Nicki Minaj on 'American Idol,' Week Five: Just Listen to 'Freaks' Instead


by Brandon Soderberg
Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj

Randy Jackson is a no-show for some reason and a Nicki guest verse outshines the show

So, Randy Jackson was absent for much of Wednesday's show because he was “busy in the studio.” Is Aldo Nova recording a comeback record? What could the only remaining O.G. American Idol judge have to do that's more important than the show? Kind of feel like he just caught feelings because Keith Urban gets to wander off whenever he wants to, and Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey's lateness was a plot point a few weeks back. Not to mention, the dude's entire angle this year has been how he's the seasoned professional who has been in the biz for decades and knows music, so everybody else just needs to fall back. And now he's laying some bass lines down somewhere ignoring his Idol duties?

As you can probably tell by my cheap shots, I'm really stalling here. That's because the Wednesday and Thursday's episodes, which cut down 70-something female contestants to 20, were as tedious as it was when they did the same exact thing with the men last week. Once again, they stuck them into groups and made them sing together, which is a reliable disaster, and then let the decent ones shine as solo contestants, which had an on to the next one quality that downplays personality. Yes, it's a pragmatic way to structure the show but it isn't entertaining and just blurs every anonymous-ass singer together. Oh boy, so what happened that wasn't even entertaining? Probably the look on Mariah Carey's face when contestant Shubah Vedula sang “When You Believe,” a 1998 duet by Mariah and the late Whitney Houston. Mariah's response wasn't brimming with gratitude; it was more like, “Yes, this is how the world should be: People singing my songs to me."

The big American Idol event this week had nothing to do with the show. It was Nicki's guest verse on French Montana's single, “Freaks.” The song arrived the week of Mardi Gras, which was ideal because all the rap stations spent their Tuesday mix hours digging into their digital crates for reggaeton and loosely world music-sounding 2000s hits. Here's one more for next year, DJs! French's mumble even has a Sean Paul quality to it, and the beat's A.D.D. island-y vibes are a nice B-Side corrective to run-a-train fuckface bro-thousand rage-out, “Pop That.” The sense that “Freaks” is bizarro “Pop That” is furthered by assertive, corrective sex raps from Nicki: “So, I took him to the crib to kill him with it/ Put my legs behind my head, I hit the ceiling with it/ When I put it in his mouth I couldn't believe it”; “No wins in Mi casa/ Big fat pussy: Mufasa.” That Nicki would bend back on her more explicit mixtape rap style at the very moment when she's on the most wholesome reality show around is pretty inspired. There's still moments of distinct goofy personality, though too: “Freaks” begins with the realest, most embarrassing laugh by a rap superstar since Jay-Z donkey guffaw on Kanye West's “Last Call.” This is a female rapper/singer/capital-A artist fully in control. And that's more interesting than American Idol in assembly-line mode.

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