Despite setting an official release date for Tuesday, April 3, Nicki Minaj's new album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded leaked last Wednesday, and the reviews for Minaj's sophomore effort have been less-than-stellar.
Slant magazine only gave the album one-and-a-half stars, acknowledging that although it starts off strong with, "hard, confrontational rap songs," the remaining 53 minutes of Roman Reloaded "are a disaster."
"Tacked on to this mediocre rap album is a ghastly and desperate bid for a hit single that sees Minaj and producer RedOne snatching items from a veritable sale rack of tired Top 40 tricks and tossing them hastily over the most basic synth and drum-machine presets," wrote Matthew Cole.
The concept for the album focuses on the return of Roman Zolanski, one of Minaj's many alter egos that was first featured on her 2010 debut album, Pink Friday. However, some media outlets, like The Koalition and Billboard magazine, thought that Minaj spent too much time on the album trying to sound like other artists instead of creating a definitive sound for herself.
“Now that she has sold well over 2 million albums and 5 million singles, Nicki pretty much has a free pass to do whatever she likes, but as Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded proves; creative freedom isn’t always a good thing," wrote Carl Daniel of The Koalition. "‘Starships’ is for Katy Perry fans, ‘Pound the Alarm’ is for the Taio Cruz crowd, ‘Whip It’ will appeal to those who still think Pitbull is cool and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ is a typical Rihanna ballad with Nicki Minaj starring as Rihanna."
Billboard added, "Minaj spends more time exploring her musical identity on Roman Reloaded than she does perfecting one, which makes the album sound bloated and rushed."
Most critics agreed that Minaj split the album into two distinct sounds -- one that honors her roots as a rapper and the other that showcases her newfound pop status. Lifestyle blog Yin & Yang can only hope that her third album will be more cohesive.
“Trying to please both sets of fans was a clear goal for this album, and while I do feel that she has crafted material that will achieve this, she has yet to master a way in which it’s not so obvious," wrote DJB. "Hopefully album 3 will be full of songs that both sets of fans will like rather than designating half an album to each.”
However, not all of reviews were bad. MTV News felt that Minaj deserved her own genre on her new "bipolar LP."
“Sure, Nicki is a pop icon, but these days, so are Jay-Z and Lil Wayne," wrote Rob Markman. "The Young Money superstar refuses to give up any rap ground, however, and the first seven tracks from Roman Reloaded are unapologetically street."
The New York Times even praised Minaj, calling her the "most influential female rapper of all time" and citing her influence on young female rappers as her greatest gift to the industry.
"She did the obvious, and then more," wrote Jon Caramanica. "She became a nimble, evocative rapper. She became an intricate lyricist. She became a thoughtful singer. She became a risky performer. She invented new personae. More than any other rapper in the mainstream, she pushed hard against expectations, and won."
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded may his US shelves on Tuesday, but it's already out in the UK. Here are some initial Twitter reactions to the album. It looks like Minaj's fans are as split as the critics.