written for Britney; and Carl Falk, who wrote and produced another track that's currently charting in iTunes' Top 10--"What Makes You Beautiful" by the British boy band One Direction.
Breakdown: Post-"Super Bass," there've been a lot of complaints about Nicki Minaj. People complained that the first track she released from her forthcoming new record, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, "Roman in Moscow" was too aggressive and freaky. The second, "Stupid Hoe," was too crazy and disjointed. Her exorcism-themed Grammy performance was flat-out bizarre. And now there's dissatisfaction over "Starships"--it's too bubblegum, she doesn't even rap that much. I like both "Stupid Hoe" and "Starships," but I've not found anyone else who does, and I don't blame Minaj's fans for feeling a bit confused. But I do feel that a couple things should be kept in mind--that "Super Bass" wasn't just a good song, it was a stellar, special song, and we can't expect Minaj to keeping pumping out a string of songs just as spot-on as that one anymore than we can expect Britney to have ten more songs just as perfect as "Toxic"; and that Minaj, who wears neon wigs and outfits made of stuffed animals and has an alter ego named after an exiled sex offender filmmaker, is going to make songs just as manic as she is.
So, along with that fact, there's nothing saying that Nicki Minaj can't make a straight pop track clearly gunning for radio and Billboard success, and that's exactly what "Starships" is. RedOne & co. are clearly cashing in on the popular sounds of the day--the synthetic-sounding guitar riffs that open the song are akin to the guitars heard on Katy Perry's "T.G.I.F. (Last Friday Night)," Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger," and Flo Rida and Avicii's "Good Feeling." As Minaj sings the chorus, background vocals stutter stadium-like "oh-oh-oh" lines like the ones on Britney Spears' "Till The World Ends." The lyrics are of your typical clubbing/dancing/partying variety. But all of those pop effects are polished to perfection and pleasing to the ear, and there are enough Minaj-esque oddities injected into the song to keep things interesting--the "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" sample, the unexpectedly messy rave-up sections that follow each chorus.
No one's going to call "Starships" Nicki Minaj's most original endeavor. But ultimately, the combination of Minaj's quick, repetitive rhymes ("Have a drink, clink/Found the Bud Light/Bad bitches like me/Is hard to come by); the funky slap bass; and the sunny chorus are too catchy to resist. If you're a hip-hop purist who only loves Minaj for her "Monster" side, then no, you're not going to like "Starships." But if a song gets stuck in my head, I try not to argue with it and instead just call it a successful pop song. Minaj actually said it best when she premiered the track on Ryan Seacrest's KIIS-FM radio show on Tuesday: "It makes people feel happy and that's all I want. I want to start the year off with making people feel good. The [Grammy] performance was the performance, that was my clear craziness, and now it's time to make people dance and have fun, and that's all I want to do."