More often than not, my mornings usually follow the same pattern. Armed with a terrible cup of coffee, I idly clear my inbox of impassioned pleas from publicists, newsletters from an Oslo record store I can't put a stop to (side note: does anyone know the Norwegian word for “unsubscribe"?), and a barrage of offers from deal sites, clearly targeted toward middle-aged women. Midway into my routine this morning, though, I stumbled across a Groupon that I'm almost too embarrassed to admit that I'm seriously considering: 50 percent off tickets to Monday's Britney Spears show at Bridgestone.
I know what you're thinking. Stop judging me. I'm going somewhere with this.
There's plenty of reason to be skeptical of this show: genetic predisposition to hating pop music, lingering exhaustion from the K-Fed saga and ensuing tabloid circus, not being a 14-year-old girl living in 2001. But I'm here to tell you to ignore those feelings. I think you should buy this Groupon, and I'll tell you why in two words: Nicki Minaj.
A few months ago, Dave Bry postulated on The Awl that popular hip-hop is in a new golden era because rappers aren't afraid to be weird. He cited Lil B, Odd Future, Jay Electronica and Lil Wayne as leading the charge, freak flag waving high. But none of them are quite as fascinatingly strange as Nicki Minaj (not to be confused with Nikki Manage). Not unlike Lady Gaga, Minaj uses pop formula as a vessel for her own bizarre creativity. She snaps between alter-egos on a dime — often jumping from character to character in a single verse — and defies the genre she's taken by storm from the inside by attacking social norms, stereotype and typical rap conventions of hyper-masculinity.
Also? She's really good at rapping. Like, really, really good. Her verse on “Monster,” off the last Kanye record, is probably your best possible introduction to her style:
“Massive Attack” is another good one:
In short, Nicki Minaj opening for Britney Spears is like Prince opening for Rick James. They're both eccentric weirdos opening for acts that, while they may have been shocking in their time, have become conventional.
Is there reason to be skeptical of this show? Totally. The fact that the promoter of this show is willing to hawk tickets for bargain basement prices like they're trying to fill seats in a comedy club is never a good sign. Just ask Scott Stapp. But think of it this way: Where else are you going to be able to see this kind of spectacle for 18 bucks? Some of you probably already spent that much on Get Up Kids tickets.
Then there's the Britney of it all, which Intern Mike summed up pretty well in his Critic's Pick:
Few celebrities can survive the ebb and flow of stardom without enduring a little scandal, and Britney Spears has endured a lot. But that's what makes her such a novelty. The sweet Southern girl turned media darling has weathered two marriages, a conservatorship and a stint in the UCLA psychiatric ward, yet she has managed to maintain a staggeringly high level of popularity with fans the world over. [...]
It's definitely true that Spears sings songs grown out of a focus group Petri dish and has used dubious click tracks and pre-recorded vocals in past live performances, but even I can admit that “Toxic” is a hot jam. Hot enough for $18 nosebleeds? Perhaps. I'm not so sure about the second two tiers though.