One of the more common remarks after the Summer Jam / Young Money fiasco, after you filter out the HWFO like “OMG IT’S POP” and “TWEEN GIRLS’ MUSIC” sniping and “you’re a woman! / I’m a woman!” volleying and “is it really srsly real?” pondering and questions like “hey, what about Wayne?”–just kidding, nobody said that–was why Nicki Minaj didn’t say “fuck you” to Hot 97 after DJ Peter Rosenberg deemed “Starships” too poppy and/or unreal, go on stage and perform it anyway. This would never have happened–Nicki directly disobeying her boss, mentor and spear counterpart would be, if not quite career suicide, a good maiming at least–but it’d have been undeniably awesome, turning one of her biggest yet most anonymous hits into a nonchalant comeback like “Stupid Hoe” or “Beez in the Trap.” It’d certainly have said more than the onslaught of grapeshot fired by seemingly everyone in the hip-hop, pop, critical and public audiences, spewed so loudly and often that even something like an hourlong fireside chat between Funkmaster Flex and Minaj turned into incoherent shouting.
But since crashing Summer Jam isn’t possible anymore, the next best thing is probably what Nicki actually did: follow up the maligned RedOne-produced dance banger with another RedOne-produced dance banger from half two of Roman Reloaded, “Pound the Alarm.”
Granted, Summer Jam almost certainly wasn’t why this particular single was chosen. It’s as radio-savvy as “Starships,” especially when dance music is EDMbiz, a.ka. big-and-bigger biz. And it doesn’t really matter which Nicki Minaj persona’s active here, because her singles have reflected them all; they’ve kept to the standard pattern of alternate pop-radio/urban-radio releases, and from the pop half of Roman Reloaded, “Pound the Alarm” holds up best. (Although that designation’s apparently an open fan question, so maybe don’t take that as gospel.)
Nevertheless, there’s something flagrantly unapologetic and perfect about the timing. The less charitable way to phrase that is it’s Nicki and her label ignoring any backlash or criticism in favor of sales, but then again, what exactly is wrong with that? The best revenge is charting well, and if Nicki can reprise “Starships”‘ fairly high Hot 100 peak, this recede from NEWS CRISIS to look like what it is: a lot of caviling about a hip-hop/pop distinction the public’s settling well enough with their listening habits. Yes, “Pound the Alarm” is still a Taio Cruz pop-house castoff; yes, it’s arguably unsustainable for artists to have so much pressure to please ever-multiplying markets and fanbases or splinter their sound in ever-increasing ways. But compared to messy debates about the One True Nature of Hip-Hop and Pop Music, it’s downright fascinating–and makes for much more pleasant listening.