Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry fight for pop's best new song with "Starships" and "Part Of Me"

Categories: Poptimystic

Poptimystic Nicki Minaj vs Katy Perry new songs.jpg
Whose new single is better -- Nicki Minaj's "Starships" or Katy Perry's "Part Of Me"?
Both Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj used their Grammy performances on Sunday to premiere new singles from their forthcoming albums, Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, respectively. However, there was only one pop star that emerged the victor from the night's new-music battle.

Still boasting Smurf-blue locks at the Grammys, Perry doesn't seem to be too blue about her divorce from Russell Brand, as "Part Of Me," her first post-divorce single, charges along in all the right, I-Won-You-Lost-Me kind of ways. The pop-rock song, which floated around the Interwebz in demo form beginning in December 2011, was written following her previous relationship with Travie McCoy, the singer-rapper of Gym Class Heroes.

Strangely, "Part Of Me" works better in a post-Russell context, with lyrics as biting as they are self-sufficient and self-referencing: "You won't ever put me out again, I'm glowing, woah /So you can keep the diamond ring/It don't mean nothing anyway/In fact you can keep everything/Yeah, yeah, except for me." Interestingly, "you can keep the diamond ring" was not the original lyric ("you can keep the dog from me" was), but when you have a song like this released in the context that it was, you might as well fit its lyrics accordingly.

The production sees Perry return to her more upbeat, guitar-driven, Warped Tour-ready roots, a large sonic sidestep to most Teenage Dream tracks, like "Firework" or "California Gurls." Instead, think of "Part Of Me" as the settlement between "Hot N Cold" and "The One That Got Away" after divorce court. If this is the sign of a new era of Perry tracks, it's a feisty one. It pairs perfectly with another new song now expected to appear on Confection, called "Dressing Up," which is as seductive as "Part Of Me" is sour.

In a strange way, it's good to see Perry's team rolling with her divorce and turning it into a positive -- as positive as it can be, anyway, now that she's even more in the public's eye. And that truly is what has made Perry into the sexy girl next door of pop in the first place -- underneath the glitz and glam, her shtick has always been that she maintains an air of relatability and tongue-in-cheek fun.

On "Part Of Me" the cheekiness comes in the form of a very public and very empowering kick in the nuts to her exes, and it's catchy enough to make pop enthusiasts everywhere want to cheer her along. "Part Of Me" is also a sure-fire way to see Perry land in the top ten again on the Billboard Hot 100 -- yet, even if the single hits number one, Perry will still remain tied with Michael Jackson with five number-ones from an album, for any singles from Confection won't count towards Teenage Dream's chart run, despite it being a re-release.

Then there's Nicki Minaj, whose new material isn't nearly as focused -- or at least doesn't seem to be, given the multiple songs being promoted in the wake of the utterly massive success of "Super Bass," including "Stupid Hoe" and "Roman's Holiday," which she performed at the Grammys Sunday.

And what a performance that was. Playing on highly Catholic symbolism and borrowing Lady Gaga's former choreographer, the performance of "Roman's Holiday" ran like a blast of hip-hop exorcism. It's no wonder the Minaj had the Catholic League astir with condemnation yesterday.

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Nicki Minaj sings "Roman Holiday" in a confessional at the 54th Grammys.
Memorable, to say the least, "Roman's Holiday" was Minaj's way of doing a Lady Gaga doing a Madonna and suffering a compound pop fracture. We understand that the plot point was to remove Roman and his related voices from Minaj's head, and we hope it worked, for Minaj's sake -- but damn girl! That choreography was a little crazytown for the Grammys.

Fortunately, following Sunday's exorcism -- and by "exorcism," we mean Minaj getting all the hip-hop out of her system for a while -- we've got another Minaj track to chew on. Her newest, "Starships," premiered yesterday and it is now being touted as the first "official" (read: "radio-friendly") single for Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.

We know. We're about as confused as you are when it comes to Minaj's single releases as of late, but it looks like "Roman's Holiday" was merely a hype track -- as was "Stupid Hoe," apparently -- so expect Minaj's label to really push "Starships" in the coming months.

The song itself isn't terrible. If it weren't for Minaj's obnoxious -- and obligatory -- "Red One" proclamation in the first five seconds of the song, you'd think it was a Dr. Luke production instead, with its epic instrumental drop in the chorus and its buildup to the deadmau5-flavored bridge. Eat your heart out, Chris Brown, because where "Turn Up The Music" fails at this dance tactic, "Starships" soars.

"Starships" is summer-flavored dance-pop at best, with a "Domino"-style guitar lick thrown in for good measure. Despite the smorgasbord of influences, somehow "Starships" works. It's enough of a follow-up to "Super Bass" to keep fans like Sophia Grace happy while not alienating Minaj's early rap fans.

Minaj owes much of this to her unpredictable hip-pop personality, which is the only reason "Starships" makes sense. If this song were given to Rihanna and not Nicki, it would fall flat. But because Minaj has enough genre-hopping personas to make sense of an otherwise disjointed track, there's a sliver of hope.

Promise us all one thing, Nicki: even though Roman was exorcised during the Grammys, you'll still bring him back for the necessary "Starships (Roman Remix)" -- call us poptimists, but if you want to keep up with the likes of Katy Perry's "Part Of Me," you too will need to become self-referencing.

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Kelly Clarkson
Movers & Shakers: Kelly Clarkson takes the second single from her fifth album, Stronger, called "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It's her first number-one single from this era, which sees Clarkson embraced her more soulful rock-pop roots over the electro-pop bounce of previous hits like "My Life Would Suck Without You." The people's champ, Adele, follows close behind with "Set Fire To The Rain," a former number-one song, now at number two this week. Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" inches to number three, pushing Rihanna's collaboration with Calvin Harris, "We Found Love," to number four. Jessie J's "Domino" also continues its ascent, going eight to six this week. The other notable single in the top ten this week is the Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa collaboration with Bruno Mars, called "Young, Wild & Free" -- surely you've heard it at house parties.

Outside the top ten, Madonna's new single, "Give Me All Your Luvin'" featuring Nicki Minaj & M.I.A. debuts at number thirteen after a strong promotional push in the last week, largely coming from the Super Bowl halftime show performance. Gotye's new single, "Somebody That I Used To Know," which features Kimbra, sees a chart peak at number 27 after five weeks on, and three slots lower, at number thirty, sits the latest British boyband export, The Wanted, with "Glad You Came." Meanwhile Rihanna's follow-up single to "We Found Love," called "You Da One," continues to drop like dead weight, falling six spots to number 34 this week.

On the Billboard 200 albums chart, Adele's 21 continues its unstoppable reign at number one, making it her non-consecutive nineteenth week at the top. If she can keep it up for another week, she'll have tied The Bodyguard soundtrack which contained the late Whitney Houston's legendary version of "I Will Always Love You."

In fact, according to MTV News and Keith Caulfield, a Billboard chart expert, the set will likely continue its run at the top, thanks to her Grammy performance and big sweep of awards. Should 21 hold atop the charts for longer than twenty weeks, it will join the prestigious Thriller, Purple Rain and Rumours albums and their lengthy chart runs at number one.

Lana Del Rey, whose debut album, Born To Die, lands at number two this week, driven by the (mostly negative) press she's received lately for both her recent live performances on Saturday Night Live and her manufactured pop persona. She has all the makings of a proper pop star -- she's sexy, has a smoky, Jessica Rabbit-style voice and interesting songs, like "Video Games" and "Born To Die" -- but her devoid personality, especially her on-stage persona, has caused her to fall down a one-dimensional rabbit hole. If "Starships" and "Part Of Me" have taught us anything, it's that Lana Del Rey could learn a thing or two from Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry.



Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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