“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj
As so succinctly summarized by Ms. Minaj at the end of “Anaconda”—“I got a big fat ass.” Indeed, without her ass as an answer to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ubiquitous hit, the song would be nothing more than an ode to asses. But Nicki Minaj here sets out to reinvent the ass, so to speak. We come to her on her terms, willingly complicit in the gaze she’s created. I am by no means claiming this song as a feminist manifesto of any sorts, but rather a clumsy cut up of what has preceded it. Using every available cliché at its aid, the song makes no apology for its origins or its subject matter. Though I rarely hear the song on the radio, since it appeared on YouTube last week, it’s acquired over 100 million hits. This speaks more than anything to the fact that the song fails to stand alone as an aural hit; it needs the video to actualize as the message she intends. Without her colorful, expected visual motifs of fruit and fetishistic outfits, the song (as music) is literally all over the place. There’s lots of direct quotation from “Baby Got Back,” mismatched verse structures, talking, braggadocia in various forms. But what is said, beyond the mere fatness of her ass? Call me a curmudgeon, but shouldn’t there somehow be more to a “hit” than this? I can barely listen to the vaguely wandering five minutes without looking to the progress bar at the bottom of the screen every twenty seconds or so. There are so many things this song could have been, but there’s no point in eulogizing over modal realities. “Anaconda” insults its audience by being so lazy; the song, even possibly meant as an ironic statement on plasticity in pop, definitely doesn’t stand up to attempts to parse its coarseness. Put it back in the oven; remove in another ten years.
Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org