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Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (Young Money/Universal Republic) 

The politics of Roman Reloaded are fascinating and bewildering. On the cover, Minaj dons birthday-cake-frosted whiteface. She's Paris Hilton by way of FLCL.

But the alter ego Minaj adopts for much of the record is Roman Zolanski—not, as one might assume, a girl-raping Eurotrash movie director, but the gay boy who lives inside of Minaj, "born out of rage," her "twin brother." Then, in her posturing during promotion for the record, Minaj talks openly of "dethroning" Jay-Z, while adjusting her neon-pink wig and dodging questions about her own sexuality. She's post-postmodernism.

She's just as intertextual as Gaga, and maybe the Gaga/Minaj coin is the essentially American story of race as destiny, where Gaga creates pastiche from "white" genres (hair-metal, '80s new wave) and Minaj from "black" genres (hip-hop, grime, R&B). But what both have figured out is that right now, the space where race can be all but erased (or at least forgotten, or lampooned) is the dance floor at the club.

Enter RedOne, the mastermind behind the lion's share of Lady Gaga's hits, who is all over this album, from the '90s rave-inspired "Pound the Alarm" to the unobtrusive radio hit "Starships" to the more aggressive "Whip It." Then there's the Diamond Kuts-penned and -produced "Stupid Hoe," which bites from up-and-comers like Azealia Banks and Rye Rye for pure jump rope-chanting intensity.

Overall, this record is a hell of a lot of fun, much more so than her debut.

More by Sean Bottai

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